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Are You Working With A Sociopath?

4 signs that your co-worker could have an antisocial personality disorder.

Shutterstock with Permission
Source: Shutterstock with Permission

A sociopath is an antisocial personality disorder that affects about one in 25 Americans, according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door.

Most people believe that sociopaths are dangerous criminals, and while that may be true, there are many sociopaths who are not. You may not realize this, but you probably are working with one. While a licensed professional can truly diagnose this disorder, the following are characteristics of a sociopath at work:

1. Is a Great Charmer

Sociopaths are just like you or I. They blend in and are very friendly, charismatic, and dynamic. They are great communicators and rarely are lost for words. They disguise themselves behind their charm to get what they want.

They are great con artists, and because of their gift of gab, they get their own way. Be wary of co-workers who like to hear themselves talk and try to use charm to get what they want.

2. Has A Sense of Entitlement

According to my Psychology Today colleague, Dr. Seth Meyers, a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, sociopaths have “a sense of entitlement... that stems from an underlying sense of rage.” It enables them to “act out in whichever way they happen to choose at that time. Everything is up for grabs with sociopaths, and nothing is off-limits.”

At work, this means that nothing will stop a psychopath from getting what he or she wants. These individuals are persistent, and when they want an answer to a question that he or she has, he or she will call you, instant message you, or come to your desk just because they feel like you owe an immediate answer. So stand back, if you happen to be in their way.

3. Doesn’t Know How to Empathize

Sociopaths find it difficult to understand other people’s emotions because they are incapable of experiencing guilt, shame, or even love. So don’t expect ever to get an apology from this person.

If you do get an apology, be wary, because they are manipulating you. Always remember they only care about themselves. You are a means to an end.

In an interview with NPR, M.E. Thomas, author of Confessions of a Sociopath, stated that “Probably the biggest characteristic of a sociopath is their lack of empathy... They can't really imagine or feel the emotional worlds of other people. It's very foreign to them. And they don't have a conscience."

4. Are Manipulative and Compulsive Liars

Sociopaths are excellent liars and lie because they know they can get away with it. They like manipulating people and typically target individuals they believe they can control.

In an interview with Kate Simon from Interview Magazine, Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, mentioned, “The perfect victim, is… someone who is very, very loyal. Most of us consider loyalty to be a very positive trait—and it is a positive trait. But it also blinds people to some of the traits of the person they’re loyal to.”

So if you find yourself listening to someone at work and doing everything he or she says, you may want to reconsider it.

For the most part, sociopaths don’t have many friends and find it difficult to hold down relationships, particularly romantic ones. As you look around in your workplace, keep some of these traits in mind to see if you’re working with a sociopath.

In case you were wondering if you were a sociopath, I found the following questions by Jim Edward’s piece “16 Questions That Might Tell You Whether You're A Sociopath” on Business Insider. He pulled it together from Dr. Hervey Cleckley’s 16 behavioral characteristics. Please note this is not scientific, but it could be a good indicator.

1. Are you superficially charming and intelligent?

2. Do you have delusions or other signs of irrational thinking?

3. Are you overly nervous, or do you have other neuroses?

4. Are you reliable?

5. Do you tell lies or say insincere things?

6. Do you feel remorse or shame?

7. Is your behavior anti-social for no good reason?

8. Do you have poor judgment and fail to learn from experience?

9. Are you pathologically egocentric and incapable of love?

10. Do you generally lack the ability to react emotionally?

11. Do you lack insight?

12. Are you responsive to others socially?

13. Are you a crazy party fiend?

14. Do you make false suicide threats?

15. Is your sex life impersonal, trivial, or poorly integrated?

16. Have you failed to follow a life plan?


1. Yes

2. No

3. No

4. No

5. Yes

6. No

7. Yes

8. Yes

9. Yes

10. Yes

11. Yes

12. Yes

13. Yes

14. Yes

15. Yes

16. Yes

Bernardo Tirado, PMP

Bernardo is a Behavioral Scientist and Industrial Psychologist with certifications in Six Sigma, Project Management, and Agile/Scrum. He covers leadership and technology for

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The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas