If you are dealing with a sociopath at work, then you already know how they can cause chaos which not only affects your work life but also your personal and social life. It brings a new meaning to the idea of bringing work home with you!
The sociopath typically manages to get into your head and begins to permeate your thinking. You may be in a situation where you are organizing your working day around the sociopath, or organizing your day to avoid the sociopath! This can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
This article is not about how to spot a sociopath. You can go through a quick checklist to spot a psychopath at work here. Instead it's a quick bird's eye view of what a sociopath at work gets up to and then some suggestions about what you can actually do about it.
Very briefly, when a sociopath arrives into a job, the first thing they do is to size everyone up for their usefulness. For example, the sociopath decides that this person is going to do their work for them, that person is going to be useful for getting information about everyone else, a senior boss is going to be used to get promotions, that person is competition and has to go, and yet another person will be used to blame things on and so on.
The sociopath then plays a role with each person to build the kind of relationship that best serves the sociopath. With the senior boss the sociopath makes themselves indispensable. With the secretary who knows everyone the sociopath is charming and friendly and puts the person at ease so that they can both chat 'freely' about others. With the person who is going to do a lot of work for the sociopath the sociopath makes friends and promises that they will do great things together. With the competition the sociopath may also make friends and build trust in order to destroy it later.
Initially, most people will think that the sociopath is a great person and things are going to be good. But then little things start to happen, stuff goes missing, the sociopath does not turn up on time, people end up doing more work than they should have to. The sociopath is excused because, after all, he (or she!) is such a nice guy.
Then things start to get worse, although many people will still think that things should be getting better. Things are not going smoothly at all. People argue frequently. Deadlines are missed. People are moving from one crisis situation to the next. Some people may even leave to find work elsewhere.
By the time people realize it's the sociopath causing the problems, the office is often divided in two between those who think the sociopath is great and those who cannot stand him or her. It's often the bosses who think the sociopath is great and the coworkers who can actually see what the manipulator is up to, but by this stage they are often powerless to stop him or her.
When you realize that you are dealing with a sociopath at work, there are some very basic things that you can start doing straight away.
Start keeping a diary of what the sociopath says and does, noting dates, times, people involved etc. This is very important especially if things go on for any length of time because it's often very difficult to keep track of all these things when a sociopath is causing drama and chaos. Having a written record often proves invaluable.
It goes without saying that you should also keep a backup or copies of any records in case the originals get destroyed, removed or stolen from you. These backups should be kept in a place that is totally inaccessible to the sociopath, such as in your home. More than one sociopath has stolen people's records and notes from a desk, a locker or a computer at work. If you make notes every day, then you should backup every day.
The second thing that you can institute immediately is to get things in writing from the sociopath at work. If he or she talks to you, ask them to send you an email about it. That way you can add to your written records about any communication with the sociopath.
Remember that the sociopaths are professional liars. They will tell you one thing one minute and deny it the next. Having written evidence is invaluable should there be formal complaints submitted to the Human Resources department and even moreso if there are any legal issues down the road. There are often so many things going on with sociopaths in the workplace that it's often impossible to remember all the details unless you have taken notes at the time that events occur.
Another very useful thing to understand is the idea of pseudopersonalities. You've heard stories about parents saying that their son went to a weekend seminar and when he came home they didn't recognize him. He was saying different things, he was doing different things, what used to be good was now bad and vice-versa. They often say that they don't recognize the person that came home to them. What they are describing is the cult personality that was imposed on their son by the psychopathic cult leader.
This new personality is programmed to believe what the leader says, to defend the leader and to take care of the leader. This pseudopersonality (false personality) is unable to listen to criticism of the leader and will even argue strongly to stand up for the leader, the group and the ideas of the leader. The pseudopersonality is also programmed to be dependent on the leader and will typically discuss many things with the leader before making decisions, believing that the leader is wise, benevolent, caring, helpful etc. etc.
The sociopath at work also imposes such a pseudopersonality on many people in the workplace because he or she is using the same mind control tactics that the cult leader uses. You may have noticed how some of your co-workers (or even yourself!) consider the sociopath to be a generally great guy who works hard, is a real go getter and is helpful, caring and so on. This is despite all the evidence to the contrary. These people seem unable to see the reality that the sociopath does not actually do his work, lies, gets others to do his work, takes credit for ideas that are not his, steals, spreads rumors, stabs people in the back and on and on.
They can't see it because the sociopath is in the business of impression management and he has led these people to believe that he is fantastic at his job and that's all they can see. Because of the pseudopersonality that has been imposed upon them, they are programmed to only see the good in the manipulator and they are literally unable to see the contradictions between what they believe and the reality of the situation. Talking to these people about the nasty aspects of the sociopath may be like talking to a brick wall. The more you try and point out what's going on, the less they can accept what you are saying and you end up seeming like the person who is crazy or aggressive or vindictive.
Understanding the idea of the pseudopersonality is important in realizing what is going on for those who have been very manipulated and deceived by the sociopath at work and it also helps in being able to talk to them and challenge the beliefs they have about the manipulator.
If you are thinking of complaining about the sociopath, do it soon. Find out what the grievance procedure at work is, or what you have to do to make a formal complaint, and do it. It's much better to be the first to make a complaint because that means the sociopath has to defend himself or herself rather than the other way around.
Don’t be surprised if the manipulator puts in a complaint about you, too, because they are apt to try and use everything they can to make life difficult and miserable for you. Remember you are in a much stronger position if you have made a formal complaint first.
The next thing you can do is to learn more about mind control and manipulation and how specifically the sociopath at work uses these things to get what he or she wants. Destructive mind control is not a special system of techniques that is known only to a few. It is best thought of as the use of normal influence and pressure techniques that are used with a particular purpose in mind, that purpose being to use and take advantage of others for the sole benefit of the manipulator, irrespective of the cost to those being manipulated.
One of the very basic techniques used by the sociopaths is to make friends with their victims. They do this because we generally trust our friends, we give weight to what they have to say and we believe that our friends have our best interests at heart. For this reason the sociopaths take people through the process of making friends very quickly. Going through the process faster than normal typically means that the bond with the manipulator is stronger than the bond in a normal friendship. This gives the sociopath at work tremendous leverage over the people that he has manipulated.
Another very common technique is to use reciprocity against people. Reciprocity is the idea that if I do you a favor, then you feel obliged to return the favor at some point in the future. This is something that is taught to children ("If you share your toys with her here in your house, when you go to her house she will share her toys with you") in cultures all over the world and basically it helps to keep society functioning smoothly. This ideas works outside the consciousness awareness of most people, which makes it a powerful influence tool.
The sociopath at work uses this against people in several ways. First of all, the sociopath can do something and they tell you that they have done you a favor. This puts you in a position of feeling in debt to the sociopath, or feeling a sense of obligation to help out the manipulator when asked. They also abuse the idea of reciprocity by doing you a small favor and then asking for something much grander or more important in return. Because people are not aware of the technique, they often feel they have no choice but to give in and do what the sociopath wants.
Another way the sociopath at work can take advantage of this idea is to do you a favor at some stage but expect that you will pay him or her back over and over again. If at any point you are reluctant to help, the sociopath has no problem in reminding you that they gave you a helping hand and that you owe them. This is often sufficient to create enough of that sense of obligation to get you to take action. Perhaps you have noticed in some movies how the 'big players' will return a favor but they will also make it very clear that everything is now quits between both parties. They understand how this game is played and they are being clear that they will not be used over and over again. However, most people are not used to playing such manipulative games and this lack of awareness means they are vulnerable to being taken advantage of over and over again.
You can read more about reciprocity and other weapons of influence here.
And then there are the lies. Just an avalanche of lies. A good general rule is that if you don't have proof of what the sociopath is saying, you shouldn't trust a word out of his or her mouth.
If you are the victim or the competition of a sociopath at work, then it may come down to the idea that the place isn't big enough for the both of you. Either you leave or you have to take the sociopath on and get rid of him or her. (If you are the sociopath's boss, whether you realize it or not, you could very well be the competition because he or she is possibly coming after your job!)
There are lots of suggestions available about how to deal with a sociopath, how to 'manage' them, how to negotiate with them and how to act so as not to upset them in order to make life more bearable and easier all round.
There are some things that you should keep in mind if you are considering going down this route. First, these people are professional manipulators. If you are going to try and manipulate the situation or manipulate them, be aware that they will see it coming. Many of these people are somewhat paranoid, the idea being that they want to control others before others try and control them. As soon as you start doing things to influence them they will be aware of it and they are much better at it than you will ever be. Typically they end up taking advantage of situations like this to more easily get what they want.
Secondly, any sign of kindness is seen by these people as weakness. You can expect that any effort on your part to be understanding, to take their foibles and extraordinary wants and desires into account, will be taken advantage of.
Thirdly, sociopaths don't change. The only change they undergo is to actually improve their manipulation skills. They are not going to treat you better because you have changed your treatment of them. If they are nice to you, beware! It's a trick. Another rule with these types is that when they are being nice to you, they are manipulating your impressions again in order to further take advantage of you. When they are being nice, it's a dangerous time.
Some people will continue to think that they can manage the sociopath at work to a greater or lesser degree. What typically happens is that the abuse they suffer is prolonged and eventually they return to the idea that the place is not big enough for both and one has to go. But at this stage, the victim is in bad shape mentally and physically and is in no mood to take on the sociopath at work and the easiest option is to just leave and look for work elsewhere. And at this stage this is often not so easy because the victim is often in such a poor psychological state.
As soon as you realize that you are dealing with a sociopath at work it's best to make a decision about what you are going to do. Do you take them on or do you leave? Not making the decision or putting off making the decision to see what is going to happen will often cause you problems.
There is no right or wrong here, one option is not necessarily better than the other. They both have their pros and cons and it's a very individual thing for a person. Some people have very good reasons for staying in a job and think it's worth the hassle to expose the sociopath, others may be at the point where they are just looking for an excuse to go job hunting.
If you decide to take on the sociopath at work, it's important to prepare yourself because it's a big job. When the sociopath realizes what you are up they may decide to leave or fight you. There is often no way to know which one they will choose. If they decide to fight you, you can expect them to fight very dirty. They will do things that you could not imagine in a month of Sundays.
For this reason you need to prepare yourself. It's vital to understand what exactly you are getting yourself into. You need to learn about sociopaths and mind control because the more information you have about the subtleties of these things the less the sociopath can manipulate, abuse and upset you. Working with an expert in the field is highly recommended because a professional will save you much time and effort and will be able to point out the pitfalls when dealing with these types.
If you are a victim of a sociopath at work, leaving such a situation is a viable and sensible option. It's a mistake to think in terms of it as losing to the manipulator. The reality is that you win because you leave with your physical and mental wellbeing intact.
You don't necessarily have to walk out and go job hunting the next day, although in some cases this may actually be the best option! Typically you have time to set up another job before you hand in your notice in the current one. It's not very pleasant having to deal with the sociopath at work every day until you leave, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you will actually be leaving shortly.
However, don't underestimate the damage that a sociopath can do, even in a short time. Many people think that once they leave the situation that it's all over and they are no longer affected by the manipulator. Later when they have problems they don't associate them with the effects of the sociopath at work.
But remember that the pseudopersonality has been put in place with very strong influence techniques and it does not actually disappear on it's own. It takes work and effort to undo it. Therefore even when a person has left the situation the pseudopersonality persists and the individual may have all sorts of problems because of it, including, sleep difficulties, relationship difficulties, emotional problems, memory and concentration issues, trust issues, confusion, self blame, guilt, fear and on and on.
The bad news is that dealing with one of these problems in isolation has poor results. The good news is that all of these things resolve when the pseudopersonality is gotten rid of, when the effects of the mind control are undone. Again this is best done with the help of an expert.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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