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Employee from hell sounds like a psychopath

The cover photo of Fortune Small Business magazine’s March issue is a guy sitting on top of a water cooler. He’s wearing a red striped shirt and a blue and red tie. He has red horns popping out of his bald head. The topic: “Employees from hell.”

One of the cover stories is about The turncoat No. 2 who tries to take over the business. A woman who started a company hired a guy, called Benedict Arnold in the story, as her second-in-command. After about a year, she noticed that Arnold was inflating his expenses, taking two- and three-hour lunches, and showing up late for important meetings.

She was about to discipline him when Arnold dropped his own bomb. He told her she had to resign from her own company.

Arnold had spent the year trashing the owner with her employees and investors. He accused her of being crazy. He collected “evidence” about how she was supposedly mismanaging the business. He insinuated that the books were cooked.

She fired him. Was Arnold upset? No—he continued to use her as a reference.

The story describes Arnold’s lies, manipulation, audacity, sense of entitlement and lack of remorse. In other words, the story describes a psychopath.

Snakes in Suits

There are many, many psychopaths who are capable of holding down jobs. Lovefraud has heard of psychopaths who are doctors, computer programmers, mental health professionals, military officers, clergy and more. Still, they are terrible employees—or bosses.

Snakes in Suits, by Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., is about psychopaths in the workplace. The authors write about their behavior: They manipulate and intimidate. They steal from the organization. They get other people to do their work, and then take credit. They lie and cut corners. They cause havoc among other employees. They ignore professional ethics.

Dr. Robert Hare asserts that one percent of the population fits his description of a psychopath. In Snakes in Suits, however, the authors say three percent of corporate executives are psychopaths.

Do you have a story?

Have you run across a psychopath in the workplace? Lovefraud would like to hear your story. Post a comment to describe your experience. Please don’t use any names.



8 Comments on "Employee from hell sounds like a psychopath"

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  1. PatL says:

    Hard to tell if I’ve run across any Psychopaths since I wasn’t aware or knowledgeable about the issue until recently. Following on similar line with some of what Hare and others have written about psychopaths in positions of authority, I recently read the book ‘Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil adjusted for Political Purposes’ by Andrew M. Lobaczewski which I think is worth reading for those who have had experiences with psychopaths. A review of the book at this link
    http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/political_ponerology_lobaczewski.htm



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  2. Allure says:

    I think we have a psychopath in our department. He creates a hostile work environment that interferes with the performance of the department as whole.
    Three years ago, we all had to go to a “managing your emotions in the workplace” class because he and another co-worker had a violent argument in a hallway, and things have not gotten any better since that class.
    He has had altercations with everyone in our department, and virtually everyone he has to work with one-on-one. He trashes co-workers, and even his own manager to other co-workers. He is argumentative, dishonest, sarcastic, manipulative, and controlling. He withholds information from co-workers that they need to do their jobs. If he makes a mistake, he blames everyone else. If a person has a disagreement with him, and they try to go through the normal channels, (talking to him, to his supervisor), he retaliates, supersedes them by going directly to human resources and lodges false charges against that person. No one is immune. He has been insubordinate to managers. He berates people he is supposed to train as “stupid” if they don’t understand things the first time he explains them, and has mentioned, in meetings, that he doesn’t understand why he should have to. He tells them they are wasting company time and money- he even quotes a rate if they click a mouse twice instead of once. His constant refrain is “you don’t know how to communicate with me”. He has had, on several occasions, yelling fits that left people crying and shaking. He told one person in the department “intimidation has its uses”.
    We have lost several good employees in the last three years who have left, citing him as the reason.



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  3. Allure:
    The behavior you describe sounds like a classic psychopath, as described in “Snakes in Suits.” You might want to read the book, and get other people in your organization to read it as well.



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  4. Emi says:

    This is depressing…over the past 7 years, in this small “Christian” town of 7500, I’ve worked with people and in situations – larger companies/organizations – like this: three different companies, 5 different occurrences. HR appears never to have a clue…besides, it’s one person’s word against another’s. I am so glad that I am 63 y/o and am semi-retired. Even at the menial job where I’ve chosen to work, there are severe problems.

    Prior to this, I worked for a P supervisor at a major corporation…and can see a string of people at other jobs who might qualify as a P.

    The main example for me is the S/P or P who is expert at “pss-pss-pss-ing” to co-workers to turn them against – usually one other person. Or purposely implying that another employee did something ‘wrong’ and launching a campaign to have the target terminated…which did work on one of my co-workers. It is very successful because these other people are ‘sheep’. The P gets away with horrible things that an outside observer would be aghast at if they could see inside a department and watch the calculated destruction of employees and a business. Not to mention customers, patients, and the like.

    Recently went to an employee assistance counselor from a previous problem employer. He told me we have to take the ‘high road’ no matter what these people do to us and to those around us…it’s the only way short of resigning. But…he was not keen that I quit this job without first giving it a try. Interesting. I know he is right. Gave his wife’s example who recently had to endure severe shunning, purposeful meanness, and game playing by co-workers. She followed the high road and eventually the creeps moved on. I was inspired.

    I’ve been doing this. After the first 10 days or so, there was a sudden shift in the behavior of the “sheep” co-workers. They started going out of their way to be nice. There are still 4 or 5 people – including management – I’m afraid of (potential sociopaths who get away with “murder”!!!! at work)…and they haven’t changed…but the “sheep” are the ones who are being nice. However, the sheep can start following the dysfunction again at any time.

    It does no good to consult with management because you are only one person versus all your co-workers. It’s much easier to get rid of you…even if you have valid points and are doing a good job…than to get rid of say, 10-15 other people. It sucks. Besides…competing with a master manipulator is always a win-lose situation. My current sup threatened to take me to HR after I talked w/her several times about it.

    I suppose I would do all the same things she did…she needs her job just like anyone else. I’m wondering whether she could be one, too… who knows? Tired of trying to figure out what’s going on. It catches people between a rock and a hard place. We all do what we have to do.

    I’ve lumped all 5 occurrences together because they’re so similar: a rank and file co-worker gets bored, I guess, and decides to ply their trade by manipulating and pitting co-workers against each other…or enrolling an entire dept to shun another employee just for the fun of it…and/or soliciting ‘pity’ from co-workers and/or management to pit people against each other. Making another totally innocent person out to be the cause of the problem. Doing this so convincingly that management is totally duped and takes the P’s side. Or variations thereof.

    Wondering whether the rate of these creeps isn’t higher than the statistics. Because people are 99% in denial that this personality type exists, the S/P or P goes about their ‘business’ under the radar. They’re so good at what they do, most people don’t catch on at all…UNTIL or UNLESS they become the target. Very frustrating.

    Sometimes I am angry, and I’m mystified. Am resigned to this situation. I’ve never treated people this way in my life….wouldn’t know how to do the cruel manipulations and gaslighting that they do. Nor would I WANT to!!!! Need to MOVE ON…but the particular financial bennies are too good for me to pass on if I can make this work for the next few months to a year. Am I crazy…probably. Thanks for allowing me to process and vent…



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  5. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    i have never seen this thread; thanks for bringing it up Emi. Maybe some folks here can offer some ideas of how to deal with specific situation if you post the details as they come up.



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  6. one/joy_step_at_a_time says:

    oh my- where do i start? let’s talk about the real estate developer i worked for and the ‘enabler’ that helped make it worse.

    i met the enabler, i did some work for her. it went well. she had an opp to enter into a real estate deal with the a guy, and invited me to be involved in a paid position. I’ll call him ‘NMF’ because he insists on telling people to say ‘hi from your freind’ to me, 3 years later. I never say anything, but i always think, he’s ‘Not My Friend),

    since coming to lf I had thought that he might be an N, but i wonder if he isn’t a spath. He is SUCH a good actor (something he actually did professionally at one point in his life.)

    so i work with the enabler for a few months and NMF is obviously a bit nuts. it was a start-up, so you expect crazy timelines and lots of figuring out as you go along, but the cumulative insanity from his way of dealing with things ripped a hole in my sense of self worth, and threw my anxiety into hyper drive.

    he was out of the country for the first few months, and the enabler (who i respected) was very good at smoothing things out before they hit me, and telling me to ‘just hang in there a little longer.’ I will never trust another person who purports to be my ‘mentor’ again. she said she was a ‘strategist’ – by the end of it, i had learned some valuable lessons, including the fact that ‘strategist’ can mean ‘manipulator.

    when i went to work out of the country with NMF, his nature really showed: grandiose, ingratiating to those he thought had power or prestige, demeaning to others, liar, bad business rep (and from people whose contact info he GAVE me…so no remorse for fucking people around, not even a recognition of it), always ‘on’ – big smile, etc, unless he thought no one was watching him, dominating, always the center of attention (demanded it), made costly business decisions that the enabler put down to his being ADHD (and we were supposed to be his ‘anchors’…grrrr) – things like holding up production of marketing materials for several weeks because he kept changing important aspects of the materials (from a to b to a to b) causing endless revisions for the staff, and 16 work days to meet deadlines for special events that he would then not do. he did not review some materials until AFTER they were printed, then shelving the whole thing.

    he cheated people out of opps – he would promise the moon and then contracts would mysteriously get lost in transit, never get done by his lawyers, e t effing bs c. he didn’t honor his business bills, burnt bridges left and right.

    One of the small communities we were building next to was very poor – and he had a ‘beautification program’ all worked out ‘for them’ so that people wouldn’t have to drive through what he considered ‘the mess of lazy people’ on the way to his real estate development. he couldn’t figure out why the locals weren’t jumping at it. Kept saying so, TO EVERYONE. he’s lucky no one beat him up.

    He was a nightmare to work for. NMF and the enabler both tried to get me to work out of the country for chump change. I said no, and demanded a decent wage. they kept telling me ‘oh really, lots of money on the back end!’ Well, i know what’s usually on the back end!



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  7. faith9 says:

    Beware of men driving Red Truck, Jeeps, or Sports Cars…notice the employee parking lot of jails, police departments, fire departments, and some small for contract business owners..example..landscapers…builders…They Love RED!



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  8. skylar says:

    faith,
    I’m glad that you are becoming aware. But the guys in red, aren’t spaths. They are narcissists. They like attention, they like drama.

    A spath is going to fly under the radar. Watch out for guys who tell you how MODEST and UNASSUMING they are. They don’t attract attention, except for momentarily. Remember the snake in the garden of eden. Snakes have beautiful skins, which they shed every so often for a new one. But you will notice that even as they are beautiful, they still slither in the underbrush, only popping up to impress their prey for a moment and then going back under the brush and slithering away watching for the next victim.

    My spath drives a Geo Metro. But he also has a helicopter, which he got by killing his best friend after convincing him to sign it over to him and promising to pay him back. He uses that helicopter to impress the narcissists: cops.

    cops love helicopters. They want to use them to catch drug dealers and grow ops. He knows exactly what they want and he lures them in.

    It is devestatingly frightening.



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