I have a confession. When I came across J.T. O'Donnell’s October 16, 2017, www.inc.com article, “Research Reveals 16 Signs That an Employee is a Sociopath (and is Destroying Your Company Culture),” I laughed. After all, who—at some point in their career—didn’t jokingly refer to an uncooperative, disruptive, or annoying co-worker with one unkind description or another.
But the truth is that there are people out there who struggle with mental health. And there’s nothing funny about that.
People with mental health issues can not only struggle personally, but they can also suffer professionally. Their manipulative behavior and poor treatment of others can cause good workers to quit, customers to leave, and entire teams, departments, divisions, and even entire companies to falter.
If the idea of harboring a sociopath in your office sounds a little far-fetched, consider this statistic, cited by industrial psychologist Bernardo Tirado in Psychology Today: sociopathy, an antisocial personality disorder, affects about one in every 25 Americans.
How do you know if you’re working with a sociopath? According to Tirado, sociopaths generally meet four characteristics:
1. They’re Great Charmers
Tirado says sociopaths are “great con artists.” Be wary, he says, of co-workers who like to hear themselves talk and try to use charm to get what they want.
2. They Have a Sense of Entitlement
According to Tirado, sociopaths will stop at nothing to get what they want. “These are individuals that 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 you owe an immediate answer,” Tirado says. His advice: stand back, if you happen to be in their way.
3. They Don’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,” Tirado explains. “If you do get an apology be wary because they are manipulating you.”
4. They are Manipulative and Compulsive Liars
“Sociopaths are excellent liars and lie because they know they can get away with it,” he says. “They like manipulating people and typically target individuals they believe they can control.”
If you work with someone who exhibits these tendencies and creates stress for the team, be sure to speak discretely to your human resources department about your concerns, and be sure to document all inappropriate behavior.