As a CEO, owner of a business and person who knows many other business owners and senior management, the problem of what I have come to think of as the ‘corporate psychopath’ appears to be growing. If you have come across this article you may have been the victim of bullying at work, or know someone in this unfortunate position. You may, as senior management be attempting to manage a bully which is not an easy task.
Often these monsters terrorise staff and management at all levels in the business, covering up mistakes for which they themselves are responsible and blaming others. In some cases this causes their staff and co-workers to become desperate enough to leave their employment without another job to go to.
When we think of the term psychopath, images of sadistically violent individuals often come to mind such as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. In my experience the defining characteristic traits of the ‘corporate psychopath’ can be found in a broad spectrum of work environments.
Often these monstrous individuals are initially charming, displaying false empathy to the point that even when thier victims instinct senses danger they ignore this feeling as irrational. These people have a natural talent for manipulation and are self-absorbed individuals with no conscience or feeling for others and for whom rules have no meaning. These depraved manipulators can appear unstoppable. Their non physical violence against innocent victims appears to be planned, purposeful and emotionless. Any attempt at reason will fail as these people appear to operate outside the code that governs normal, rational behaviour towards others.
Their powers of manipulation include the ability to rework the facts when challenged with the truth, and the ability to weave together a series of contradictory statements into a credible sounding story. They do not necessarily lie, they manipulate the truth to the point that they leave everyone confused while covering themselves with an endless paper trail of accusatory emails which contain subtle and not so subtle threats directed at their latest victim. The motivator appears to be control, dominance and an inability to be wrong.
Most successful business people and managers are not corporate psychopaths. Some people consider successful business people and senior management to be ruthless, while this may be true, what differentiates the the destructive type from the successful business person is ethics and the ability to lead and motivate people long term. The corporate psychopath is usually only successful short term and tends to change jobs or roles frequently for this reason. The successful business person is able to ruthlessly pursue objectives for the company over and above their own personal goals while building long term relationships based on mutual benefit and trust. This is done alongside the ability to aggressively negotiate a deal which is in the end equitable for all parties.