Research reveals how “successful psychopaths” are different.
The word psychopath typically conjures up images of sadistic serial killers. But while some violent criminals are psychopaths, many psychopaths can also become successful business people.
Working alongside such a person could take a serious toll on your well-being, but being proactive about your approach can help reduce some of the damage.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality examined what separates psychopaths who end up in prison and those who succeed in business.
Researchers discovered that successful psychopaths exhibit many of the same core features and traits as other psychopaths — dishonesty, exploitation, arrogance, low remorse, minimizing self-blame, callousness, and shallow affect.
They are charming, carefree, and aggressive, and they lack empathy. They’re skilled at dealing with people and constantly look out only for themselves.
What separated successful psychopaths from the rest was their conscientiousness. Typical psychopaths rank low in this personality trait. But successful psychopaths rank much higher.
That means that successful psychopaths are less irresponsible, impulsive, and negligent than others. So while they may still commit crimes, they’re less likely to get caught. That may explain why they’re more likely to be found in an office than in prison.
Some of their psychopathic traits may actually be an advantage in business. For example, they are practically immune to stress, so they’re able to stay calm in the midst of a crisis. They are also often fearless, and skilled at influencing people. They often get promoted, despite the darker side to their personalities.
How to Deal With the Workplace Psychopath
Whether it’s your boss, a colleague, or a subordinate, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered someone high in psychopathic traits in the workplace at one time or another. It’s estimated that somewhere between one and four percent of the population meets the criteria.
Dealing with such an individual in the workplace can be stressful — perhaps even sickening. But the key to handling them successfully is to be proactive. Take stock of their manipulative techniques and decide not to fall prey to their tactics. Here are some ways to take back your power:
1. Don’t act intimidated. Psychopaths try to control others with threats and aggression. They may stand over you when talking, or make veiled threats. Stand your ground in an assertive manner, and report harassment or bullying to human resources.
2. Stay calm. Losing your cool shows psychopaths that they can manipulate your emotions, which gives them more power over you. So practice staying calm, even when their behavior is outrageous.
3. Refuse to buy into their stories. When psychopaths feel like they’re backed into a corner, they blame other people. Listening to their excuses and showing sympathy for their problems plays into their hand. Don’t get distracted by their long-winded tales that try to prove they’re really the victim in the situation.
4. Turn the conversation back on them. When a psychopath tries to blame someone else, turn the conversation around. Say something like, “Are you feeling okay? You lost it in the meeting today and I’m wondering if you might be a bit stressed.” Pointing out their flaws can disarm them.
Avoid Psychopaths When You Can
Studies are clear that working alongside a toxic person can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health. So it’s best to avoid a psychopath whenever possible. That may mean switching departments or changing jobs altogether, but in the long run, working with healthier people could greatly improve the quality of your life.
When you can’t avoid a workplace psychopath, get proactive so you can stay mentally strong, and make sure to always report instances of bullying and intimidation to human resources.
Author: Amy Morin
Source: Psychology Today: How to Deal With a Workplace Psychopath