Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

How to spot if your boss has psychopathic tendencies

devil prada.jpg

We’ve all had our fair share of difficult managers but working with a psychopathic boss is something different altogether.

According to Psychology Today, “Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming. Underneath, he or she lacks conscience and empathy, making him or her manipulative and volatile.”

A core set of traits for someone with this personality complex would include cold-heartedness or a lack of empathy, shallow emotions, insincere speech, overconfidence and selfishness.

But, while psychopathy historically carries very negative associations, there are no black and whites when it comes to behaviour. Like any psychological condition, it’s a spectrum, and one which features positive elements, too. People with psychopathic tendencies often make great leaders – precisely because they’re better able to be charming, ruthless, deceptive and impulsive. 

So, how do you recognise when you have a boss with psychopathic leanings at the helm? That’s the question that author David Gillespie tackles in his book Taming Toxic People: The science of identifying and dealing with psychopaths at work and at home.

Working with a psychopathic boss is "extraordinarily confusing"

Working with a psychopathic boss is "extraordinarily confusing"

“The higher or more powerful a position, the more likely that person is going to be a psychopath,” Gillespie tells news.com.au, in an interview this week. “The most obvious, immediate behaviour is that they lie. They lie a lot and they’re very convincing liars.

“At first you don’t pick up on it. Over time, you start to realise that you’ve just been told a lie and when you confront them with that lie, you get another lie.


Read more: Yawn like this? You’re apparently a narcissistic psychopath


“They make you feel like an idiot because you’ve misunderstood them or acted on what they said and they make you feel like you have a problem. That kind of behaviour — they will tell you lies almost as easily as breathing. They have no trouble doing it..”

Gillespie, says “extraordinarily confusing” and “very difficult” psychopathic bosses lean towards micro-management: “They’ll suddenly introduce new procedures in the workplace involving lots of detail and reporting to them, but you’ll find certain people who are exempt from all this.”

Horrible boss - or a psychopath?

Horrible boss - or a psychopath?

Gillespie says dealing with a psychopathic boss on a day-to-day basis is difficult but it can be done.

“They are highly predictable, so once you understand what’s driving them you can continue to work for them,” he says. “It won’t be fun, but you can do it and you can keep your sanity.


Read more: Gin lovers, your favourite drink could prove you’re a psychopath


“Workplaces need to give employees who work around these people paths that allow them to go past or around the psychopath. They are about transparency — don’t let psychopaths freewheel and run their own show. Put in place tight processes that put structure around the way they work.

“There are no one-on-one meetings. There are group meetings where tasks are assigned and they’re non-negotiable. They stop them from acting out and make paths around them clear to those who work with them.”

Images: iStock

Related

Office-Andrea.jpg

These are THE most annoying buzzwords used in the office

Dark-Victory.jpg

How to retrain your mind in moments of chronic stress

email mental health day.jpg

Woman emails boss to tell him she needs day off for her mental health

Latest...

Why it’s totally fine if you don’t have a ‘work wife’

Having friends at work is nice – but it’s not the be all and end all

by Moya Crockett
18 Aug 2017

Sex toy reviewer is a job and it pays £28,000 (with unlimited holiday)

Get paid to do something you really love: you

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Aug 2017

Why the quietest colleague in the office may have the last laugh

How to deal with feeling drowned out

by Amy Swales
14 Aug 2017

These are the 5 worst questions you can ask in a job interview

Don’t blow it.

by Moya Crockett
14 Aug 2017

Why using smiley faces in work emails could damage your reputation

Think a ':)' makes you seem friendlier? You’re wrong.

by Moya Crockett
14 Aug 2017

These are the 20 best companies for work-life balance in the UK

Feeling burnt out? Consider sending your CV here

by Moya Crockett
10 Aug 2017

Why this Google employee was fired for his report on women in tech

James Damore’s controversial memo has reignited the debate about diversity in tech

by Moya Crockett
08 Aug 2017

How to successfully launch a business in your spare time

By four women who made it work

by Sarah Biddlecombe
04 Aug 2017

Why you really need to start taking lunch breaks at work

A culture of presenteeism means we're glued to our desks and rarely go outside

by Anna Brech
27 Jul 2017

The one thing you should never include on your LinkedIn profile

Employers are less likely to hire someone who does this...

by Megan Murray
27 Jul 2017