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Snakes In Suits
If you have read my prior hub ‘Characteristics of a Sociopath’ you’d have uncovered what the typical sociopath is like – someone who is highly impulsive, easily bored and has the inability to feel a vast array of the emotions which we ordinary folks can feel. As you’d probably have imagined, the inability to ever feel certain emotions like fear, shame, guilt, etc. tends to lead these individuals to have very high levels of self-worth; being fully confident in themselves and their abilities. Morality and behaving by societies rules of conduct is more of a choice for these individuals – one they can happily break at any time.
You’d expect that with the need for constant stimulation and the ability to do things most ordinary people wouldn’t consider, sociopaths would all be hardened criminals, conning or murdering whoever they wished. And whilst a certain number do go down this path, many fortunately (or unfortunately) tend to take a different path – instead preferring to satisfy their urge for recognition and power by entering the world of business. As such, these corporate sociopaths tend to spend their working lives entering various businesses, ruthlessly working their way up the corporate ladder and generally causing much mayhem to the organisation they have entered.
You may be wondering why any sensible senior manager or company owner would allow such an individual to enter his corporation. Surely these egotistical, potentially malicious people can be seen coming from a mile off? Unfortunately this isn’t the case for as you may recall from the characteristics of sociopaths, these individuals have learnt the ability to turn on the charm whenever they need to. As such, if an interviewer isn’t aware of what to look for, the sociopath can easily pull the wool over his eyes; charming his way into the organisation through the interviewer who may think that he has come across a perfect asset for the company.
Unfortunately research done on the ‘Snakes In Suits,’ aka corporate sociopaths, has shown over and over how these individuals tend to operate within the company – mainly turning on the charm to his (or her) superiors, getting along with some of his co-workers and being right tyrant to everyone else. Whether they turn to crime or business, one thing which all sociopaths have is the ability to con and intimidate others to do their bidding for them. You might find it hard to imagine that most corporate sociopaths would behave in this manner but don’t forget, if you had no conscience and 100% unshakeable confidence with the desire to get to the top, you (and me) would probably behave in similar manner.
Stories abound in corporations of the boss or co-worker from hell who entered the organisation in a cloud of confidence; ruthlessly stole or bullied you into doing some work and basically took the credit for it as their own. Furthermore, everyone above in the organisation seems to love him and as such, rewards him with promotions further up the career ladder, etc. For the sociopath, charming his way into a company, riding off the backs of others and getting recognition for it is probably a dream come true, one which would result in regular promotions and bigger salaries; as well as a team of minions below which he can cheat or take his stress out on whenever he so chooses.
Have You Ever Encountered A Corporate Sociopath?
Unfortunately for the sociopath however, this deception doesn’t tend to last long. Usually these people are soon spotted for what they really are, bullies and con-artists. This usually happens through various means – a member of senior management actually speaks to an old employer of the sociopath, or the sociopath’s team of minions finally rise up and say that if he (the sociopath) doesn’t leave, they will.
Yet many times it is the consequences from the trail of destruction left by the sociopath which results in his downfall. Usually when a sociopath is given some sort of responsibility (often in the form of looking after his departments finances) does the sociopath soon get caught out. Missing funds, continuous lavish, personal expenses charged to the company accounts, sooner or later gets the sociopath caught.
Unfortunately by the time a sociopath is caught out, the damage to the organisation is already done. Those who have being at the wrath of the sociopath are by then fed up with being bullied and either having nervous breakdowns or getting ready to quit, relations with vital customers has turned sour and large funds have gone missing. Worse still, the sociopath on realising his days are numbered, would probably cease showing up to work and disappear into the proverbial night, off to lie and charm his way into another unsuspecting organisation.
So what sorts of employment tends to attract the corporate sociopath? And if you are a manager/interviewer, how can you protect yourself and your organisation from these people? Well to answer the first question, sociopaths tend to be drawn to areas of work where the rewards and recognition can come quick and big. Sales is often one avenue, trading the financial markets is another. Any sort of work where you don’t need much discipline to at least get started is a magnet for the easily bored sociopaths; you’d be hard to find a sociopath put himself through medical school to become a doctor.
If you are an interviewer or senior manager, the best way that you can protect your company from letting one of these people in is to be on your guard. Don’t just take the word of the person you are interviewing or any papers he may hand you. Actually call up previous employers and ask them what he was really like. Secondly when conducting the interview, be suspicious if the interviewee is asking you personal questions, only to compliment you on whatever you answer. For example;
SOCIOPATH: Tell me, do you play any sports?
YOU: Well actually I play soccer some evenings
SOCIOPATH: Really, me to. I think there is a lot that can be said about a person who plays soccer, a true sportsman, not like those silly cricketers. So which team do you support?
YOU: Die-hard Arsenal fan
SOCIOPATH: You’re pulling my arm now, so am I…
Unless you are on guard, the sociopath who is reading you and uncovering your passion and pressing hot buttons, etc. can easily pull the wool over your (and most people’s) eyes. Due diligence and being on your guard is the best defence that you can probably apply, though in recent years many leading experts in sociopathy have begun to draw up their own interview tests that interviewers can give to interviewees which reveals if they are dealing with a sociopath or not. Getting your hand on one of these tests could also give you some objective standard as to who you are dealing with.
Yet even if a snake in a suit still manages to enter your organisation, the best thing I’d recommend you do is try to quickly contain him followed by using whatever law you can use to legally terminate his contract, before he manages too elicit to much damage to your organisation and employees!