Here’s something spooky in anticipation of Halloween later this month: Psychopaths. They’re overtly charming, capable go-getters, but ultimately callous individuals with no capacity for empathy. And they may work in your office.
While the most famous psychopaths are those who have resorted to criminal behavior, this is not prerequisite to falling into the category. In fact, experts estimate that a startling one in 100 men and one in 300 women in the United States are psychopaths.
A recent article from EHSToday breaks down how to spot this dangerous personality profile. EHSToday lists the following psychopathic traits:
- Superficially charming and outgoing
- Inhumanly calm
- Dishonest or insincere
- Arrogant and egocentric
- Unresponsive to interpersonal relations
So why exactly are psychopaths bad for the workplace?
Aside from the obvious untrustworthiness, psychopaths also tend to break the rules and “push the limits of acceptable behavior” because they have no sense of guilt or consequence. This can compromise workplace-safety efforts. They also strive to look like they’re working hard, while actually doing everything in their power to avoid work.
Psychopaths may also be the most likeable in the office, but underneath the charming “mask of sanity,” they enjoy undermining others and taking credit for their coworkers’ accomplishments. Worse still, when psychopaths are confronted about their manipulative behavior, they have a seemingly-reasonable response at the ready. Put simply, psychopaths can be some of the worst workplace bullies.
How can you protect your workplace against an office psychopath?
The best way to keep psychopaths out of the office is to abstain from hiring them. But, unfortunately, this isn’t easy, because of their tendency to seem very likable. According to Kelly Wilson, president and director of forensic services for PsyBar LLC, their goal is to “make themselves look good with as little accomplishment as possible.”
Because of this behavior, though, psychopaths bounce from job to job, hoping to land somewhere with relatively lax screening procedures. If you suspect that a potential hire may be a psychopath, consider conducting a criminal background check, a credit check, and asking for pay stubs from previous jobs to verify the dates on the applicant’s resume. When contacting references, it’s best to call the company’s main line to ensure that the applicant didn’t simply list a friend’s cellphone number.
In the actual interview, ask questions that would be difficult for a psychopath to answer, such as “Can you describe a mistake you made and how it impacted your coworkers?” Psychopaths don’t think they make mistakes and have difficulty considering the feelings of others. Other telltale signs include appearing too relaxed, describing mundane achievements as extraordinary, and an inability to describe the qualities of former coworkers and supervisors.