The word psychopath gets thrown around quite a lot sometimes.
Famous movie villains are often incorrectly labelled as psychopaths. You might even call your rude neighbour a psycho. And who hasn’t complained about the psychopaths on the road today after getting cut off in traffic?
But how can you tell if you’re working with a legitimate psychopath?
Psychopaths aren’t simply jerks or bullies — they must meet a certain set of criteria, as outlined by the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.
While only a professional should diagnose psychopathy, a psychopathic cowoker or boss may demonstrate some of these signs.
'I think the most telling sign is their sadistic nature,' Andrew Faas, a former senior executive with Canada's two largest retail organisations and author of 'The Bully's Trap,' tells Business Insider.
A psychopath motivates others through fear, rather than respect, he says, and they intend to destroy rather than correct.
This one characteristic is what separates psychopaths from a boss or coworker who is simply 'firm,' he says.
'I've led and managed workforces that are in the thousands, and I've always been and still am a very demanding leader, but I motivate through respect because I want people to improve,' Faas says.
Psychopaths are masters at presenting themselves well.
They are great conversationalists who can easily sprinkle chit-chat with witty comebacks and 'unlikely but convincing' stories that make them look good, writes psychologist Robert Hare, creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, in a post on Psychology Today.
Confronted with such charm, you may believe that the psychopath is a decent -- delightful, even -- person by the end of the conversation.
Hare writes that one of his raters once interviewed a male prisoner who threw in some compliments about her appearance, and by the end of the interview she felt unusually pretty.
'When I got back outside, I couldn't believe I'd fallen for a line like that,' she said.
Many people struggle with their self-esteem. Psychopaths, on the other hand, can be identified by their overabundance of confidence, according to Dr. William Hirstein on Psychology Today. Whether their boasting is subtle or obvious, beware the coworker that's always going on and on about how great they are.
Maybe there was some truth to 'Pinocchio.'
Once psychopaths start lying, they can't -- and don't want to -- stop.
Faas says that bullies have an 'intellectual dishonesty that they knowingly revert to.'
Unlike normal people, psychopaths don't care if their lie is found out because they can just lie again to cover it up, he says.
Psychopaths are single-minded: They think only of themselves and what they want to accomplish -- like a parasite.
'They're going to live their life and do and say and behave the way they want to behave without any consideration for others,' Faas says.
He says psychopaths do whatever they want because they have such an inflated sense of self that they don't think the normal rules of life apply to them: 'They feel they're immune to any criticism in terms of how they live their lifestyle, including harassing those they have command and control over.'
Faas likes to say that psychopaths are masters of three things: manipulation, deflection, and deception, all of which help them keep 'number one' -- themselves -- above water.
'They're very apt to accept credit for something when it goes right, but when something goes wrong, they look for a scape goat to deflect it to and take the blame,' he says.
Faas says that psychopaths in the workplace were most likely bullies on the playground.
'They take what they were allowed to do in the school environment and take it with them to the workplace,' he says.
Some of the early behavioural signs include persistent lying, cheating, theft, arson, truancy, substance abuse, vandalism, and/or precocious sexuality, writes Hare.
While many children may display such behaviours, he says that psychopaths will display them more often and to a more serious degree.
Psychopaths can effectively mimic emotional responses, writes Psychology Today's Dr. Scott Bonn. However, they cannot sincerely feel them. Most psychopaths are master manipulators -- those around them don't realise their true nature until the damage is already done.
Even though psychopaths struggle to accomplish their own grandiose goals for themselves because they are bad planners, Hare writes, they expect others to rise to the occasion.
'Though the task may be impossible to do, psychopaths justify it because, in their limited view, it's a reasonable goal,' Faas says.
The psychopathic tendency to not care about the consequences of their actions, no matter how badly they affect others, can be linked to their 'remarkable ability to rationalize their behaviour,' Hare writes.
While their friends and family may be physically or emotionally hurt by the psychopath's actions, he or she will typically just deflect the blame with excuses or flat-out deny it.
Hare recalls one subject who stabbed someone, yet seemed to feel more sorry for himself.
'He spends a few months in hospital, and I rot here,' Hare's subject told him.
Don't get fooled by the charming veneer. Hare writes on Psychology Today that psychopaths are incredibly short-tempered. The smallest thing can set them off into a rage. Watch out for the person who freaks out about everything in the office -- no matter how minor.
Hare's checklist includes both promiscuous sexual behaviour and multiple short-term marital relationships as signs of psychopathy, as Business Insider previously reported.
However, if that sounds like one of your coworkers, don't be too quick to judge. They might just be bad at relationships or uninterested in commitment. This red flag is likely a more effective indicator when combined with other warning signs.
If one of your colleagues is constantly complaining about how bored they are at work, you might just have a boring job or a whiny coworker.
However, taken with a few of these other signs, constant boredom could actually indicate psychopathy, as Business Insider reported. Psychopaths are notoriously impulsive novelty-seeks, and always on the look-out for the next rush.
Natalie Walters contributed to a previous version of this article.
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