We are either working with them or have worked with them. They are company killers who end careers and cause significant mental distress to their colleagues who they are paid well to support and lead.
They walk amongst us in company corridors and attend meetings like snakes in suits. They are dangerous.
They think we don’t know what they are all about, but that’s because they think they are smarter than us all. Remember this, they are self-entitled, they believe they are superior (although deep down they know they aren’t) and have zero guilt, empathy or remorse.
They don’t care about you, the company or anyone else. They care simply about themselves, their immediate needs, their bank balance and the shiny things they can gain from their “career”. They couldn’t give a hoot about the company’s success or employees well-being. Instead, they receive a perverted pleasure from abusing and hurting their victims.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have management teams at a senior level that either care enough or have high enough emotional intelligence levels to identify them and smoke them out early. In many cases senior managers and executives are overcome by their charm during the recruitment stage and appoint them proudly with a big announcement. They are easily able to lie, charm and exaggerate their past achievements at interviews, that is the stage they thrive on. A forum to gas bag about their favourite subject, themselves.
A corporate psychopath getting past the interview stage and being employed is akin to the scene in Jurassic Park when the power is shut-down and the electric fences are deactivated. Like the rampaging dinosaurs, the leash is off and the rampage begins. Employees who previously enjoyed working for the company and have integrity simply get devoured. They don’t play this game, nor do they want to. They just want to do their job to the best of their ability and genuinely want the company to succeed.
When employees highlight that the corporate psychopath is bullying, humiliating and harassing them and others, they are often ignored as the employee’s mental health and the success of the company take a back seat to politics. Don’t expect a fair or thorough investigation exposing the corporate psychopath because it won’t happen.
Politics tends to prevail over the actual success of the business and mental health of employees. This is because senior managers would rather retain the corporate psychopath and allow them to continue to create carnage than admit they made a howler when they appointed them. This is when you know a company is broken and the values displayed are mere empty platitudes. It is hard to walk the talk with safety and values when you whistle and look the other way as you walk past the carnage created by them.
Remember Enron – their values were Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence.
Enron further elaborate on their values and proudly stated “We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here”
We all know how that story ended and they didn’t end up being the smartest guys in the room.
The corporate psychopath will “kiss up and kick down”. They will, in a subtle manner, denigrate employees behind their backs. They will take credit for other employees good work and then dish out the blame and are not accountable when shite hits the fan. They will never say sorry. You will look on in amazement at the way they present themselves so differently to different groups of employees. Gushing, polite, respectful and understanding with senior managers. Rude, disagreeable and aggressive with subordinates.
When they are in a room with both, they go with the former as they must keep the mask on. It is truly sickening to watch this chameleon at work. They create their own fiefdoms and demand undying loyalty of their subordinates who become their flying monkeys a la Wizard of Oz. The flying monkeys (some unwittingly) become their carriers and are used to attack and bring down well-meaning and hardworking employees.
The flying monkeys ultimately place a greater emphasis on self-preservation than on their own beliefs, integrity and self-respect. They are timid and scared of the corporate psychopath. Importantly, they are made to feel insecure about their ongoing employment. That is why they are selected and willing to perform the dirty deeds doled out to them. They are easily discarded when they reach their use by date and are also a convenient fall back to blame when the corporate psychopath is being challenged.
The corporate psychopath is amazingly effective in rendering detractors harmless by downplaying their achievements, talking smack about them to leaders in the business and over emphasising any errors they make. They will try and marginalise employees and prevent them from having contact with upper management so they can control the conversation and shape how employees are perceived by the business.
If you take their approach at work and translate it to a real-life situation, the example below best sums up their mindset:
Let’s imagine they are with you in the middle of the Nullabor without water and a blown-out tyre. They will spend their time and effort criticising you about why the tyre blew out and why you are in the situation rather than actually help jack the car up or find water. At work, they do the same, they point out errors, problems and grandstand, yet don’t use the same vigour in coming up with business solutions.
What appears to initially be a leader within the business is a remorseless, manipulative, lying bully whose goals are to create a successful career path for themselves, brag about their status and maximise their financial rewards. They derail careers, bring on anxiety related stress and depression in co-workers and never accept responsibility for their mistakes or poor behaviour. They are master blame shifters and importantly, they are brilliant actors. They can quickly act scared, sorry and upset at a drop of a hat in order to manipulate others and help them advance their self-serving agendas.
In simple terms, working with them is like going to war and being in a bunker with someone who throws grenades at you, not the enemy.
Companies need to place a greater emphasis on picking up on their behaviour as it occurs, listening to the corporate psychopath’s targets, recognising the patterns and appreciating the damage being inflicted on the business. They must act swiftly before it is too late. Don’t cover up or ignore this destructive behaviour, it will only get worse and people will get damaged and injured. It is like walking past an employee who is working at heights without a harness or putting employees in an asbestos pit without PPE.
Remember the Titanic, despite 7 ice berg warnings during the day, the lookout only spotted it when it was dead ahead.