Every workplace has one, and this Sociopath is a real piece of work! Now, I have been known to give coworkers nicknames over the years, and I have had several for this woman such as:
Dementor (Harry Potter reference)
Smoke Monster (reference to LOST TV show)
Wicked Witch of the West (Wizard of Oz reference)
I even tested my theory about her being a sociopath once when I found a test in a magazine on how to tell if you work with a Sociopath. Lets just say she passed with flying colors even though it was not the most scientific of experiments.
Every single time that you have any type of interaction with this woman, you walk away from her with this overwhelming feeling that you may never feel happiness again, that flowers will stop blooming, and that there are puppies around the world crying because this Sociopath exists. And even though it may sound like an exaggeration, it is like this woman creates her very own Humane Society Commercial with those sad dogs that are being rescued.
The Sociopath wants to command respect like that of the Man, but she also wants you to be her friend. According to her, she has always struggled with making friends even when she was a kid. I think it may having something to do with the fact that she finds it impossible to have a conversation with anyone without insulting him/her on such a personal level.
You can always tell when she is in the office by the number of people hiding in the bathroom from her. There is even an alert system that is activated via text messages between the employees to alert each other of sightings of the Sociopath. We also use weather patterns for describing her mood of the day.
On a clear, pretty day, you hear employees in the hallway talking about the “storm front” that just passed through the kitchen. We have more “tornado sightings” inside this office than Oklahoma. If you pass the Sociopath in the hallway and she is smiling, don’t mistake this as a sign that she is in a good mood. She only smiles when she has just had a fresh kill of an employee’s confidence level.
I have found throughout my career that there are people who seem to be still compensating for high school not exactly going the way that they hoped and those that still think they are in a high school.
For the Sociopath, she wants to be the most popular girl at school, and when she fails, it enrages her. She never experienced having a best friend, going to slumber parties, or having a prom date. It will make you feel sorry for her at times but never let your sympathy/empathy for her lower your guard for her. She will eventually come after you. She eventually goes after everyone at some point.
When she is in the office and in between the insults, she spends her time focused on how others do their jobs incorrectly. She has literally missed deadlines with her Client because she is rearranging someone’s To-Do-List on their dry erase board because she decided that the way the employee had made his/her list was “too messy”. There is no rhyme or reason to what she does or how she selects her next victim.
You have to accept that there is no avoiding the Sociopath. There are no pardons from her wrath, and there is absolutely no one that will rescue you if she pins you in a corner. You will get a lot of “Poor Bastard” looks and “Thank, God, it is not me” looks from your coworkers as they pass by you but that is the extent of their help.
Just remember that the only way out of her trap is to get yourself out. Like when a bear chews off its foot to get out of a bear trap.
You may ask, “Can’t the Man stop her?”.
Ideally, yes, but the Man gets some perverse pleasure in watching her torture others.
She has no right to treat people the way she does. In a normal workplace, there would be procedures in place that would allow employees to file complaints against her, but at this company, your only option is to quit or learn how to manage her behaviors.
So, why don’t employees go talk to Human Resources?
Human Resources consists of one person who is bought and paid for by the Man. I will tell you about the pleasures of dealing with Human Resources later.
Okay, then why don’t a group of employees just go straight to the Man? He can’t ignore multiple complaints.
Over the years, numerous people have tried this approach. The Man will be seem attentive and empathetic and will promise you that he will address the issue with the Sociopath. Do not be fooled by this. Each and every time an employee complains about the Sociopath to the Man, the Man will repeat the conversation to the Sociopath and name the people in the room that filed the complaint. Basically, he lines up her victims for her.
Once he has reported in to the Sociopath regarding the mutiny, there are only two outcomes for the employees that complained. The first outcome is that you become the Sociopath’s primary focus for torturing until you finally just resign. The second outcome is that you are banished. You keep your job, but you will never see the level of raises or bonuses that you would have seen if you had not complained. You could bring in a new multimillion dollar account every year, and the Sociopath will block any and all salary increases that you have earned. She is the second most powerful person in the company, and she has her hands in everything from what type of font we use in reports to payroll.
So, if I already have the Man’s support for my new idea, how then do I get the Sociopath to support it?
You don’t. The Sociopath will not support any idea other than her own. Even if you use the same technique as you did on the Man, the Sociopath will have no part of it unless she controls every aspect of your project, and when she controls every aspect of a project, she will make you so disenchanted with the project that either the project fails or she wears you down until you give up. To get past her, you have to stack the deck against her or implement your project in the shadows.
Okay, how do I stack the deck?
You will have to secure the support of the Man and the two remaining senior managers. Now these three are weak when it comes to confronting the Sociopath so you have to keep providing positive reinforcement to them that their support of your project was the right decision. The Sociopath will see this as a personal attack by you. So for every time she lobbies for the three senior managers to change their minds, you will have to counteract it. If she doesn’t have success in changing their minds, her next step will be to go after the resources that you need for your project. So, if you decide to take this approach, you have to have available time because you will spend 50% of your time managing your project and 50% of your time holding the Sociopath back.
What is the second option?
One of the pros about working in a dysfunctional workplace is that senior management really has no clue about how you do your job. To launch a new project in the shadows is possible. It is easier to make a little improvement at a time and still remain completely under their radar. By the time they figure out that changes have been made, you already have embedded the changes in the day to day operations, and it is amazing how many times that senior management has said that these little improvements were their ideas in the first place. The cons of this approach are that it is a solo mission, and there are more setbacks due to trial and error because there is just no one that you can bounce your ideas off of without senior management being tipped off. Needless to say, you will spend a lot of time in your car driving home and talking out the glitches in the project. Also, you will receive no credit or glory for making something better.
Personally, I think any idea should be brainstormed with a team of people with different expertise. Ideas, projects, etc. are always improved when you have a team of people that can approach a problem from different directions. At this workplace, you have to accept that there is no teamwork because senior management keeps changing the rules of the game which creates a continuum of chaos. In a chaotic workplace, the idea of coming together to accomplish a common goal just doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t one day. For now, you have to learn to survive before you can fly.
Until that day comes and to help you deal with the Sociopath, here is a list of things that you can do to throw her off of your scent.
Distraction: This particular Sociopath has an obsession with everything being in its place. You can move the staples from the top shelf in the supply closet to the bottom shelf, and she will spend half of the day verifying that everything is in its place. You can place a binder clip in the middle of the hallway, and she will search every hallway looking for more binder clips. If you pour part of your Coke on the kitchen counter then use a dry paper towel to clean it up to where only an invisible stickiness remains, she will spend the whole day cleaning that kitchen. Now in my defense, I knew she was coming into the office that day, and I had a lot of deadlines to meet on that day. I didn’t have time to deal with her getting in my way. Granted that I sound as crazy as her for doing this, but you can’t argue with my results.
Diversion: There are times that she will come to your office to discuss an issue and well, you are just cornered. When she starts telling you how to do something that you are sure will not work, tell her that you wish that you would have thought to do it that way, but you have just been so tired lately. She is an extreme one-upper. If you say that you are tired, she will say that she is exhausted. If you say that you are willing to put in extra time to change the way that you have been doing things, she will tell you that she works 26 hours a day. You have her in the net now. Make one more comment about how you noticed that her eyes looked tired and cough, and she will go home sick for the rest of the week. The plus side of this is that she will have forgotten why she came into your office in the first place.
Division: The third most powerful person in the company is the Dragonfly. See next chapter. The Dragonfly has a lot of good ideas that he likes to bounce off of employees all of the time. Tell the Sociopath about one of his latest ideas and how you think it could really work, and you can watch her boil into a rage right there in your office. Three seconds later, she will be on the Dragonfly’s tail. This trick also works when one of your coworkers has pissed you off lately. Just tell her that this coworker has been doing some really great things on his/her project, and she will be camped in that coworker’s office the rest of the day telling the employee how all of their hard work needs lots of improvement.
Dismissive: The Sociopath thinks everything is a crisis. She will also criticize people just to upset them. Whatever she does or says, do not react. Those who have argued against her always fail. It does not matter if she is in the wrong, the Man will never fire her. So when her sole purpose of coming to your office is to destroy your confidence or depreciate the value of your contributions to the project, respond with a complete absence of emotion, and she will retreat every time. You just have to be able to stop yourself from screaming, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” and “Who the fuck do you think you are?”.
Depreciation: The Sociopath has some real self image issues. Whenever you find yourself listening to her go on and on, just stare at her stomach. She is paranoid about her weight, and she will become so insecure that she will leave.
Direct Deposit: There are employees that have direct deposited their souls to the Sociopath. They are on call 24 hours a day unless you believe that the Sociopath is actually working 26 hours a day. Those last two hours must be special overtime because there is no such thing as regular overtime here. If you chose to direct deposit your soul, it has great financial benefits because the Sociopath controls payroll. Of course, you will probably spend all of that extra money on therapy sessions or a divorce lawyer. If you can accept that you will never be good enough, that you never will do anything right, and you can listen to her personal stories about anything from her digestive health to her sex life, good for you. I have no shame or blame for you because we all have to make choices that are right for us. I am sure the therapist will make everything better when you drive to your next session in the new car that the Sociopath just bought you.
So that you are prepared to deal with the Sociopath, here are a few things that she has said to me over the years and things that I have personally seen her do. This will hopefully prevent you from screwing this up right out of the gate by saying “What the fuck is wrong with her?” around the wrong people.
Any type of perfume or hand lotion that you may be wearing will give her headache. She will ask you not to wear it anymore. Amazingly, she is immune to the 44.3 gallons of cologne that the Dragonfly (Chapter 04) bathes in every day. Seriously, it is like he is trying to hide the smell of joint that he smoked 30 years ago. You can honestly smell him before you see him. We have some really fucked up alert systems here.
She periodically has melt downs in the bathroom which really sucks for the employees that are in there hiding from her. If you ever hear her sobbing and really need to pee, go tell the Paperweight (Chapter 05). He can talk her out.
If you find yourself wanting to be friends with her because you have never had problems making friends with someone, be careful if you discuss your hobbies. Any hobby of yours will now become her hobby. This means that once she starts a hobby, she automatically knows more about it than you, and she will need to tell you about it all of the time.
She told me that I would never be the face of this company because I was too country.
She told me that she figured that I slept in barns all of the time since I grew up on a dairy farm.
She told me that the only reason that I have been successful at this company is because she taught me everything that I know.
She laughed during a coworker’s funeral when the preacher referred to him as an engineer instead of a geologist. She thought it was hilarious “because there is no way that the coworker was smart enough to be an engineer”.