Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Protecting yourself against psychopaths in the workplace

Once you suspect that you are working with or for (and in some cases above) a sociopath/psychopath/ASPD person the next step is protecting yourself. This protection goes beyond just keeping your job and includes making sure you remember who you are; i.e. do not start to question yourself.

A general strategy of all of these types is to make sure that you believe their reality. Consider it like the movie Gaslight where they are trying to get you to believe them and question yourself. These tactics will help you retain who you are and what you hold:
  1. Set up an independent person that you can check in with; preferably one with no contact with the suspected sociopath. Robert Hare in his book Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us mentions that he and his staff have to constantly do this or they get taken in by the criminals they interview. So if trained psychologists have to have this outlet it is likely the rest of us do too.
  2. Along those lines use your company's Employee Assistance Program to bounce your concerns off of
  3. Write copious contemporaneous notes. You can use the information there to remind you of the reality of what was said and when as well as give evidence to counter claims against you
  4. If your workplace rules allow it, record conversations with the person. There is no expectation of privacy in the workplace so unless your company policy forbids recordings this is perfectly alright. Even if there is a policy make inquiries as to the rules for doing so. Again, the recordings will help ground you and provide proof if a confrontation arises.
  5. Send follow-up e-mails about conversations and CC in your boss or others. "These are my take-aways from our meeting of June 15th at 2:00 p.m."
  6. Avoid them if you can. If they are on a project you are on see if you can transfer off.
  7. File a sealed letter with HR containing your suspicions with the instructions that it only be opened later at your request. If that does not work then get the letter notarized so that it will show a history of suspicion from the start.
  8. Work with your supervisor to set and enforce boundaries concerning tasks, time etc. Even if your boss is cozened by the person you will have an easier time reminding your boss of the boundaries than the suspected individual.
  9. Keep answers short and to the point with the suspected person. Any extraneous information will be used against you.
  10. Try to keep all conversations with the person three party or more so there are witnesses.
  11. Remind yourself that you are sane... every day if you have to
It may seem like a lot of work but remember what and who you are protecting: you and your career. These people do not play by any set of rules even though you do. Protect yourself within the rules.

3 comments:

  1. Great advice. The iphone can be used to discretely record a conversation without the other person being aware. Just start the recording before you meet and hit the top button on the phone to blacken the screen. Hold the phone in your hand or put it in a shirt pocket. Most people keep their phone close so this would not look obvious.

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  2. it's interesting that you mention recording conversations. one of the people i've had problems with had a pocket recorder, which i thought was bizarre.

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  3. Tks very much for your post.

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