Bad vibes from a workplace psychopath

Lovefraud recently received an e-mail from a reader. Her company had hired a new guy and she was tasked with helping him learn his job. The guy immediately made her feel extremely uncomfortable. Here’s what she wrote:

I can’t look him in the eye or even stand to talk with him. He is very “nice” and has never shown any angry tendencies. I can’t explain my feelings but my intuition tells me to be wary and afraid of him. He exhibits self-important behavior and is glib and overly polite. Just the thought of him makes me shudder.

He’s never given me any concrete reason to dislike him. However when I very first met him, he was too familiar and presumptuous, calling me by my nickname on the first day, which only close friends and family do. He also pestered me to go to lunch with him every single day or would manipulate it so that he’d be alone in the office with me at lunchtime. He never made any type of sexual advances to me, but would ask me off the wall questions that were not work related and that I couldn’t possibly have an answer to; and once offered me $20 to buy myself lunch because I wouldn’t go with him. I reported him to HR twice to get that harassment on record and had his desk moved away from mine. Everyone who comes in contact with him describes him as creepy.

He has a wife and three kids and his wife is rumored to be well off. He is at work on time every day and doesn’t take time off. On the surface he seems to excel in his work but if you look deeper, you’ll see that it’s all shell with not much substance. He appears to excel at his job but some of us have caught him in borderline deceptions at work but I firmly believe he is manipulative and knows exactly what he’s up to. Others don’t detect that; they think he’s a really nice guy who just doesn’t fit in. He acts kind of like the dumb Southern nice guy next door but my intuition screams that there’s a sinister quality about him. Some of us joke about the target on our backs, don’t piss him off, that sort of thing. Dane Cook’s “Creepy Guy at Work” comes to mind.

I’ve done some minimal Internet investigation on him and extensive investigation into the behavior itself but can’t seem to pinpoint it. I have read so many books, including Robert Hare, Martha Stout and Gavin De Becker. A lot of things fit from the sociopath’s profile and your Red Flags page, though some really don’t; he doesn’t exhibit aggressiveness, hatred of authority or anger at work.

The presence and mere thought of this person causes me tremendous physical and mental stress. So I avoid him and his gaze at all costs. But why is this? I’m so curious to know what quality or element he possesses that repels me. I’ve never in my life felt this guarded around another person. Is there a textbook explanation? The experience has caused me to have a deeper look inside myself as I don’t like feeling this way about anyone.

Intuition at work

I congratulated this woman for listening to her intuition. She was receiving abundant warning signs, by her own physical reactions, that there was something wrong with her co-worker.

Read the symptoms she describes: She can’t look him in the eye. She can’t talk to him. She shudders. Her body knows that she is in the presence of evil. Her intuition is telling her that the guy is a predator, and if she is not careful, she will be road kill. The woman’s co-workers even joke about having targets on their backs.

And that gaze that she avoids? It’s probably a predatory stare.

Yet he hasn’t done anything to cause problems. He is not overtly hostile or aggressive. In fact, he is overly polite.

So she asks, is there a textbook explanation?

Range of behaviors

The answer is yes. The explanation is that psychopaths exhibit a range of behaviors, and some are worse than others. If this woman’s co-worker was tested with the Hare PCL-R, his score might be too low to be officially considered a psychopath. That doesn’t mean he is not dangerous.

The common perception of a psychopath, popularized by the media, is a violent, manic-looking serial killer. In a few cases—very few—this is an accurate portrayal. But the vast majority of psychopaths never kill anyone.

Instead, they do things like create problems on the job. As our Lovefraud reader noted, the guy “seems to excel in his work but if you look deeper, you’ll see that it’s all shell with not much substance.”

Psychopaths at work typically get other people to do the work and then take credit, figure out whom they need to brownnose in order to get ahead, and sabotage anyone who gets in their way.

Executive psychopaths

Some psychopaths, ruthless and cutthroat, claw their way to the top, and then turn into tyrants. Dr. Robert Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak wrote a book called Snakes in Suits about psychopaths in the workplace.

Here’s a statistic that knocked my socks off:

Dr. Hare believes that psychopaths make up one percent of the population of North America. (Other people, using different criteria, believe the number is higher.) However, Dr. Hare writes in Snakes in Suits that three percent of corporate executives are psychopaths.

Did you get that? There are three times as many psychopaths among corporate executives as there are in the general population.

So that’s what happens to psychopaths in the workplace. They move into the corner office.


Listening to vibes


The Lovefraud reader was not comfortable with how she felt about this guy. I think she should be grateful to her intuition for being so vigilant. I also think she should acknowledge herself for listening to the vibes she was picking up.

I feel sorry for the people at her company who “think he’s a really nice guy who just doesn’t fit in.” They will probably find themselves as either victims, or unwitting accomplices, of workplace treachery.

By the way, chapters three and four of Snakes in Suits explains how psychopaths manipulate their victims. It is chilling.

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71 Comments on "Bad vibes from a workplace psychopath"

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I know, its disgusting how likeable they can be to the general public. Many people who know my S, like everyone at work for instance think he’s the nicest guy. He smokes a ton of salmon frequently and brings it in, with crackers for everyone at the office and you’d think he was a Hollywood Star to them all. No one would have a clue about how full of lies, cheating and deceit he is.
I’ll have to find that book and read too ~ sounds good

I hope it goes well for you. Be prepared for a very convincing show he may put on for you!

Does anyone at your workplace know what kind of person your S was? It is embarrassing to acknowledge being manipulated by someone like this. I thought that all his manners and concern were genuine. He still asks me to call him when I get home. Until recently, I thought he was just being considerate, but now I feel it’s a way of controlling where I am.
Was your S affectionate? Mine was early on in our relationship, but in the last year I don’t feel that we have kissed or cuddled very often.
Did you lend your S money as well?
I end up paying for almost everything we do including the car purchase.

OxDrover I hope you don’t feel I keep singling your posts, but you just described my mother to a T below. This woman is a close friend and a mother, and a little bit my responsibility. I could protect her for eternity. She allows people to abuse her to the point of owning zero intuition when it is occuring. She says ‘I don’t mind, let them” and then continues to be a good soul, providing for others. Two of her children abuse her good nature; they just see a stupid woman. She is 100 times stronger than all of us together. One thing I hope to have is her strength when I am 70. Her therapist noticed the change in her when I relocated here. I sacrificed my life to empower hers. She no longer needed his help as she is (always was) normal. I taught her a lot about narcissism, validating everything she confided with me. She held her peace for 60 years. She’s living for the first time only now. This is better than never having that chance.

I have also observed that many people who have no malice or guile in their hearts, truly sweet good people, have a total disbelief in the EVIL aspects of anyone else unless they are an ax murderer screaming and swinging an ax at that moment. They become so “nonjudgmental” that their instincts totally die, so that when they are hit blindsided by a P they don’t realize what hit them. Many times, as well I have observed these people being hit again and again, and still hanging stubbornly on to their “there is good in everyone” theory, in spite of the evidence to the contrary.

re: EnnLondon
“It’s like they always say stuff that you wouldn’t need to say if it was true. Like the bizarre ’I’m a fan of your personality.’ What?!”

This is one of the ways when I knew my ex was lying to me. After staying the night at his house for the first time after 8 months of dating (red flag I know, but there were “extenuating circumstances”), he sent an email the next morning saying “that’s the first time anyone has been in the house, much less the bedroom”. Huh?!
In regards to giving him back his cell phone when we were finished, “I never checked the calls or messages on your phone, you never gave me reason to, I respect your privacy”. I had never given any thought to the fact that he would, but after that, I knew he did.

Outlier, it’s the “martyr syndrome.” These pour souls (like my own mother) somehow believe that if they demonstrate enough support (especially, financially), their “love” will be returned in like kind. Of course, the users and abusers out there bleed them dry emotionally, financially, spiritually, and in every other way.

OxD, your post was spot-on: we maintain different boundaries, don’t we? Sure, some boundaries may need to be tweaked on an individual basis, but the foundation of all of my boundaries should remain the same for each and every person.

…to clarify the “martyr syndrome,” it should also be noted that the martyr expects reward and/or recognition and/or acceptance for their “suffering for the better” of others.

* if I’m running a fever and am clearly sick, maybe my son-in-law will appreciate me if I take care of his children so that he and my daughter can have a night on the town.
* maybe, if I give that thousand bucks to my sister, even though it will be taking food off of my table, she will appreciate me and accept me as someone of “value.”

There are a number of underlying motives as per the “martyr syndrome,” but whatever the issues are, it’s self-depricating and completely useless where spaths and N’s are concerned. They will never, ever “recognize” the suffering of others, much less (MUCH LESS) personal sacrifices by others on their behalf.

‘afternoon Buttons! . I should clarify that my mother does NOT expect anything in return. She simply plays the role of motherhood. She doesn’t think badly of her children who do abuse her. “It’s their nature”, she says. She may well have a different perspective, being a certain authority, but I do observe her fear and intimidation when her firstborn (a bully) can be quite aggressive with her. She seems to switch off and carries on in her world ignoring people’s bad nature. My perspective as offspring is quite different. Perhaps I misunderstood the gist of OxDrover’s paragraph. I’m like my mother where I was alwasy obligated to do things and don’t expect anything back also. I stopped doing this in my 30s. Re: my N father, I stopped this last year when I finally had a label for his behaviour! I know when to draw the line when I suspect a lazy/greediness. I’ve learned to say no and that sense of obligation that crippled me gone. My mother however will be stepped on like a rug time and again by the one and only person who takes and never reciprocates – her DSMdaughter.

Good for you, Outlier {{{hugs}}}! As I mentioned, there are a host of underlying issues as to why women (in particular) martyr themselves. Sometimes, it’s in expectation of acceptance, and other times is because they believe that it’s a requirement. Still other times, it’s everything in between. Whatever the core issue is, it can be crippling to the soul. Tolerating and accepting fear, abuse, neglect, etc. is the end result, and it’s wonderful that you have constructed that boundary at this point in your life!!!!

Brightest blessings to you!!!!

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