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.
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.