By | January 29, 2013 42 Comments

Dark Triad in the office: Psychopath, Machiavellian, narcissist

In his new book, Oliver James, a British psychologist and TV broadcaster, describes the worst of white-collar workers.

Why your boss could easily be a psychopath, on

Story suggested by a Lovefraud reader.

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Good article. Sometimes I think it’s a curse to have a brain and the ability to listen to my intuition. Those less inclined to listen to intuition are the first to accuse me of being paranoid. It’s often so blatantly obvious when someone is “out to get me.” But I don’t think EVERYONE is out to get me, and tend to believe I am not paranoid for this simple fact.

I will not bury my head in the sand and discount the evidence I see, not ignore that gut feeling that tells me someone is bad news right up front. I could tell one of the two woman I am currently having to reside with was bad news and hated me or was envious of me from the moment we were introduced. I gave her a shot anyway, and this was another lesson in believing in myself and my intuition. Maybe I’m stuck around these types of people AGAIN because I need to develop trust for myself and my perceptions, and this has become the classroom. I’m staying open to these possibilities. I want to continue to grow and become healthier.

Previously, my self esteem was so shredded I never considered that people were jealous/envious toward me and my life. I would have friends suggest it and laugh it off, because it was so ridiculous to me. Now I know the lengths and depths that those of the Dark Triad will go to trying to destroy someone they envy.

Toward the end of my relationship with the spathy ex, I came to the conclusion that he was jealous of me and my professional success. I was returning to work after three month of maternity leave. He kept doing things to sabatoge me. I finally recoginized his behavior as sabatoge and realized he was jealous. I told him I thought he was jealous of me and the look he gave me could have melted the skin off my face.

As much as I continue to learn about the Cluster B types, I am still baffled by the behavior and ugliness of it all. I can “get it” in an intellectual sense, but never seem to understand it on an emotional level. Perhaps thankfully.

Ox Drover

Marie, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. LOL

Those cluster Bs seem to be in every work place, especially hospitals I think.

In your situation living in a shelter, it is frequently found many are cluster Bs and wind up in a shelter because of the messes they get themselves into. It is not rare that 2 people BOTH high in P traits hook up and the loser in the battle presents themselves as a victim of abuse when in fact they are co-abusers. So the behavior you have described in your housemates sound very “cluster B” to me.

Since you are forced for the time being to live there, Gray Rock is about all you can do and try to fly under their radar.

I agree with Oxy, try to stay off their radar. Especially, be very careful of triangulations. The situation sounds like it is ripe for triangulations, which can be so much worse than just your regular spath encounter.

I’ve been encountering spaths in the workplace my whole life and couldn’t understand why people were that way. Understanding spaths has been empowering. It’s too bad I had to meet the epitome of evil to finally understand wtf was wrong with all the “mean girls” at the office. In both cases, it’s just a matter of envy.


Ox, thank u for the continued support. 🙂 and skylar, ive already survived one triangulation and they habe both ganged up on me now. But one is trying to be nicer now. I think shes trying to butter me up bc I am the only one here with a car and she really hates the bus! Sometimes I wonder if leaving my life behind in hawaii was worth it. My ex is a murderer and had everyone convinced I was the abuser (and at the end, I was lashing out. Id had enough). I wanted to spare my now two year old the drama of growing up around him and his family. And I went temporarily insane and went back to my disordered family, thinking the devil u know is better than the one u dont know. That was a nightmarish situation. So, nearly 9 months after making the jump, im still living with and dealing with the personality disordered. Im working with a counselor who understands that im in a toxic environment. Shes trying to teach me more skills to cope with the stress of it all. Life is kinda “eh” but I remain hopeful. And im doing everything I can think of to keep making forward progress. Things will turn around eventually. At least my daughter and I are safe and away from his lies and games.

raggedy ann

It doesn’t seem like the author bothered to discuss the distinctions between the original three types. That would have been helpful. I think someone else posted this news story in a thread, and the writer (a different one) had gone into that a little more.


Those cluster Bs seem to be in every work place, especially hospitals I think.

Yes, the word “office” shouldn’t be taken too narrowly. I was pleased to see the author, Oliver James, made it clear that the “office” can be any kind of workplace—including banks, schools, hospitals, the entertainment industry, academe, government and “public sector jobs,” among others.

I’m sure he’s right about “the rise of workplaces where there are no objective criteria for success or failure.” Sad to say, that does not augur well for the future. It can happen anywhere, particularly where certain individuals are permitted to profit irrespective of how their actions have affected the wellbeing and prosperity of the organizations they were supposed to be managing. An obvious example is those banking executives who still walked away with huge bonuses while the institutions they were responsible for were left financially crippled under their “leadership.”

However, I will say for the private sector that by and large a company has to succeed in providing useful products or services or it goes under, so there is a real incentive for those running it to do the job they’re paid to do. Too often that’s not so true of government and public sector jobs, where there can be far too little accountability. That can give even more scope for psychopathic types and other power-seekers to succeed in such an environment, rather than those who are effective at doing the job required of them.

As for “office politics,” for some years I worked for an excellent woman director. This woman majored originally in electrical engineering, and about the time she graduated she spoke with a careers counselor who asked her what line of work she’d like to go into. She answered that she had her eye on an academic career. Her reason for saying so was that wanted to focus on the technical aspects of the job and “didn’t want to deal with all the office politics to be found in most companies.”

The counselor’s response was to stifle a hollow laugh. He told her the sheer viciousness of the political infighting that goes on in academic institutions has to be seen to be believed! (He must have known this from personal experience!) Anyway she started a career in the private sector instead, and did very well at it. She was very well respected, and I’m happy to report that she was effective at dealing with “office politics” in general. But not everyone can cope so well.

Tea Light

Redwald, the counselor gave the woman good advice, plenty of nasty infighting and harassment and bullying in higher education. The egos can be colossal. Academia is like politics it attracks the same type of drama loving attention seeking power mongers.


TeaLight, any environment that presents opportunities to exert power, control, and manipulations is a hotbed for NPD and sociopathy to thrive. The worst environments that I’ve observed were (in order of magnitude):
* Law Enforcement, corrections, all things “legally” associated (judges, attorneys, etc.)
* Medical environments
* Educational environments (particularly college/university)
* Organized religion

Sports also factors into these environments and, given any particular day, could be anywhere in between.

My belief is that strong boundaries and zero tolerance for toxicity are primary protections from being drawn in the ego-generated drama/trauma of the disordered. Maintaining those boundaries is no easy task, either! In those environments, those who are vulnerable are caused to feel that they need to make alliances with toxic people to avoid being targeted by them. NO easy task to avoid that!

Brightest blessings

Tea Light

Very true Truthy, tough to maintain boundaries and resist toxic alliances. Someone once said the feuds in academia are so intense because there is so little at stake. Which is kind of a stoopid aphorism but makes me laugh. The idealists who tend to be the good guys and not bullies and feuders are “workhorses” who actually teach and tutor and support and the paths and bullies tend to be the cynical “race horses” who want to make names for themselves, be on TV, have grad student groupies. They are rewarded because their publications bring in kudos and dough. So they get to act like legends in their own minds although in fact their work only (usually) reaches a comparatively tiny number of specialists. And then there are the types who create fake IDs on amazon and review their own work as a “masterpiece” .

Incidentally … British historian Orlando Figes wife was revealed as being the ”reviewer” on amazon who went about rubbishing the books of his peers – in really crude , childish ways. Odd.–wife-says-SHE-did-it.html


TeaLight, I’ve seen so much disorder in academia that it’s the ideal study environment for sociological/psychological pathology.

In the U.S., there is a GREAT deal “at stake” and tenure is the main one. Once a teacher/professor earns tenure, they have to really, really WANT to be fired before they ever are! The scramble for Administrative positions is a breeding ground for the disordered mainly because tenure isn’t possible in Administrative positions, so the machinations and disorder manifests in the most underhanded manners.

My dream (snort, guffaw) was to simply TEACH. I just wanted to bring the joy and wonder of creativity into the lives of people who insisted that they couldn’t draw a straight line and had no creativity. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than watching the “I CAN’T” student move into “I always could!”

Now, my path is going in a different direction and that’s okay – in fact, it’s probably a better direction for me, eventually.

Yeah….academia….pfffffffft! (waving hand in dismissal) I don’t want ANY part of that particular gladiator arena!

Brightest blessings


Tea Light:

That is a bizarre story!!

How are you today? x

Tea Light

Truthy, I’m pretty desperate to get out!! But hey, it’s the economy stupid etc and jobs aren’t growing on trees.

Here’s a thing you might be able to help me shed light on. Last time I took a vacation with the abuser , in November, I was already desperate to get out – my body was in a constant state of chronic stress – but his manipulations and lying made it very hard to see the wood. He never left me alone for more than 5 minutes, when I was in the toilet, that’s all.

His main way of manipulating me into continuing and to try and convionce me he was on the level and separated was to wax lyrical constantly about our ”future” together in France. So on this vacation, although I had clearly stated many times – I don’t want to stay in academia, I’m burnt out, one day he began bombarding me – for well over an hour – with a monologue about how I could get a job at the local university . I could not get a word in. It was like being told, that ‘s what you are going to do. You are going to teach there. Write to them, ask for a meeting, on and on. By the end of it, I found myself brain washed into thinking, OK, I’ll do it.

So I said, OK, I’ll have a look on their website and see who the best person to write to would be. Quick as a flash, I nearly did a double take, he said smoothly, without looking at me, ”No darling, you don’t want to teach. It doesn’t make you happy. You are very tired, you need a year off, you need to stay at home”.

From basically ORDERING me to carry on teaching, and mapping it all out, for an hour, till my head span, he dropped it, as soon as I agreed.

I thought I was losing my mind with this freak. Well, I did. I was. x

Tea Light

Louise! I’m on my coffee break again, so here’s me, chatting away to you and Truthy. I miss creepy trophies. Shall we revive it? xx

Tea Light

The Figes story is so bizarre. I can’t work out if she’s a narcissist overinvested in hubby’s status ( although she has plenty in her own right) or if they were both in on it. Anyway they looked a right couple of planks ( idiots). x


TeaLight, that was passive/aggressive manipulation in a textbook setting!!! The exspath was pretty good at the passive/aggressive game, as well. Crazy-making stuff!

Tea Light

Truthy what the hell was going on?! Envy? But I told him – I don’t like the job? So what is there to envy? It’s going to take me years to process all the madness.


Tea Light:

Haha, how funny…I did revive the Creepy Trophies thread! Great minds think alike! x


TeaLight, he was setting up the crazy-making. Causing you to sacrifice for HIS illusion, and beat you down for any objection that you might have. Once you agreed to consider it, he pulled the rug out from under your feet to make you INVALID, on every level. You were NOT allowed to have your own personal goals, and you were PUNISHED for failing to submit to his demands.

In a nutshell, it was a poor attempt at reverse psychology. Google-search the term, “Crazy making behaviors” and you’ll probably identify with the examples that you can find. I experienced the same things, and it is called “crazy-making” for a REASON.

Brightest blessings

Tea Light

Brr. Thanks Truthy. I’ll google. It worked, I felt….like nothing. Like I had no identity or mind of my own. These people are dangerous. Really really really dangerous. But I am NC and I’m going to get through.


TeaLight, you are doing GREAT!!!! 😀

edge of sanity

My ex-spath was diagnosed under the cluster B. Dangerous and manipulative people who lie to turn everything on you.
They want the free ride, to leach off of others, like parasites. Be strong, fight back, and no contact!!! The more you engage with their dangerous games, the more narcissism supply you are giving them. They love this, until you stop, then they move to their next victim. They will alsways try to come back if they do not get the narcissism supply from someone else, but avoid the contact. These people are dangerous, and know every vulnerabilty you have.

Ox Drover

Welcome edge of sanity, sounds to me like you are pretty sane in your advice.


Found this while googling crazy making behaviour!

A woman was walking down a road, and she came upon a badly injured snake, a variety she knew was poisonous; but she knew if she left it it would likely die. So she took it home, made it a nest, cleaned its wounds, fed it and gave it water. The snake slowly began to recover and she actually started to really care for the snake. Every day he got stronger and they developed a friendship (this is a story, so snakes can talk!). He was almost fully recovered when the woman came to check on him, and he lunged at her and bit her in her arm injecting his poisonous venom. She was stunned. “How could you do that?, she asked. I took you in, I took care of you, I cleaned your wounds, I saved your life”. “What did you expect?, he replied. “I’m a snake”.


Strongawoman……..LOVE IT!!!!! 😀


Truthspeak says:

“TeaLight, any environment that presents opportunities to exert power, control, and manipulations is a hotbed for NPD and sociopathy to thrive. The worst environments that I’ve observed were (in order of magnitude):
* Law Enforcement, corrections, all things “legally” associated (judges, attorneys, etc.)
* Medical environments
* Educational environments (particularly college/university)
* Organized religion

Sports also factors into these environments and, given any particular day, could be anywhere in between.”

From my experience, I would put Financial Services at the top.

The rest I very much agree with, especially the legal system, particularly the American legal system, where the altruistic notion of innocent until proven guilty has morphed into a system the often protects the guilty.

In medical environments, mental health professionals are often the worst offenders. Medical doctors in an education environment are also particularly Cluster-B. I saw this first hand in grad school. When I studied Biomedical Engineering, there was a marked difference in the attitude of the Medical professors (all MDs as well) compared to the Engineering professors.

Education is the only business where the “customer” service and satisfaction are nil — customers are at the mercy of institution with virtually no recourse — educational “malpractice” is almost non-existent. Tenure, another principle founded in altruism, protects unproductive educators and is a leading driver to the astronomical cost of education.

Sport, I would say that many showing very strong competitiveness, even at the amateur level, are high in Cluster-B traits. I used to be very active on several sports and fitness related boards and stopped posting there because I simply became tired of the bullying, personal attacks and flaming. At the professional level, despite our society’s embracing sports persons as heroes, most are either Narcissists or Sociopaths, or both.

Ox Drover


They will do it EVERY TIME…that’s what snakes do….psychopaths too.



Yet again, you succintly summed up the major issue in my relationship with the spath…

“Causing you to SACRIFICE for HIS illusion, and beat you down for any objection that you might have. Once you agreed to consider it, he pulled the rug out from under your feet to make you INVALID, on every level. You were NOT allowed to have your own personal goals, and you were PUNISHED for failing to submit to his demands.”

OMG! That is exactly what he did, on a daily basis! And punish he did! And even if I was going along with his crazy ideas and schemes, he still would sabotage me…

His goals had to be my goals, and if they weren’t he would start to harangue me, saying the same thing over and over again, until I agreed or walked away or hung up! Now I know it was just to mess with my mind. I think about that quote I read, either on this site or another one…

“Being with a sociopath is like having an eggbeater put into your brain and turning it on.” So true!



an eggbeater in your brain is a great analogy. Couldn’t think straight, make a decision, think for myself. Of course that was how he wanted it. I sympathise with your exp. Mine always wanted more! Of everything. And me and my credit card provided it for him. If I refused he would threaten to leave or have a massive strop which usually involved the silent treatment. Vile.

Ox, I love the snake story.

Ox Drover

I heard a different version but same tag line at the end…and it is SO TRUE…they do what they do because of what they are. No matter how much you love and stroke a snake, it is NOT going to grow fur and love you like a puppy. LOLROTFLMAO

I also heard a version with a scorpion and a bear.

Regardless of the version, that story is probably one of the best analogies to describe not just the toxic spath, but also our own cognitive dissonance in responding with pity to a lethal creature and then being surprised when it repays us with venom.

Not all of us recognized our spaths as venomous, though. When you’re raised in a den of vipers, it just looks familiar.

How was I to know I’d encountered a king cobra?



Thats a very good point. I was brought up to have humility, forgive trespassers and turn the other cheek. Seeing the good in everyone, I was a sitting duck for my snake in the grass.

I also developed a tendency to “do good deeds”….especially for my Mum. I felt unloved and I suppose I was trying to draw some affection or admiration from her. I am beginning to see how I was developing “bad habits” as a child. Is this why I’m attracted to these types?


Skylar, I agree that the snake analogy is spot-on, and I like OxD’s take on it – they’ll NEVER grow fur and behave like a puppy!

Strongawoman, I don’t know about you, but “these types” were attracted to me because of my core-issues with the “shame-core” being the most self-destructive of all. I was attracted to THOSE types because I believed that, if I loved someone well enough and did everything that I could to help them “heal” and reach their true potential, they would love me back, accept me, approve of my efforts, etc. These were all flawed beliefs, and I was raised with the same values – humility, forgiveness, turning the other cheek, etc. Those “values” HAVE a purpose, but they’ve been rather warped and perverted to mean something completely different than what they were originally meant to teach, IMHO.

I’m no theologist but “humility” is often associated with “humiliation,” and they’re not the same thing, at all. Being humble translates (for me, personally) being grateful for what I have and remaining OPEN to being taught – I don’t “know everything,” and humility reminds me of this, daily.

Forgiveness and the ability to forgive is also a demand that human beings have placed upon one another that is unreasonable – there are some situations where “forgiveness” is likely impossible – again, this is my very humble opinion and applies ONLY to me, personally.

Turning the other cheek – my gosh, but that requirement has left me open to some of the most heinous abuses, along with the most ludicrous suggestion that marriage vows were somehow set forth by God, which is NOT true.

I don’t know if you’ve done any work on “inner child,” but if you ever have a desire to approach it, “Healing The Shame That Binds You” by Bradshaw goes into great depths on this concept. I’ll say this about “inner child” work – it’s painful, grievous, and very challenging. But, for me, it ws the best explanation that I’ve had that adresses nearly every choice and decision that I’ve made throughout my lifetime. Boundaries, friends, marriages, career choices (or, not), etc…….I could go on about how this concept liberated me from so many other issues, but it would thoroughly take up pages and pages.

The most important thing about core-beliefs is that they can be altered to reflect the truth instead of “feelings” or emotions. I am learning, at long last, how to soothe that wounded “inner child” and reassure her that boundaries are Okay and that she (and, I) NEVER need to seek approval, acceptance, or validation from anyone else other than herself (MY self).

Brightest blessings



I scratched the surface of my inner child many years ago…..whatever I was reading at the time recommended “shrinking” my inner child……. myself as a small child, and placing her in my heart where I could give her the love and reassurance she/I craved so badly. I knew then that there was something not right but didn’t know what or why. Saying all that has just made me burst into tears.

Thank you Truthspeak. I will have a look at the book you recommend.



Working on my inner child has led me to a new layer, the self hatred or self contempt which walks hand in hand with loneliness (layers underneath the shame). We have based our choices in life unaware of those ruling facts. I believe there is two ways for trauma to direct it self, either inward or outward. Many of us has turned that energy inward and blamed ourselves for years, making our own string of thoughts to beat our selves up for the mistakes we’ve made and worked even harder to avoid it. We were not lovable. The oppsite of love is hate. So the spath had it easy coming, we were easy targets to hate. A spath always turns its hatred outward onto others, we were only garbagecans for them. Once we’ve learned to love ourselves, the boundaries will follow with that and a spaths “magic” wont work. Offcourse there will be challenges that might tilt us right back in the old pattern. However, it will be less and less, the more one work on it.


Strongawoman, (((((((((HUGS))))))))))) STRONG, fierce hugs, sweetie.

“Inner child” work is grievous, Strongawoman. It is. I sobbed and grieved for a week – literally – after I met that tortured, dirty, hungry, frightened, and abandoned child that was ME. I didn’t want to do the work – I have to be honest about this because it’s true. I was afraid of that grief. I believed that it was too deep and too painful for me to process. But, it wasn’t.

After I had sobbed my way through the pity and shame of what I had experienced, I put myself in front of myself (as that child) and swore that she would never be abandoned, alone, frightened, hungry, filthy, or dismissed, ever again. It still remains grievous to me and I get choked up, even today. I met my “inner child” in December of 2011 – over a year ago – and, I maintain frequent contact with her.

It’s scary, Strongawoman, it is. But, it’s healing in a way that I cannot describe.

Brightest and most comforting blessings


Sunflower – spot-on! That wounded “inner child” still screams, kicks, and demands her needs, but she’s learning that those needs will be met, without fail, by ME – I will meet those needs TO myself BY myself.

Spaths, for whatever reason, have the most uncanny ability to hone in on these damaged core-issues and tear them apart with surgical precision. It’s almost as if they each have the “Target Acquisition And Dismantle Handbook” to refer to!

Brightest blessings

I know, sweetie, me too. Just thinking about the wounded little girl makes me cry. I don’t know how to make it better for her.

We can’t change the past. She has only now.


Skylar, 100% spot on: “We can’t change the past. She only has now.”

When I “met” my “inner child,” it was grievous – that’s the only way that I can describe it. When I reached out to her, a few days later, I sort of used your words, above. Sort of like….I can’t take the hurt away, but I can make sure that today, onward, the hurt won’t happen, if that makes any sense.

I think that’s the only way that I could approach this painful “meeting” of the “inner child.” I gave her a new name and, in my mind’s eye, addressed her using that name. It’s a weird and surrealistic approach to this whole process of recovery, and I really, REALLY did not – did NOT – want to do this particular work. My counselor gave me a headsup on the grief aspect, and I heard the words, but I was not prepared for such a visceral and deep reaction.

Skylar, your “inner child” has “now,” but she also has YOU to soothe her and speak to her, rationally, when everything begins to spiral out of control. For me, that’s the impressive benefit of this whole exercise. We learn how to rely upon our own selves to validate, approve, accept, and nurture our own selves instead of endlessly seeking it from other sources.

Brightest blessings


About 5 years ago, as a Christmas gift for my mother, I took all the old Super-8 movies that my father shot and put them on DVDs. I was familiar with most of the films, but there was the one small reel that I had never seen before, shot in 8mm, not Super-8. I did not have any means of viewing this reel, but I processes it anything, thinking if it was nothing of value, I could delete it from the finished DVD.

That “lost” reel happened to be film of my first birthday party.

Having this video has helped me immeasurably. I consider it to be the real me, before all issues of childhood and adulthood resulted in a person different than the baby boy.

As an adult, I am shy unless in a comfortable situation, serious and somewhat reserved, often moody and withdrawn.

As a one-year old, I was none of that. I was happy, outgoing and gregarious. At one, I could walk very well and you see me adventuring around the back yard. That adventuring and an attraction for mechanical things (you can see me interested with a lawn mower) are the only consistent traits in my adulthood. Of, an liking of the color red!

This is “pre” inner child. This is the person I know am I and can be — happy, outgoing and fun.

What is most amazing about this video is that I have only been around this extended family for six months. I was adopted and spent the first six months of my life in NY Foundling Hospital. There is no evidence of anything but a very well adjusted and happy baby.

The rest happened thereafter.

Sadly, many of the people in the video are now dead. Several more are emotionally dead, victims of childhood sexual abuse and other abuses. While some of these people have had an indirect negative affect on my life, I have learned to let go and feel no shame.

Most important, I no longer feel guilty about being me and my only goal is to make myself happy. I am not yet the boy in the video, but each day I get a bit closer.

Ox Drover

One of the techniques I was given by a therapist was when I was feeling guilty or hurt, was to ask myself “why is my critical (inner) parent beating my inner child? Funny thing was, I could usually find the answer.



Wow, what insight. Thank you. I really don’t know what else to say.


What a GREAT tool. Again, a gem.
Katy, saving that one too.

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