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Article Detail - Workplace Psychopaths

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Are you working with a psychopath?

Psychopaths aren’t killers. Not most of them anyway.

That’s the first thing John Le Mesurier, trainer on the Managing Workplace Psychopaths course wants you to know.

Decades of procedural crime shows may have led us to believe that every psychopath is cunning, deadly, and always two steps ahead of the law, but John says the reality is nowhere near as dramatic.

That’s the good news. The bad news? They’re more common than you think; you’ve probably met one; and if you’re really unlucky, you could be working with one.

Most psychopaths may not be violent, but they can still create a toxic workplace and destroy a team’s unity, productivity and morale.

That’s why, John says, a psychopath in the workplace is as bad for business as it is for staff.

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"They create false hope. They look the part, but they can’t deliver. Remember with leadership, a lot of it is about vision and engagement and they do that in the short term but because they’re not that strategic, eventually people start to realise they’re not the real deal."

There are some suggestions that 25% of senior management positions are filled by those exhibiting psychopathic behaviour. John says it’s likely much lower, due to the fact that many find it difficult to distinguish between psychopaths and narcissists. He adds that working with a narcissist isn’t necessarily bad at all and can be beneficial.

You can bond with a narcissist and come out better off whereas you won’t with a psychopath. Narcissists have a conscience; psychopaths are defined as having no guilt.

- John Le Mesurier

He says early advice around dealing with psychopaths was “when you identify them, run”.

But there are many situations where that isn’t possible. There are many reasons one might choose to stay in a toxic workplace. Maybe it’s your dream job. Maybe you can’t afford to quit. Maybe everyone in the team is great except that one person. So for this reason, John says, in his course he looks “at ways in which you can lessen the harm”.

John has taught counselling for more than 20 years and draws on his extensive experience working in senior management roles and consultancies in multinational corporations for this course.

At its heart, he says, it’s "a set of practical evidence-based tips for dealing with people who are very challenging in the workplace. It’s actually work skills because you’re learning techniques in order to minimise the harm."

These techniques include identifying psychopathic behaviour in co-workers and superiors, preventing psychopathic behaviour in the workplace, building healthy boundaries and conflict resolution methods.

The course attracts a wide variety of students, including people from all levels of the corporate sector, medical doctors and psychiatrists.

A lot of the people who come along have been impacted one way or another and this course is about giving them the skills they need to find a pathway forward.

- John Le Mesurier

Seven signs you’re working with a psychopath

John Le Mesurier, trainer of the Managing workplace Psychopaths course, says it’s estimated that psychopaths are about 3% of the population, and that figure is much higher in senior manager roles. So it’s likely everyone has met a psychopath at some time in our lives, but “you might not have labelled it”, he says. Here are his tell-tale signs that you’ve come up against one of these master manipulators and it’s time to protect yourself.

Charismatic: smooth, polished and charming
Manipulative: will do whatever it takes to get what they want, no matter how it affects others
Deceptive: will take credit for work done by others
Sadistic: derives pleasure from intimidating others
Contemptuous: considers people they have outwitted to be stupid
Ruthless: will exploit any person or situation if they can benefit from it
Arrogant: must win at all costs; hates to lose

Enrol in our Managing Workplace Psychopaths Course or view other upcoming business communication courses.

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