Since I started this blog, no article has had more hits than the one titled Have you worked with a Workplace Psychopath? In light of this this, I decided to seek out a story from a victim’s point of view. The article that follows is in a victim’s own words and provides an insight to what happens and how damaging an encounter with a Workplace Psycho can be.
A Classic Tale of the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
My encounter with the workplace psychopath occurred in the only job where I got sacked!
Feeling increasingly harassed and bullied over an eight month period, my life spiraled out of control only to crash and burn on the day I presented my complaint to the CEO. The outcome ? I was promptly dismissed. I had 30 minutes to pack my belongings into the proverbial cardboard box and leave the building.
Only after one successful stress related work cover claim, 12 months income protection, 12 months of psychotherapy, 12 months of retraining and transition into a completely different industry did life return to some semblance of normality. I have some sympathy for those poor souls who enter witness protection programs. Like them I felt as though my entire life and identity had been stripped away with no prospect of ever returning to my old life.
And so you are now speculating as to who is the work place psychopath in this tale of woe! Who is it that was my tormentor (other than myself of course – I do confess to contributing to my own demise). Surely it must be the CEO for that is the throne to which these creatures usually aspire. After all isn’t it all about wielding unfettered power over others, tormenting the weak, playing games of cat-and-mouse? If you are speculating thus then you would be wrong.
In my case the psychopath was a junior female employee. I was one of the few executives in this small organization and had joined the company having already met my tormentor in a previous position. She had been “moved on” from her last job and at the time I thought the treatment of this woman was appalling. For you see, she was an exceedingly charming, vivacious woman – the life of the party, kind to all. Little did I realize that a vicious wolf lurked within the “sheep’s clothing”.
So what was it about this woman’s behaviour towards me that was so toxic you ask? Well, that’s the problem you see – it’s actually difficult to “put your finger on”. She was a master at “divide and conquer” using her considerable skills at manipulation to isolate. This was successfully achieved through the use of social occasions – the outings to coffee or lunch with most staff to which I was not invited, subtle actions and suggestions to give the impression that others were passing their work off to her. A nasty sneering demeanor when alone but never in company, subtle comments to the CEO designed to undermine, gossiping with colleagues designed to plant ideas, but perhaps the worst was her capacity to “smell the blood” when relationships deteriorated (as mine did with the CEO) – at which time her infuriatingly subtle yet malevolent activity accelerated. To this day I remain in awe of the capacity of this woman, and others like her, to present one persona ( the meek and innocent) to the boss while inflicting the vindictive and malicious (that of the psychopath) on their target.
What separates the workplace psychopath from the garden variety bully is the subtlety with which they inflict pain and the incredible skill that they have to cover their tracks and leave no evidence of their handy work. Often too there is no motivation for their behaviour other than to create chaos and revel in the human detritus that is left. Like the Joker in Batman , the only seeming motivation is to create chaos, misery and suffering for their own sake. To this day I don’t know what I did to elicit her attention – again the very random nature of their target selection sets them apart from the bully.
The toxic and corrosive impact of these creatures on individuals and organizations is incalculable. In the case of my tormentor, I was the first to be dispatched but she managed to see off two others before finally being “moved on” to greener pastures. In one respect I am grateful to this woman as I am now happily ensconced in a wonderful new career – yet in another respect, I bear the scars of a life-threatening illness that descended 18 months after the trauma. The illness may take me yet and is it fair to blame this experience and this woman’s behaviour? Probably not! That said, I know it to have been at best a catalyst and at worst the cause.
So how do I feel about this woman now? Do I hate or loathe her? If at one time I harboured such feelings, then I can honestly say I am free of them today. Hatred takes up so much energy and at the end of the day, we will always be the first victims of our own ill feeling toward others. To me, she is the proverbial “snake in the grass”. I have great respect for snakes and appreciate the role they play in mother nature’s drama. They hide in the long grass disguising themselves from their quarry; they sliver and slide through life with unparalleled stealth; they attack if remotely threatened, and most glorious of all is their capacity to inject their poison to paralyze their quarry before slowly consuming it – whole! If they cross our path then we are advised to run a mile!
And so it is with the workplace psychopath. If you are smart enough to see them before they see you – run a mile! I guess the only difference between the snake and the workplace psychopath is that if you are bitten by the snake then at least the antidote gives you some chance of surviving. With the workplace psychopath – there is no antidote…..!
~ The author of this article has requested to remain anonymous
Thank you “anonymous” for being brave enough to share your story.