Office psychos on dark side already

PSYCHO: Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene from the movie Psycho. Do you have an office psychopath in your midst?
PSYCHO: Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene from the movie Psycho. Do you have an office psychopath in your midst?

There has been quite an extraordinary response to an article I did a few weeks ago about psychopaths in the workplace, writes Mary-Jane Thomas in Work to Rule.

Who would have thought that, in Southland, rather than the world average of 3 per cent of the population being psychopaths, apparently it is more like 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

To be fair I have had responses from all around the country pointing out that, on reading the article, it became apparent to them what was really at the nub of their workplace relationship problems - a workplace psychopath. I have, therefore, devised a Mary-Jane Thomas guide to dealing with your workplace psychopaths.

Do not encourage them. When they are in a "manipulative charming" phase, you may wish to enter into this banter and have a normal working relationship with them - DO NOT. It only encourages them. Even when they are nice - blank them. Plus it is pathetic to be nice to somebody who is essentially evil.

Remember at all times that the workplace psychopath is not interested in anything other than him or herself. Again it is dangerous to be fooled by the manipulative charm of a workplace psychopath. Think of Star Wars' Darth Vader. Remember in the episode where he confronted Luke in Cloud City after Han Solo had been freeze dried: You thought for a second that he really loved his son - then he cut his son's hand off. Workplace psychopaths are like Darth Vader. They are just always going to be bad.

If you are an employer and have an employee workplace psychopath, do not ignore the harm they are doing because of , on the face of it, the money they are making for you.

Their high work ethic, the hours they put in and apparent money they make you must be weighed up against the likelihood that everybody else working for you will leave. Remember Glen Close's character in Fatal Attraction. On the face of it, she was really driven and successful - and then she killed the bunny. Think of your other employees as the bunny.

The psychopath may be nice to you as the boss. Meanwhile, the bunnies are getting slaughtered.

Do not feel sorry for the workplace psychopath if other workers tend to shun them. Remember that they do not deserve sympathy. If you give them sympathy, this just feeds on their psychopathology (I am making this up) and means that you leave the rest of your workers without support.

(I cannot think of a movie that fits this situation but am thinking of writing a screenplay to address such a scenario. I think Christian Bale would be a good psychopath.)

Finally, do not think you are cleverer than the workplace psychopath. You are not. Remember The Usual Suspects when the detective interviewed Kevin Spacey's character for the whole movie thinking he was clever and yet Kevin Spacey was in fact the one that completely had it over the detective.

Do not be the detective - be Keyser Soze.

Good luck out there with your workplace psychopaths.

PS: Brian Richardson wrote an article last week that related to workplace swearing. No, the article was not aimed at this writer.

» Mary-Jane Thomas is a partner at Preston Russell Law. E-mail questions to

The Southland Times