I work for a sociopath. He is entertaining, persuasive, an expert in all areas, but he is also arrogant, domineering, a manipulator, a liar, and operates on paranoia. His agenda is self serving yet his position is the general manager. He has one personal confidante for all company decisions. This one individual is a young, inexperienced and an attractive women. She also has one agenda and that is to move to the top at all cost.
Both of them together have terminated about one dozen employees who have challenged their plans to run the show as a team of two despite the consequences. Most of the employees have been with the company for many years and have a lot to contribute. Yet their concerns or input are not only dismissed they are taken as a threat or insult to the general manager. He will actually say, ‘I am the General Manager and you are my subordinate’. His paranoia absorbs most of his time as he listens in on telephone calls and reviews emails or watches employees activities in the office. The other part of his time is spent behind closed doors with the young female confidante. It is believed they spend the time collaborating on how to terminate their next victim.
The working conditions are not acceptable yet many of us have worked together for years and formed friendships. We also work for a company with goods benefits and a decent salary. That is very hard to replace.
What are the safest options for us to stop the bullying without being terminated? The last few who complained managed to bring some attention to Human Resources, however, they hired a coach who worked with the GM, befriended him, and basically told the employees we need to give him a chance. However, the GM shifted to revenge mode once the coach left.
What do we do?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Dear Mother Teresa (next victim),
We’re calling you that, since it sounds like you and others are being forced to behave like saints with the charitable giving and selflessness that you are providing the company under the shadow of a sociopath and his “mini-me” playmate.
Just remember that you are choosing to remain “in the habit,” because you are receiving something back (“good benefits and a decent salary”). We hope the purely financial aspects are indeed worth the abuse since it certainly isn’t the entertainment value keeping you there (although you’ve called your GM entertaining).
But he is clearly also what we would call an Overly Political style, as he exhibits many of that posture’s traits: unethical, arrogant, corrupt, and power drunk— and also capable of being verbally articulate, charming, and expert at maneuvering and working the system to protect himself. Above all, never trust him or Mata Hari since the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. You WILL NOT CHANGE HIM.
Beware. If he really is a sociopath, by the way, fueled not only by his power-tripping and political destructive tendencies, but also a tinge of paranoia and pathological thought patterns, you now have a perfect storm. A sociopath is a character-disordered sick individual who lacks a conscience. One who sees a cat in the middle of the road and will swerve to try to run it over. So know that’s what you may be coping with and behave accordingly. Unless you are actually a cat and have nine lives, we doubt that there is any way to stop the bullying and still have a job. At least not as an individual (witness the “dirty dozen” who have been railroaded out for whatever misguided reasons).
The only possible routes you can ever hope would work are to work in a group like a class action suit does, but even then the still low-odds steps would include:
1) Returning to HR as a group to provide feedback of dissatisfaction with the results, potentially aligning with another executive coach who is more savvy than the first to persuade the first of his being duped; naturally, the first coach could easily have been charmed by the GM’s skills and spells, or simply is suffering under his conflict of interests given he’s being paid by management;
2) Strength in numbers is what unions are about and while we have no idea whether your labor environment is organized, that’s what such groups are for, to prevent abuse of all kinds;
3) Consider organizing carefully and anonymously writing top management about the level of discontent and how it is interfering with company productivity and costing them dearly each time there is a firing. It typically costs several hundreds of thousands to replace an IT person, a manager, a professional, etc. (you can Google such figures), so document the millions the dynamic duo has probably cost the company, not to mention the intangible costs in morale, motivation, and performance drains. Of course, there is always the threat of a harassment law suit that sometimes provides a wake-up call.
It’s important to remember the sobering fact that if such abuse has been allowed to continue, it’s either the outcome of a serious top management political blind spot and denial, or the concentrated power of the GM is the result of collusion by the GM with top management. There is rarely an accident when this kind of unethical behavior is going on. The only other difficult step, therefore, is to try to calculate who in the company is powerful enough and ethical enough to care enough about doing the right thing. Aim high, even going for the board level. Remember, you may need to go into secret communications modes. But your sociopath ‘Son of Sam Samurai Supervisor’ should be treated very carefully. Consider hardball, but only in very small circles of trusted confidantes, with great documentation, including from some of the previously axed victims, and potentially with expert legal advice.
Finally, remember that you always retain choice. If you choose to stay, fly low under their radar and keep in mind how miserable their lives must be to have become such poor examples of human beings. If you believe in corporate karma, theirs will come eventually. And so will yours.
You have our sympathies! Sometimes the story has no happy ending… but maybe the next book will be more promising. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Warmest regards to a good person!
Rick and Marty
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.