13 signs your coworker is a psychopath

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Are you working with a psychopath?
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Warner Bros.

Bullying isn’t just for school kids on the playground.

Andrew Faas, a former senior executive with Canada’s two largest retail organizations, found this out the hard way when he blew the whistle on a corrupt colleague, and subsequently had his phone and email hacked and even received an anonymous death threat.

To help others, Faas says in his new book, ” The Bully’s Trap,” any worker being hired or promoted in a supervisory position should be required to take a psychological test.

What would it test for? The 20 signs listed in the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, as developed by renowned psychologist Robert Hare.

A psychopath may not show all he signs, but they will likely demonstrate at least some of them, Faas says.

Here are 13 sign that one of your coworkers may be a psychopath, from Hare’s checklist, Faas, and articles we found on Psychology Today:

Natalie Walters contributed to a previous version of this article.


They have sadistic motives and intents

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“I think the most telling sign is their sadistic nature,” Faas says.

A psychopath motivates others through fear, rather than respect, he says, and they intend to destroy rather than correct.

This one characteristic is what separates psychopaths from a boss or coworker who is simply “firm,” he says.

“I’ve led and managed workforces that are in the thousands, and I’ve always been and still am a very demanding leader, but I motivate through respect because I want people to improve,” Faas says.


They’re glib and constantly turn on the superficial charm

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Andrew Dobos/Flickr

Psychopaths are masters at presenting themselves well.

They are great conversationalists who can easily sprinkle chit-chat with witty comebacks and “unlikely but convincing” stories that make them look good, writes Hare in a post on Psychology Today.

Confronted with such charm, you may believe that the psychopath is a decent – delightful, even – person by the end of the conversation.

Hare writes that one of his raters once interviewed a male prisoner who threw in some compliments about her appearance, and by the end of the interview she felt unusually pretty.

“When I got back outside, I couldn’t believe I’d fallen for a line like that,” she said.


They have a grandiose estimation of self

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The U.S. National Archives/Flickr

Psychopaths see themselves as the center of the universe, writes Hare, on Psychology Today. They are so important in their minds that they believe other people are just tools to be used.


They’re confident — even in the face of overwhelming evidence

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Flickr/brenbot

Many people struggle with their self-esteem. Psychopaths, on the other hand, can be identified by their overabundance of confidence, according to Dr. William Hirstein on Psychology Today. Whether their boasting is subtle or obvious, beware the coworker that’s always going on and on about how great they are.


They’re a pathological liar

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Maybe there was some truth to “Pinocchio.”

Once psychopaths start lying, they can’t – and don’t want to – stop.

Faas says that bullies have an “intellectual dishonesty that they knowingly revert to.”

Unlike normal people, psychopaths don’t care if their lie is found out because they can just lie again to cover it up, he says.


They don’t think the rules apply to them

Psychopaths are notorious for flaunting societal norms and rules. Much like narcissists, they are so self-centered and cold hearted that they simply believe they can get away with terrible behavior, writes Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, on Psychology Today.


They live a parasitic lifestyle

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Internet Archive Book Images/flickr

Bullies are single-minded: They think only of themselves and what they want to accomplish – like a parasite.

“They’re going to live their life and do and say and behave the way they want to behave without any consideration for others,” Faas says.

He says psychopaths do whatever they want because they have such an inflated sense of self that they don’t think the normal rules of life apply to them: “They feel they’re immune to any criticism in terms of how they live their lifestyle, including harassing those they have command and control over.”


They are cunning and manipulative

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Paramount Movies/YouTube

Faas likes to say that psychopaths are masters of three things: manipulation, deflection, and deception, all of which help them keep “number one” – themselves – above water.

“They’re very apt to accept credit for something when it goes right, but when something goes wrong, they look for a scape goat to deflect it to and take the blame,” he says.


They had early behavioral problems

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Elliott Brown/flickr

Faas says that bullies in the workplace were most likely bullies on the playground.

“They take what they were allowed to do in the school environment and take it with them to the workplace,” he says.

Some of the early behavioral signs include persistent lying, cheating, theft, arson, truancy, substance abuse, vandalism, and/or precocious sexuality, writes Hare.

While many children may display such behaviors, he says that psychopaths will display them more often and to a more serious degree.


They don’t feel emotions like normal people

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Flickr/Tim Green

Psychopaths can effectively mimic emotional responses, writes Psychology Today’s Dr. Scott Bonn. However, they cannot sincerely feel them. Most psychopaths are master manipulators – those around them don’t realize their true nature until the damage is already done.


Their long-term goals are not realistic

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Jacquelyn Smith/Business Insider

Even though psychopaths struggle to accomplish their own grandiose goals for themselves because they are bad planners, Hare writes, they expect others to rise to the occasion.

“Though the task may be impossible to do, psychopaths justify it because, in their limited view, it’s a reasonable goal,” Faas says.


They show no remorse or guilt

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Flickr / istolethetv

The psychopathic tendency to not care about the consequences of their actions, no matter how badly they affect others, can be linked to their “remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior,” Hare writes on Psychology Today.

While their friends and family may be physically or emotionally hurt by the psychopath’s actions, he or she will typically just deflect the blame with excuses or flat-out deny it.

Hare recalls one subject who stabbed someone, yet seemed to feel more sorry for himself.

“He spends a few months in hospital, and I rot here,” he said.


They have a scary temper

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Jake Barnes/Flickr

Don’t get fooled by the charming veneer. Hare writes on Psychology Today that psychopaths are incredibly short-tempered. The smallest thing can set them off into a rage. Watch out for the person who freaks out about everything in the office – no matter how minor.