Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Refections on Workplace Bullying: Was one (or perhaps more) of the bullies psychopaths or sociopaths?

Hubby has been - and continues to be - my greatest supporter and encourager on the journey towards recovery post workplace abuse.

The other day he found this BBC documentary on psychopathy which he not only found interesting but felt might be relevant to understanding my situation with my former co-workers.  Were they psychopaths?  Was one of them a psychopath and the rest followed the leader?  What about sociopathy?  Were one of more sociopaths?  Or is there even a different between the two terms?

I'll probably never know the answers to any of those questions.

At one point in the documentary, words such as cunning, manipulative, charming, lying, remorseless, lack of empathy and more float across the screen while the commentator continues talking.

Those words floating across the screen brought up memories of specific incidents in the workplace.

I remember the look in one person's eyes.  The person I now believe was the instigator.  The person behind the scenes.  The one who got everyone "motivated".  Her eyes looked, to me, dead.  No life there.  No emotion.  No empathy.  I felt like she was looking at me with all the compassion she would look at an insect - which is none.

I felt something was very wrong with the scenario.  Couldn't she see what she was doing to me?  Why didn't she feel anything?

It felt as though something were abnormal somehow.  But I didn't really know what.  And even if I did have my suspicions, by that time this person and the others who made up the clique - or mob - were so much in control that I didn't dare say anything.

In another situation, one of the co-workers was in a meeting with myself, HR and management to discuss and try to resolve the situation.  The co-worker actually said:  "I don't know why I'm here."  ?????  She didn't know why she was there?  She wasn't aware of what she was doing to me?  I has trouble with that statement.

Yet, if she a sociopath - or had some of the traits of one - she would not be able to see or feel the damage she was doing.

The word sociopath, came to my mind in that incident and in others.  But by that time as I've said before, I didn't dare voice anything.  Anything I said was automatically dismissed.  Sloughed off.  While anything they said was given credence.

It was a huge imbalance of power.  One I never truly understood.

I heard the phrase "he said/she said" ad nausea during this time.  Because these incidents happened only between two people with no witnesses, the manager took the stance that because nothing could be verified, it didn't happen.

I vividly remember one incident in which two of my co-workers, neither of which was talking to me at the time, were present.  Actually, it was worse than that.  They totally ignored me.  It was as if I didn't exist.  This particular day, I started choking at my desk.  One of the workers from another department who was in the cafeteria in front of my desk, came running over to see if I was OK.  He arrived just as the blockage cleared and I was able to breath again.  Neither of the co-workers in the office with me made any effort to come to my aid.  Why?  Didn't they notice that I was in distress?  It bothered me.  A lot.

What would happen if I had a medical emergency in the office such as a stroke due to the brutal stress and my already high blood pressure?  Would they notice?  Would they come to my aid?  Would they call 9-1-1?  Or would they ignore me?

Those were questions I was afraid to find out the answer to as I was afraid the answer to all but the last question would be "no".  They would not come to my aid.  And yes, they would ignore me.

I often wondered if something did happen to me and I died in the workplace, would the manager say that nothing had happened because there was no evidence?  No evidence except a dead body, that is?

I know that thought is extreme and macabre.  But because the situation had spiked my blood pressure to dangerous levels twice between in the workplace, I felt I had cause for concern.  What if I stroked out sitting at my chair?  Would anyone notice?  Or would they just let nature take its course?

I'm glad I never had the opportunity to find out.

Back to the beginning of this post.  What is the difference between psychopathy and sociopathy?  Or is there a difference?  Looking at the research, it appears that they are one in the same for all practical intents and purposes although psychopathy tends to be used when there is criminal activity or intent with sociopathy describing individuals who tend to be able to function normally in society.  Normally except for the psychological damage they inflict on unlucky others.

The documentary also asks the question if it is "nature" i.e. something the individual is born with or "nurture" the environment they were raised in.

It differentiated the two as believing that psychopathy is something in the brain the person was born with while sociopathy is more connected to the environment.


If you look at the symptoms, you will find that both conditions have the same symptomology.  To be confirmed as a psychopath, a person has to have a minimum of 26 out of 40 some symptoms.

Therefore, if my former co-workers had one or two symptoms - or even more - they would not have qualified as either psychopaths or sociopaths.

Yet, the presence of several symptoms in combination are distressing - and cause for concern in the workplace - whether the person is indeed a psychopath or a sociopath.


This is a hard piece for me to write.  Or even think about.  It brings back too many unpleasant memories.  Also, it could be construed as borderline libel IF it's written (which it is), malicious (which it's not) and untrue (which truthfully I don't know).

At this point, I'm simply verbalizing something that's been on my mind for a long time.  Perhaps something that needs to be brought out of the workplace, out of the secret, hiding place, and into the open.

If it's true that I was up against one or more sociopaths, it would stand to reason why these people wouldn't back down and simple let me leave quietly, licking my wounds.  Why they felt they had to go to the extreme of formulation a petition disguised as a complaint while I was off on medical leave after my second back-to-back stress breakdown.

It also explains why I've lived in fear of what these people might do if they discover that I'm starting to come out of the "closet" and into the open about what happened to me - from my perspective - in the workplace.

It explains a lot.

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