OF­FICE BUL­LIES MAY BE ‘SNAKES IN SUITS’

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - Tre­maine van Aardt aardtt@ti­soblack­star.co.za

SUITED, so­phis­ti­cated and suave. These are just some of the tell-tale signs which cor­po­rate lead­ers use to dis­guise their power-hun­gry in­ten­tions at the ex­pense of oth­ers.

This is ac­cord­ing to clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Lau­ren Davies, who ad­dressed about 50 psy­chol­o­gists, stu­dents and hu­man re­source pro­fes­sion­als at the So­ci­ety of In­dus­trial and Or­gan­i­sa­tional Psy­chol­ogy in South Africa (Siopsa) Eastern Cape event hosted at Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity yes­ter­day.

Davies pre­sented her ac­claimed pre­sen­ta­tion, “Snakes in Suits: Deal­ing with Psy­chopaths at Work”.

The pre­sen­ta­tion aims to en­able pro­fes­sion­als to iden­tify these in­di­vid­u­als, how to deal with them and bring­ing “hu­man­ity” back to the work en­vi­ron­ment which coun­ter­acts their progress.

She said the pre­dom­i­nate dif­fer­ence be­tween these in­di­vid­u­als and oth­ers was the dis­rup­tion of the cir­cuit link­ing the lim­bic sys­tem to the pre­frontal cor­tex.

“The gen­eral pop­u­la­tion has two types of em­pa­thy, namely cog­ni­tive, which is an in­tel­lec­tual un­der­stand­ing of emo­tions, and af­fec­tive em­pa­thy, which is con­nect­ing with a par­tic­u­lar emo­tion,” Davies said.

“With psy­chopaths, there is no af­fec­tive em­pa­thy. This is be­cause they don’t have that link to the pre­frontal cor­tex . . . Hence they feel noth­ing to tram­ple on oth­ers to fur­ther them­selves.”

How­ever, Davies said in the work en­vi­ron­ment these peo­ple were re­ferred to as so­ciopaths rather than psy­chopaths as they knew the rules and how to fit into so­ci­ety.

“They are so­cialised psy­chopaths,” she said. “Their mantra is ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and how you play them against each other’. The pay­off for the of­fice psy­chopath is power and con­trol, not money or pro­mo­tion.

“They do it through charm­ing their way through in­ter­views, iden­ti­fy­ing who is use­ful and use­less. Then they start with ma­nip­u­la­tion by set­ting up an in­flu­ence net­work be­fore spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about them­selves and oth­ers.

“This ma­nip­u­la­tion also in­volves charm­ing their sup­port­ers, gain­ing al­lies, be­fore pit­ting peers against each other, caus­ing con­fronta­tion.

“Hav­ing al­ready al­lied him­self with the cor­rect play­ers, he is then able to go into the as­cen­sion as­pect, plac­ing him in a po­si­tion of power,” Davies said.

She said the work­place en­vi­ron­ment as well as schools en­cour­aged so­cio­pathic be­hav­iour as both were re­sults-driven.

“There is no law against work­place bul­ly­ing if it is not of a sex­ual or phys­i­cal na­ture. And with the work en­vi­ron­ment be­ing so profit driven, these so­ciopaths thrive, be­cause they are all very in­tel­lec­tual.

“These be­hav­iours are a 50/50 di­vide be­tween na­ture and nur­ture. In most cases, these so­ciopaths are born with the habits and ten­den­cies, while 50% of it is trig­gered by the spe­cific work en­vi­ron­ment.

“And be­cause of cor­po­rate cul­ture, they get away with it.”

PSY­CHO­PATHIC TYPE: Chris­tian Bale in ‘Amer­i­can Psy­cho’

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