Have you ever seriously wondered if your boss is a psychopath? If he or she is a terrific talker with an inflated sense of self who tends to manipulate people, lie, avoids taking responsibility and feels little empathy, your boss may clinically be considered psychopathic.


According to Mitch Abrams, a member of the New Jersey Psychological Association and the president of Abrams Psychological Services, psychopathy is something that exists on a continuum.

"When you deal with people that are truly psychopathic they have this malignant narcissism to them. They really don't see anybody as a valuable person, but need gratifiers that are going to help them get what they want," Abrams said.

He said for all practical purposes, the terms psychopath and sociopath mean the same thing. They, along with the term "anti-social personality disorder," are sometimes used interchangeably.

"As far as the psychopathic boss is concerned, people are there to serve them," he said. "They have no problems treating them as such; they have no meaningful connections with people in the same way as other people may."

Abrams said if your boss has psychopathic tendencies, you may want to focus on staying aligned without compromising your own integrity, because by being around them could involve the risk of losing your own moral compass.

"You never want to make a psychopath lose face in public because they will wait and they will hunt  and will devour you," Abrams said.

If your boss is changing the ground rules of a work situation, for example, an employee should avoid publicly pointing out what the employer is doing. Instead, Abrams suggests framing the discussion in a way that suggests your willingness to offer help and support.

"Say I want to make sure to give you want you want in the order that you want them -- this is the priority that I have. You're deferring to their authority and asking for them to provide the clarification," he said.

Abrams said if you're working with a boss that has psychopathic traits, "you have to learn how to take care of yourself. You're going to need to be able to check yourself, release steam whether it's exercise, taking time off, etc., because you're going to find yourself tired a lot because of the dynamics that are going on in the office. It's like there's something there, but you can't put your finger on it."

So how can you try and figure out if your boss has clinical psychopathic tendencies?

Researcher Robert Hare, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, has developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist - a sort of do-it-yourself, eight-question diagnostic tool that can help rate a person's psychopathic or antisocial tendencies. Of course, if you're not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, this should be taken as an amateur exercise and not used to diagnose someone with clinical psychopathy.


Answer the following questions about your boss. Score 2 points for each "yes" answer, 1 point for "somewhat or maybe," and 0 points for "no."

  1. Is your boss glib and superficially charming?
  2. Does he or she have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
  3. Is he or she a pathological liar?
  4. Is he or she a con artist or master manipulator?
  5. When your boss harms others does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?
  6. Does he or she have a shallow affect (acting cold and detached)?
  7. Is he or she callous and lacking empathy?
  8. Does he or she fail to accept responsibility for his or her own actions?

If the score is between 1-4, be frustrated with your boss; 5-7, be cautious; 8-12, be afraid, and 13-16, be very afraid.

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