I would welcome any tips on how to manage a direct with sociopathic behaviour.

This is not a diagnosis, of course, but the described behaviors of a sociopath fit very well to my direct. No empathy, control freak, thinks he is a genius, talks and talks and talks, but does not communicate. Knows best - any topic, etc. Undermines authority, cause he knows best and puts down my other colleagues, myself and even my boss (the CEO) in emails with a large list of recipients. He holds on to key knowledge within the company and avoids sharing information. To getting rid of him is not an option.

How do I deal with this guy? How can I work on his offensive and demeaning communication style, mainly via email.

Any help appreciated.

williamelledgepe's picture
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First, I would start with O3s ( then move to feedback about the specific behaviors (  Second, I would also give up the idea of doing this mainly via email.  Third, I wouldn't use the word sociopath to describe your direct; it is a loaded phrase, but more importantly, psychopathy is an actual struggle for many diagnosed with the disease.  

Kevin1's picture

Have a plan B.

Get the specific knowledge out of his head.  Then you have more options.


In the meantime - there is a cast for an handling an arrogant performer.


SteveAnderson's picture
Training Badge

Hey there, just a quick note from me reaffirming williamelledgepe's comment: the trinity will totally work for this person.  Start with O3s.  That said, I would highly recommend against doing O3s only with this direct.  If you do it for him, you ought to be doing it with your whole team.  From there, feedback.  And, even though this person is demonstrating less than stellar behavior, you need to roll it out properly - that is to say, a whole lot of positive before any adjusting.  If there is an issue that needs addressing, just be matter of fact but don't couch it in the feedback model (doing so only shoots you in the foot).

Secondly, document your O3s and any feedback or guidance given.  It sounds like this direct actually makes it easy to document things because he does a lot of this in email.  What I've done in the past is print out that email, bring it to the direct to address the issues in a behavioral fashion, then make my own notes on it for the direct's file.

Third, again to the point above: unless you're his psychiatrist, labeling him as a sociopath is wrong.  As in morally wrong.  Any time we give labels to a person and fit them into a group of people, it doesn't serve them, it doesn't serve us, and it doesn't serve the organization.  I had this conversation with a direct of mine the other day regarding her use of the term "millenial" to describe the entitled behaviors of another coworker.  My simple question to her was this: "Would you be offended if I used that same sentence but substituted 'woman' or 'asian' for 'millenial'?"  The answer, of course, is yes.  The same goes here. </soapbox>

Good luck with this direct.  Stick with the trinity and you might be surprised what happens.


misstenacity's picture

Sorry about this situation. I unfortunately don't have specific suggestions.... but I have seen this kind of behavior before from a co-worker with Asperger's. It's a very tricky line to walk with someone like this, who only wants things to be rational and logical and without surprises, but who blows an emotional stack if they are pushed into their own corner of frustration. They can be some of the best contributors in a company and have insane loyalty and integrity. But mess with their routine or just do your job poorly and you will have their wrath. This is not High-C; this is STRATOSPHERE-C.

Lack of deference to authority? Yep. Talks incessantly about the things they are expert in, and talks even more if someone is doing that thing wrong? Yep. Silent and ignorant about the things they don't care about? Yep. 

**Please note I am totally stereotyping the "usual" Aspie personality, but stereotypes exist for a reason. 

Note, I don't know if this person has Asperger's. It just popped into my head with the description of their behaviors. There are books out there on working with Aspies that could help both you and them, if it seems like that is the underlying situation.

Good luck, and I'd love to hear what happens.

timrutter's picture

Please ladies and gentlemen, let's not get drawn towards amateur psychology.

Let's stick to the business we are very good at, managing visible and audible behaviour.