All posts by David Gillespie

Why Sexual Harassment Training Doesn’t Work (And What We Can Do About It)

There is no evidence that most anti-sexual harassment training actually prevents sexual harassment so how can workplaces stop it?

By Tero Vesalainen/ Shutterstock

About half of all working women report being sexual harassed at work at some point during their working lives.  This is true whether the statistics come from the UK, the US or Europe. Figures like this are underlined by the continuous flow of allegations brought to light as a result of the #metoo movement. 

The question for many workplaces is how to stop it.  For many, the answer is sexual harassment training.  In 2017, for example when two female lawmakers testified about sexual misconduct involving unnamed sitting members of Congress, the House implemented a requirement that all members of staff undergo anti-sexual harassment training.  Even more recently, the US State of California enacted a law to expand employers’ sexual harassment training requirements. Previously, employers with 50 or more employees had to provide their supervisory personnel with two hours of sexual harassment prevention training every two years. The new law dropped the number to any firm having five or more employees and requiring even non-supervisors to receive training.  And it is now common for government agencies, universities and other employers to implement similar policies, with over 90 per cent of US employers having some form of training in place.

Many organisations are now taking a pre-emptive approach to sexual harassment.  When, and not if, the inevitable claim happens they want to be able to point to actions they have taken to prevent it.  The only problem is that no evidence that most anti-sexual harassment training actually prevents sexual harassment or that it makes an employer any less liable for harassment claims by employees.

Comprehensive reviews of typical training programs suggest that under test conditions, men with a propensity to harass may be less likely to inappropriately touch a colleague, but the training does not affect their long term attitudes at all.  According to the researchers there is “absolutely no scientific basis for concluding that harassment training fosters employee tolerance and greatly alters workplace culture.” They also caution that there is a risk that the existence of training sends the erroneous message that the workplace is a harassment-free environment, when it is likely to be nothing of the sort.

The problem lies in the nature of the training according to a recent study conducted by Assistant Professor Elizabeth Tippett from the University of Oregon School of Law.  She analyzed 74 current and historical training programs spanning a period for 1980 to 2016. Her research suggested that harassment training solidified into a genre in the 1980s and 1990s.  It became a box ticking exercise (usually) consisting of a video based on an authority figure summarizing the law and then acting out a set of scenarios focusing largely on contrived situations rather than using real data applicable to the employer delivering the training.  Tippett notes, “a substantial portion of examples trainers use, involving sexual comments, jokes, and emails, represent borderline conduct that may not constitute harassment. Trainers do not always provide an explanation of whether the conduct would qualify as harassment, which may lead participants to infer that such conduct would be strictly prohibited.”  

The result is training which is either ignored because it portrays behavior which isn’t harassment or, results in workplaces which become hypersensitive to the point that productivity is impaired because people are scared of interacting with women at all.

Researchers have suggested a number of ways of improving the effectiveness of anti-harassment training borrowed from research into school-based anti-bullying programs.  One of the most effective of those programs is the one designed by 87-year-old Swedish professor of psychology, Dan Olweus, one of the clear leaders in bullying research. His program is designed to curtail any behavior that results from the power imbalance rather than focusing on any given expression of it. In short his program says set rules, stick to them, monitor compliance vigilantly and punish any violation consistently. Importantly, the entire community must cooperate in reducing the behaviour. A common feature of effective anti-bullying programs is ensuring that the community reacts against bullying. If the bully thinks bullying will make them an outcast, they’ll be much less likely to bully. If the bully’s peers react by reporting the behaviour or intervening on behalf of the victim, the bullying will decrease.

Like other bullies, harassers thrive in environments where supervision is minimal and rules are loosely enforced or non-existent. And just as with bullies, cooperation and community values are the most powerful weapons of containment. None of this will stop a harasser from wanting to harass, but it will severely curtail their opportunities to do so, and likely make it a career ending choice.

All of this depends on top-down buy in from the leaders of an organization.  They have to walk the walk, set the tone and make sure it is enforced without fear or favour. They need to do much more than tick the box and press play on the 1980’s sexual harassment training video.

All too often, group think and anxiety about imaginary consequences shuts down complaints before they are even made. If we want to stop abusive behavior in in the workplace, then we need to ensure our HR departments and all our other whistleblowers are protected and emboldened. When abuse is occurring we need to protect those who speak out, not shame them into staying with the herd.

Is The Ageing Workforce Blocking Career Progression?

Younger workers are worried that an ageing workforce makes it more difficult for them to get a job – but just how much truth is there behind their concerns? 

By Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, now aged 78, was once asked by an NBC reporter whether her decision to stay in the job blocks a new generation of Democratic leaders. Offensive though it is, the question makes sense to a lot of younger workers.  If Pelosi keeps working, a younger person doesn’t get a go at the job. And there are many workplaces where that question is playing on the minds of workers.  But intuitive as it sounds, the evidence says it’s a load of bollocks.

More of us are working to an older age than ever before.  In Australia for example the chance that a 55 to 59 year old is still working has jumped from 60 to 75 per cent since the turn of the century.  The likelihood that a person aged 60 to 64 is still working has similarly leapt from 34 to 57 per cent.  And the story is repeated across the globe.  Eighty three per cent of 60 to 64 year olds in Iceland still work, as do 76% in New Zealand, 68 per cent in Sweden and 66 per cent in Japan. 

This is trend that is likely to continue to accelerate with the United Nations projecting that by 2050 the number of people aged over 60 will more than double, to approximately 2 billion, representing around a fifth of the world’s population.  Better healthcare have contributed to longer average lifespans. This combined with declining real spending power for employees has resulted in strong economic and social imperatives for people to stay at work longer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger workers are worried that the presence of older workers makes it more difficult for them to get a job and to progress if they do get one.  Surveys like the one carried out by Canada Life Insurance group reveal that two in five employees believe the ageing workforce will make it harder for younger employees to get a start. 

Employees under thirty are the most concerned with almost of half in agreement with the proposition that older members of staff should retire so that younger workers could have a genuine chance of promotion.  Just 29 per cent of workers aged over 50, agree.  There’s only so many jobs at any given level, young workers reason, and if people are staying in work longer then their chances of progressing are significantly decreased. Only one in five workers felt that older workers should be retained so that they could benefit from their experience.

And while that logic sounds intuitively correct, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it.  The “lump of labour” theory, as it is known by economists has been around since 1851, when a British economist argued that cutting the number of hours employees worked would eliminate unemployment.  It has been used in policy debates to justify all manner of sexist, anti-immigrant or ageist employment or retirement legislation.  In essence it maintains that any big ‘lump of labour’ suddenly hitting the workforce, such as from immigrants, women, returning veterans or, in this case, older people, reduces the employment prospects of new entrants.

But when economists went looking for proof that this actually happens, they have consistently come up dry.  One recent example is a major review of US labor statistics covering the period 1977 to 2011.  It found that the increased number of older workers in that period had not reduced employment of younger workers, reduced the wages paid to younger workers or reduced the number of hours of work available for younger workers.  Indeed the data suggested that the greater employment of older people had lead to better outcomes for younger workers in that period.

Global analysis by the US National Bureau of Economic Research says that the macroeconomic reality is very different from what intuition tells us.  From an economy-wide perspective, the presence of older workers means more people working rather than collecting pensions and being otherwise dependent on the productivity of younger workers.  This in turn drives greater and faster economic growth which in turn spurs the creation of more jobs.  The pool of available jobs is not static say economists.  It is a rapidly expanding pool that is driven by economic activity and technological innovation. 

If your plan for career progression begins and ends with waiting for your boss to retire or die in harness, then yes, the ageing workforce is going to be a bit of a problem for you.  But if you are open to lateral movement, reskilling in new technologies and embracing the new opportunities that an expanding economy presents then older workers are no threat to you.  And more than that by the time you get to be part of that cohort, you will probably be very grateful for the healthcare and lifestyle benefits they have forced employers to adopt to support an older workforce.

How To Make Your Company More Honest (And Why It Matters)

It’s a fact that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. So how do you motivate your teams to perform with greater integrity?

By Dado Photos/ Shutterstock

There is ample evidence that honest companies outperform their dishonest competitors. And while almost every company says they are honest, many do not create and support a culture of honesty.  The research tells us there is one key thing any company can do to ensure we are honest at work. 

According to annual research conducted by global accounting firm EY, 97 per cent of businesses say it is important that they operate with integrity. Businesses want to be honest for one very simple reason.  Their reputation is on the line.  Almost all of them rate customer perception as the most important reason to behave honestly, with public and shareholder perception coming a close second and third. 

They believe that honesty, or at least having your customers, shareholders and the public believe you are, is key to successful business performance.  Obviously, acting with integrity makes it easier for organisations to operate by reducing scrutiny and fines,  but there are other much more important ways that honesty improves business performance.  Dishonesty also has a direct impact on the bottom line.  A recent study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that about 5 per cent of a business’s annual revenue is lost when that business is struck by dishonest acts such as asset misappropriation (theft and skimming), corruption (bribes and conflicts of interest) and financial statement fraud (misreporting sales and expenses).

Besides those direct impacts, honest organisations attract the best employees and customers. We would all prefer to do business with an honest seller or buyer and we would all prefer to work in a place that has a reputation for integrity.  While the impact of better customers and employees is difficult to measure, there is little doubt both improve the bottom line. Every year Ethisphere ranks the World’s Most Ethical Companies and compares their performance to their competitors.  Their research shows that over the five years to 2018, the World’s Most Ethical Companies outperformed the US large cap sector by 10.72 per cent.

So, the benefits are clear.  But according to the EY report one in six companies still undertake fraudulent and corrupt behavior. Its not for lack of policy.  Almost all organisations have implemented anti-fraud and corruption programs and 95 per cent say their senior leaders set examples of good ethical behavior. 

The problem isn’t lack of desire for honesty.  The problem is getting everyone to actually behave honestly.  There is however one key thing every organisation can do to drive a culture of honesty, remind us we are honest.

The research on cheating and lying tells us that it doesn’t take much to remind us that we are all, at base, honest people who are happier if we behave morally. Once we remember that, we generally behave that way. The most effective method to remind people of this is to prompt honesty at key moments. Usually these little prompts are cheap and easy to implement, and most important when we are tempted to fudge things a bit. Professor Dan Ariely from Duke University has spent more than a decade putting people in situations where they could lie and seeing if they do.  His research demonstrates that people don’t lie more just because the reward for lying is bigger and they don’t lie less just because the chance of getting caught is greater.

When people don’t have to lie to a person face to face in return for the reward, they cheat a lot more.  Making us deal with people face to face halves the chance of dishonesty.  And we are also more likely to be dishonest if we think everyone else is being dishonest and conversely more likely to be honest if we think everyone else is honest.

But the real kicker, was the one thing that stopped almost all the lying.  It was simply reminding us that our workplace has code of honesty before we are put in a situation where we might be tempted to be dishonest. Bizarrely the studies showed that even something as simple as getting people to sign the top of the test (before they lie) killed the cheating. If they signed the bottom, after they lied, they cheated as normal.

When this was implemented in a large-scale trial of insurance applications, the results were even more impressive. Researchers from the Harvard Business School decided to see if signature placement on insurance forms changed the level of honesty in disclosure. The results showed that customers self-reported 10.25 per cent more miles when they were asked to sign the declaration of honesty before they filled in the form. This would amount to an insurance premium being on average $97 more costly per car depending on whether the form was signed at the top or the bottom. Even at a significant personal cost, people were more inclined to be honest if they declared honesty before they filled in the form.

Of course, the other way to stop people lying is to do what they did in the control state of the study – check everybody and everything all the time. But who really wants to work in a police-state? Life is so much easier if you can trust people to be honest. 

Best Of The Procurious Blog – How To Tell You’re Working For A Psychopath

Psychopaths are present in every workplace. And the higher you go in the organisation, the more likely you are to encounter one.

Working for a psychopath is no holiday. Here’s how to tell if your boss is one, or just a garden variety bully.

A human resources manager is more likely to know them as sociopaths, micromanagers or workplace bullies. I call them psychopaths, not to insult them or even to suggest that they might be chopping people up for fun, but because they share a common set of character traits with all those personality types and also with criminal psychopaths.

1. They are two-faced

A workplace psychopath has a two-faced nature. One face oozes charm and charisma, while the other is viciously mean. They work very hard at flattering those that have power over them, but present a very different face to the people that work for them. To most of their team they are manipulative and controlling. People who work for a psychopath see this face most of the time.

2. They have a pawn

Psychopaths will also recruit a pawn or two. These are people who the psychopath won’t attack, so long as they do their bidding. Frequently it is the pawn delivering the latest piece of manipulation rather than the psychopath themselves. This allows them to put distance between them and their victims and build in automatic plausible deniability if it goes pear-shaped. “No, Terry-The-Pawn was acting on his own initiative, it was nothing to do with me.”

3. They are excellent liars

They are convincing liars and they lie compulsively, often for no apparent reason. The truth to them is whatever needs to be said at that moment. It is whatever they judge their audience wants to hear. And they will have no compunction aggressively assuring you something happened which you know didn’t, often to the point where you will doubt your own memory.

4. They treat employees as dispensable livestock

They treat most people who work for them as dispensable livestock. And this usually causes the cattle (that would be you) unprecedented levels of stress, frustration and fear. When one victim burns out or leaves, they just move on to the next. They damage the health of individuals and the reputation of the organisation without any regret or shame. The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil. Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

5. They can’t take criticism

They react to any criticism with aggressive denial or retaliation. If those aren’t options, usually because the critic has more power than them, they will feign victimhood or blame the victims of their actions. Punishment and threats have absolutely no effect on them. They will keep doing things their way, regardless.

In short, they are the classic malevolent workplace bully. This is not to say that all bullying in the workplace is done by psychopaths. Bosses can be mean but it is the frequency of bullying-type behavior that sets psychopaths apart from an everyday horrible boss.
In 2008, UK researcher Clive Boddy from Middlesex University set out to determine exactly how much workplace bullying was caused by psychopaths.

Boddy took a psychopathic checklist and embedded it in a management survey of Australian middle and senior managers. Almost six per cent of the respondents were working with a corporate psychopath as their current manager and thirty-two percent had worked for a psychopath at some time.

A further eleven per cent of respondents were working with managers who showed some psychopathic traits but were not rated at maximum in all categories.

The respondents also revealed how many times they had experienced bullying. Under normal managers, employees encountered bullying less than once a month (nine times a year), but the moderately psychopathic managers bullied employees more than twice a month (on average twenty-nine times a year), accounting for a twenty-one percent of all bullying. If that manager was a psychopath, the employee experienced bullying more than five times a month on average (64.4 times a year) and this accounted for twenty-six percent of all reported cases of bullying.

This means that, as an employee, you can, and probably will, be bullied in the workplace. If your boss is normal, bullying will happen once every six weeks or so. If you are working for a psychopath it will happen once or twice a week, or more. If the behavior described above is happening all the time then your boss is a psychopath. The bad news is that there are not many good options for solving it.

The exit beckons, but while you wait for the right opportunity, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and improve your position. Those strategies are the subject of the next part of this series.

Are YOU The Office Psychopath?

Just how certain are you that you’re not the office psychopath? Perhaps you should review the psychopath checklist.

Image: Rudall30/Shutterstock

The office psychopath is not the bloke found inconveniently near every unexplained axe-murder in your office.  He or she is just a normal person, who just happens to have no empathy whatsoever.  This little deficit means that they are completely incapable of co-operating with others for a common good.

And since modern business depends on groups of people doing exactly that, having them in your office can be seriously wealth endangering.  But are you certain that you aren’t the office psychopath?

Psychopaths are not all the same. Just like the rest of us, they vary in lots of important ways. Some are very intelligent and some are not. Some are good-looking and some are not. Some are men and some are women. Psychopaths are no more immune to cancer than we are and they are no better at football than I am. Well, all right, most of them probably are, but that’s not because they are psychopaths, it’s because I am uncoordinated.

But one handy thing about psychopaths is that their behaviour is predictable.  It’s so predictable that psychologists have developed a checklist which they use to determine whether someone is a psychopath.

The checklist is made up of twenty personality traits. Each of these twenty traits is scored by a psychologist, after a face-to-face interview and review of records, as a 0 (not present), 1 (present but not dominant) or 2 (dominant). The maximum score is obviously 40.

The average person scores between 3 and 6. Non-psychopathic criminals score between 16 and 22. A total score of 30 or over in the United States (or 25 or over in the United Kingdom) is regarded as a positive diagnosis of psychopathy.

Just to give us a sense of how these criteria might be applied, I’ve used my non-existent training in psychology to score James Bond on these criteria and now you can use your non-existent training in psychology (unless you are a psychologist of course) to score yourself.

Case study: James Bond
PCL-R James Bond
Facet 1: Interpersonal
  • Glibness or superficial charm
2 – Is it possible to be more charming than James Bond?
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
2 – A ‘secret’ agent who uses his own name all the time? – yup.
  • Pathological lying
2 – Aside from his name, he does seem to lie an awful lot.
  • Cunning or manipulative
2 – Obviously part of the job.
Facet 2: Affective
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
2 – James has killed over 350 people on screen so far and it never seems to trouble him in the slightest.
  • Emotionally shallow
2 – I’m sure he really does love all those women he sleeps with.
  • Callous or lack of empathy
2 – Has he ever seemed to experience another person’s emotions? There was that one time when he cried in the shower with Vesper Lynd . . .
  • Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions
1 – Every now and then he does take the blame for stuffing up.
Facet 3: Lifestyle
  • Need for stimulation (easily bored)
2 – We never see him sitting around much, do we?
  • Parasitic lifestyle
2 – Everything seems to be on the expense account.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
2 – Does he have any long-term goals?
  • Impulsivity
2 – He certainly struggles to contain his impulses when it comes to killing and seducing women
  • Irresponsibility
1 – Occasionally he does things for king and country
Facet 4: Antisocial
·       Poor behavioural controls 0 – He is in control most of the time.
·       Early behavioural problems 0 – We don’t know so let’s go with 0.
·       Juvenile delinquency 0 – Once again, we don’t know.
·       A history having conditional release from prison revoked 0 – We don’t know.
·       Criminal versatility 0 – His crimes are sanctioned by his 00 status.
Other Items
·       Many short-term marital relationships 1 – He’s never been married but he has had many relationships that might have ended that way (had the other half not been killed off).
·       Promiscuous sexual behaviour 2 – Is it possible to give more than 2?
Total 27

People who score highly in Facets 3 and 4 are more likely to be found on the wrong side of a prison wall. People who score highly on Facets 1 and 2 are more likely to be your workmate, your partner, a family member or, apparently, a secret agent.

Mr Bond managed a score that makes him a psychopath in the UK but not quite one in the US. The unflappable, focused, but erudite and charming killer that Bond represents is not a million miles from what I would describe as an office psychopath (without quite so much killing).

How did you go?


David Gillespie will present a session on Taming Toxic People at the Sydney Big Ideas Summit on Tuesday 30th October.

If you’d like to join us at the event in Sydney, reserve your seat here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

If you can’t make it to Sydney but would like to follow the action as a Digital Delegate, sign up here: https://www.procurious.com/big-ideas-summit-sydney

Five Rules For Dealing With A Toxic Workmate

There are five key things you should do that will make life a lot easier when you work for, or with, a toxic person…

Toxic People exist in almost every workplace.  You are much more likely to encounter one than not and the further you progress towards the top of your organisation, the more likely it is that you will be working alongside, or for, one.

They aren’t toxic in the radioactive, life endangering sense, rather they are toxic in the career limiting sense – specifically your career. They delight in finding minor fractures in the social structure of your workplace, driving enormous wedges into them and sitting back to watch the fireworks.  They enjoy bullying those they manage and emotionally tormenting those they work with. They will lie constantly but somehow no mud ever sticks to them while those all around them fall on their swords.

A workplace containing a toxic person will be riddled with distrust and fear.  Productivity will be at rock bottom and staff turnover will be through the roof.  They care nothing for the good of the organisation or anybody in it.  Their only motivation is cheap thrills and personal gain at all costs.

When you find yourself in such a workplace, there are things you should do and there are things you should definitely not do. A 2016 study of Australian workplaces plagued by what the researchers called ‘toxic leaders’ found that the following strategies were not a good idea. This was because they resulted in prolonging stress and fear of the leader:

  • Confronting them
  • Avoiding, ignoring or bypassing them
  • Whistleblowing
  • Ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration
  • Focusing on work
  • Taking sick leave (as it provided short-term relief only).

Instead, you must leave your passion for your job at home. You must become a well-mannered, honest, polite, compliant, precise employee who does whatever they are told no matter how pointless. Here are five things you should do that will make life a lot easier when you work for, or with, a toxic person.

Rule 1 – Accept reality

The most important rule is acceptance.  You must accept that you are working with a toxic person with psychopathic tendencies. They are not wired the same as you and regard you as a tool for achieving their aims in much the same way that you might regard a photocopier.  They don’t care about you at all and nothing you do or say will change that.  Every time you try to interpret their behaviour using rules which would apply to you or any other normal person, you will be confused, dismayed and potentially targeted. Do not under any circumstances suffer under the misapprehension that you have changed, or can change, anything about the way they behave.  Your options are survival and find somewhere else to work (or hope they do).

Rule 2 – Be businesslike and polite

Before you open your mouth in the presence of the toxic workmate, always ask yourself ‘Am I being polite and professional?’. Do your best to avoid unnecessary contact. This does not mean give them the cold shoulder. It just means you don’t drop by their office for a chat. Whenever you speak to them, do it within the confines of your role and for an explicit purpose.

Rule 3 – Maintain privacy

A toxic workmate will pump you for information they can use against you and others. You can defend against this by not disclosing anything to them and making sure you understand the privacy settings on your social media. Do not discuss anything that is not entirely business related.

Rule 4 – Be honest

Always be honest even when it is against your interests. They will offer you an opportunity to fudge a bit. They might allow you to claim more expenses than you are otherwise entitled to. They may ignore you pilfering from the firm. They may allow you to take credit for something you did not do. No matter how much they make it seem like you’re all in this together, make no mistake, they are gathering dirt on you and they will use both that dirt and the weakness you displayed to manipulate you in the future. Learn to say no – and mean it – when anything slightly dodgy is being proposed. Otherwise they will use your weaknesses of character against you.

Rule 5 – Be prepared

Document every verbal request they make and seek clarity on every instruction. If you are asked verbally to do something immediately follow up the request with a confirmation by email. Retain a copy of the email in printed form. If you are not sure exactly what you are required to do, seek written clarification. If you don’t get it, send a follow-up email saying you didn’t get it, and how you interpret the task. Voluntarily provide regular written updates on your progress. In other words, behave as a competent but compliant slave that documents everything publicly.

In short, you must become an emotionless machine (while at work) if you plan to stay in that workplace. Accept reality and remove all emotional responses from the way you interact with that person. Do everything they ask of you and ensure you document everything. Don’t take anything personally and make sure you have a good support network outside the workplace. Work will become a place you go to perform mindlessly (while you look for another job), but as long as you don’t become vested in that complete waste of your time and talents, it won’t kill you.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

Is Procurement Full Of Psychopaths?

If one in five procurement managers are psychopaths, how should you manage them?

A recent study of senior managers found that one in five procurement managers are psychopaths.  No, this doesn’t mean they are likely to wear clown makeup and brandish a chain-saw.  But it does mean the organisations which employ them need to exercise caution if they value their reputation.

The study, published in 2016, was conducted by Simon Croom, a professor of supply chain management at the University of San Diego in collaboration with two researchers from Bond University on the Gold Coast. It consisted of a global survey of 261 supply chain managers working in industries with an average price negotiation budget in the range of US$50 million.

The survey was based on a questionnaire widely used to identify psychopathic personalities.  If found that 55 (about 21%) of the procurement managers surveyed had clinically significant ratings in traits which would classify them as psychopaths.  That’s about the same levels as similar surveys produce in prison populations.

Largely thanks to Hollywood, most of us think of a psychopath as a violent serial killer. And while some of them probably are, there is a much more dangerous version that we are more likely to encounter every day in the workplace. You might call them bullies, or micromanagers, or narcissists, or sociopaths.  I don’t feel particularly charitable towards them, so I go with psychopath.

They all share a common set of personality characteristics.  They can be among the most charming people you’ll ever meet.  They are also fearless and focused.  So far so good, but then it gets tricky.  They take big risks on impulse, feel absolutely no remorse, are callous, lazy, have a very high opinion of themselves, will always take credit for good outcomes and blame others for bad outcomes.

Psychopaths are drawn to careers that give them power over others, so jobs towards the top of an organization are inherently attractive to them.  And they will find those jobs easier to get because they are extrabodily good at telling employers exactly what they want to hear and will happily lie about everything including their experience and education.

If you want a go-getter procurement manager who could charm a dog off a meat wagon, then you might be wondering what the downside is.  A psychopath will shoot first and won’t even bother to ask questions later.  They are completely amoral, will lie and cheat compulsively and will leave nothing on the table. They are deal-makers. You might even be thinking these characteristics make psychopaths fantastic assets in the cut and thrust world of supply chain management.  Given that, the surprising thing about this study is not that 20 per cent of procurement managers are psychopaths, it’s that 80 per cent aren’t.

A psychopath may well be fearless but they will only look after themselves. Yes, they will face down a mugger but they will not protect you against that danger unless there is something in it for them. Yes, they will charge into battle but military units depend on every soldier being able to trust the man beside them. You cannot trust a psychopath to act in your best interests, only their own. They won’t be taking a bullet for anyone, no matter how fearless they are.

And this applies just as strongly to your corporate reputation.  A psychopath does not care how your company is perceived in the market unless it directly affects the deal he has on the table today.  They will not plan strategically and they are motivated by nothing but self-interest.  If he behaves dishonestly and trashes your reputation then that is your problem, not his.  If you are in an industry where you will only ever do one deal with any other counter-party and none of them ever speak to each other, then I guess you could get away with employing psychopathic procurement managers.

But reputation matters.  Yes, you could be the fisherman that takes every fish out of the sea, but if you want to be able to do that next year, you’d better leave a few behind.  There is always short term gain to be had from counter-parties in a weaker position, but if you let a psychopath exploit that party because they can, your reputation will be mud and you will miss out on the longer term gains that fair dealing and honesty can deliver.

If your procurement manager is in the 20%, then for the sake of your own long-term welfare, make sure you have strong systems in place to ensure they act fairly and honestly or you will ultimately be paying the price.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney

How To Tell You’re Working For A Psychopath

Psychopaths are present in every workplace. And the higher you go in the organisation, the more likely you are to encounter one.

Working for a psychopath is no holiday. Here’s how to tell if your boss is one, or just a garden variety bully.

A human resources manager is more likely to know them as sociopaths, micromanagers or workplace bullies. I call them psychopaths, not to insult them or even to suggest that they might be chopping people up for fun, but because they share a common set of character traits with all those personality types and also with criminal psychopaths.

1. They are two-faced

A workplace psychopath has a two-faced nature. One face oozes charm and charisma, while the other is viciously mean. They work very hard at flattering those that have power over them, but present a very different face to the people that work for them. To most of their team they are manipulative and controlling. People who work for a psychopath see this face most of the time.

2. They have a pawn

Psychopaths will also recruit a pawn or two. These are people who the psychopath won’t attack, so long as they do their bidding. Frequently it is the pawn delivering the latest piece of manipulation rather than the psychopath themselves. This allows them to put distance between them and their victims and build in automatic plausible deniability if it goes pear-shaped. “No, Terry-The-Pawn was acting on his own initiative, it was nothing to do with me.”

3. They are excellent liars

They are convincing liars and they lie compulsively, often for no apparent reason. The truth to them is whatever needs to be said at that moment. It is whatever they judge their audience wants to hear. And they will have no compunction aggressively assuring you something happened which you know didn’t, often to the point where you will doubt your own memory.

4. They treat employees as dispensable livestock

They treat most people who work for them as dispensable livestock. And this usually causes the cattle (that would be you) unprecedented levels of stress, frustration and fear. When one victim burns out or leaves, they just move on to the next. They damage the health of individuals and the reputation of the organisation without any regret or shame. The workplace under a psychopath is in constant turmoil. Factions are rife, sick leave sky-rockets, staff turnover becomes endemic and productivity drops like a stone.

5. They can’t take criticism

They react to any criticism with aggressive denial or retaliation. If those aren’t options, usually because the critic has more power than them, they will feign victimhood or blame the victims of their actions. Punishment and threats have absolutely no effect on them. They will keep doing things their way, regardless.

In short, they are the classic malevolent workplace bully. This is not to say that all bullying in the workplace is done by psychopaths. Bosses can be mean but it is the frequency of bullying-type behavior that sets psychopaths apart from an everyday horrible boss.
In 2008, UK researcher Clive Boddy from Middlesex University set out to determine exactly how much workplace bullying was caused by psychopaths.

Boddy took a psychopathic checklist and embedded it in a management survey of Australian middle and senior managers. Almost six per cent of the respondents were working with a corporate psychopath as their current manager and thirty-two percent had worked for a psychopath at some time.

A further eleven per cent of respondents were working with managers who showed some psychopathic traits but were not rated at maximum in all categories.

The respondents also revealed how many times they had experienced bullying. Under normal managers, employees encountered bullying less than once a month (nine times a year), but the moderately psychopathic managers bullied employees more than twice a month (on average twenty-nine times a year), accounting for a twenty-one percent of all bullying. If that manager was a psychopath, the employee experienced bullying more than five times a month on average (64.4 times a year) and this accounted for twenty-six percent of all reported cases of bullying.

This means that, as an employee, you can, and probably will, be bullied in the workplace. If your boss is normal, bullying will happen once every six weeks or so. If you are working for a psychopath it will happen once or twice a week, or more. If the behavior described above is happening all the time then your boss is a psychopath. The bad news is that there are not many good options for solving it.

The exit beckons, but while you wait for the right opportunity, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and improve your position. Those strategies are the subject of the next part of this series.

David Gillespie is a guest speaker at the Big Ideas Summit in Sydney on Tuesday 30th October 2018, where he’ll help delegates understand how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. Interested in attending? Register here: http://www.bigideassummit.com/big-ideas-sydney