Do you work for a psychopath? Someone who\u2019s just plain nuts? One of the crazies mentioned last week?\n\tNuance is an overused word and underused way of looking at the world. Our thinking about mental illness could, for example, use much more of it. There are those who think we create syndromes for every idiosyncrasy that\u2019s a decimal point away from some mythical state of normalcy \u2013 that we use syndromes as excuses so nobody is responsible for anything they do. It\u2019s the syndrome\u2019s fault, and there must be a medication to take care of it.\n\tThere are also those who consider the increased diagnosis of mental illnesses to be progress ... a way to understand people who do suffer from very real medical and psychological challenges and need help, not criticism or opprobrium.\n\tThen there\u2019s Jon Ronson and his book The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011). Ronson manages to avoid, not only both extremes, but the \u201cfairness trap\u201d as well. He doesn\u2019t take a middle ground. He takes a nuanced ground, where the conditions and syndromes we all know about are both real and tragic when they happen, and over-diagnosed and often over-medicated as well.\n\tIt\u2019s a world where attention deficit disorder can be both a real problem for real human beings, and a convenient excuse for not paying attention for others who are perfectly capable of paying attention if they didn\u2019t have ADD to fall back on.\n\tIt\u2019s a world where criminal profiling yields both startling successes and alarming miscarriages of justice.\n\tAnd, it\u2019s a world where Robert Hare\u2019s PCL-R checklist provides both real and useful help in recognizing seriously dangerous individuals, and is also over-used by armchair experts who cheerfully label as psychopaths anyone who isn\u2019t as sympathetic as we might prefer, including not a few business executives, and the crazies described in last week\u2019s column.\n\tThe PCL-R checklist, in case you\u2019ve never heard of it, is the gold standard diagnostic for sociopathy (or psychopathy ... the terms are interchangeable). It lists symptoms like impulsiveness, lack of empathy or remorse, and pathological lying as key indicators of the syndrome.\n\tOddly enough, it appears true psychopaths are not \u201cbad people\u201d in any meaningful use of the word \u201cbad.\u201d Psychopathy apparently has a physiological cause \u2013 an under-active amygdala compared to \u201cnormal\u201d human beings, which very likely is why their ability to feel and respond to emotion is so limited. It\u2019s a real and thus-far untreatable condition.\n\tThis makes them no less dangerous, of course. If you work for or with someone who has these tendencies, the only trust you can put in them is your trust in the predictability of their behavior ... namely, that they\u2019ll do whatever they feel like doing without compunction, scruples, or concern over the possible consequences.\n\tAnd it\u2019s worse, because true psychopaths are superb manipulators. They\u2019re charming, glib, and excellent at figuring out the levers and buttons they can pull and push to get people to do as they\u2019d like.\n\tIncluding you, unless and until you catch on. And when you do, there will be nothing you can do about it as you watch executives, managers and employees all around the company fall for it. And if you raise a red flag, they\u2019ll brand you as a backstabber.\n\tOffice psychopaths are better at manipulating than you are at persuading. As playing someone else\u2019s game is for chumps, you\u2019re better off not trying.\n\tIf you take the time to learn the PCL-R checklist you\u2019ll be surprised at how many of the top people in your company score high. It\u2019s a scary thing.\n\tBut if you take the time to read The Psychopath Test you\u2019ll realize something else as well: If you apply the checklist to someone you dislike, you\u2019ll focus on those behaviors that match up to it, while ignoring the ones that don\u2019t, just as, applying that same checklist to someone you like, you\u2019ll do the exact opposite.\n\tIt\u2019s something we humans do all the time \u2013 latch on to whatever evidence supports our preconceived notions while filtering out or finding reasons to wave off whatever doesn\u2019t.\n\tSo the next time the company crazy does something that ... well, that drives you crazy, try to consciously reverse your filters. See the world through the crazy\u2019s eyes. Empathize.\n\tYou might find they aren\u2019t horrible psychopaths after all. They might just be doing what they have to do to deal with the pressures some other psychopath puts them under.\n\t--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------\n\tFor this week's ManagementSpeak, click here.