Monthly Archives: November 2015

SOCIOPATHS AT YOUR OFFICE?: SEND LAWYERS, GUNS, AND MONEY

“I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s. His hair was perfect.”
Warren Zevon  

Narcissists have nothing on sociopaths:  while only 1% of the population are narcissists,  nearly 4% of Americans are sociopaths.  The next time you are at a party, take a look around, a sociopath is likely to be working the crowd.  Scary?  Pretty much.

This HR Law Insider edition discusses (1) how to spot a soulless being known as a sociopath and (2) what to do in that unfortunate event.

THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR

I once took the deposition of a man accused of running a multi-million dollar real estate fraud scheme.   At the time, his empire had crumbled, he was battling multiple lawsuits, and he would soon to be indicted.

I expected to see a broken man walk into the room.  Instead, I met a man who was tan, rested, and ready — seemingly without a care in the world.  He felt no shame or remorse.  And he acted as though he was the victim.  I was stunned.

After the deposition,  I Googled the man’s characteristics.  This led me to one of the finest, most fascinating, books I have ever read:  The Sociopath Next Door.  It described my deponent to a tee.

ONE IN EVERY TWENTY FIVE 

Sociopaths roam the corridors of many businesses.  Sometimes they occupy corner offices and wield massive power; other times they are supervisors tormenting their staffs; and yet other times they are low-level employees creating havoc solely to serve the end goal of most sociopaths:  power and domination.

Sociopaths rarely look like Jack Torrance in The Shining.  Do not count on spotting a sociopath by their expressions or looks.  Rather, the best way to spot a sociopath is to understand how they think and operate.

SOCIOPATHS EXPOSED AND EXPLAINED

“Sociopaths have no regard whatsoever for the social contract, but they do know how to use it to their advantage. And all in all, I am sure that if the devil existed, he would want us to feel very sorry for him.”
― Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

Sociopathy is generally defined as “a mental health condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others.”

According to certain criteria, the presence of three or more of the following qualifies for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder or sociopathy:

  1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
  2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, and obligations.
  3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
  4. Very low tolerance to frustration, a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
  5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
  6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalization for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

As Martha Stout writes:

“How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They’re more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others’ suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.”

WHAT TO DO WHEN CONFRONTED — OR CONNED — BY A SOCIOPATH

To avoid the sociopath in the first instance, Dr. Stout urges us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play.  “The most reliable sign, the most universal behavior of unscrupulous people is not directed, as one might imagine, at our fearfulness. It is, perversely, an appeal to our sympathy.”

What should one do when dealing with a sociopath in one’s business or personal life?  Extract yourself as soon as possible.  Why?  Because there is little hope for the future:   “Sociopathy stands alone as a “disease” that causes no disease for the person who has it, no subjective discomfort. Sociopaths are often quite satisfied with themselves and with their lives, and perhaps for this very reason there is no effective “treatment.”  Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, this article will help readers to identify, avoid, and/or disentangle themselves from sociopaths.  One thing is certain:  every single person reading this article will deal with a sociopath at some point in their life.

Sociopaths often wreck businesses, and helped to wreck the economy back in 2008.  Avoid them like the plague, lest you reach the point where you need Lawyers, Guns, and Money to survive the predicament:

 

IT’S PARTY TIME: HOLIDAY PARTY TIPS TO AVOID GETTING SUED WHEN YOUR GUESTS GET HAMMERED OR OTHERWISE DO STUPID STUFF

It seems early in the season to be talking about holiday parties (of course, some would say it’s never too early).  However, many companies, families, and others are already well into the planning stages of throwing a holiday party.  Most parties will involve alcohol and varying levels of revelry.

Inevitably, when alcohol and revelry intersect, things can go wrong.  When things go wrong and people get hurt, party hosts who have served alcohol are often sued by the victim of a drunk  driver or sexual assaulter.  This HR Law Insider edition discusses how employers and other social hosts (e.g. private party hosts, family party hosts) can limit their liability and protect themselves against such lawsuits.

 

ARIZONA LAW PROTECTS SOCIAL HOSTS, EXCEPT WHEN THEY ARE SERVING MINORS

Arizona’s “social host” statute provides:

“A person other than a licensee or an employee of a licensee acting during the employee’s working hours or in connection with such employment is not liable in damages to any person who is injured, or to the survivors of any person killed, or for damage to property, which is alleged to have been caused in whole or in part by reason of the furnishing or serving of spirituous liquor to a person of the legal drinking age.”

Thus, if a non-liquor licensed employer throws a holiday party, or an individual throws a holiday party at his or her home, they will not generally be liable if one of their guests becomes intoxicated and harms a third party.

It should be noted that the social host statute does NOT extend protection to social hosts who provide alcohol to persons not of the legal drinking age.  Thus, it was held that members of a University of Arizona fraternity could be held liable for serving drinks to an underage person who became intoxicated, got behind the wheel, and severely injured a third party (thus, anyone with children in a fraternity or that are throwing parties had better be sure that minors are not being served).

STEPS THAT SOCIAL HOSTS CAN TAKE TO ENSURE THAT THEY MAINTAIN IMMUNITY FROM THIRD PARTY LAWSUITS 

Even though Arizona’s social host statute is very protective of employers and other social hosts, it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to alcohol.  If you elect serve alcohol at this year’s holiday party, here are a tips to reduce or avoid potential exposure:

  • Have employees sign a pre-party written acknowledgement that attending the party is purely voluntary, not a work event, and that they will drink and behave responsibly at the party.
  • Ensure your employees can get home safely from the party.  For example, consider providing Uber/cab fare, designated drivers, or a car or shuttle service, to ensure employees make it home safely.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol at your event and limit the amount of alcohol per attendee.
  • Serve food and plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Hire professional bartenders and make sure they check IDs to prevent underage drinking.  Bartenders can also help in determining when someone has had too much to drink.
  • Do not have employees serve alcohol.
  • Ensure that your insurance covers liquor liability.  If it does not, consider purchasing single-event insurance (perform a cost/benefit analysis).
  • Keep the entertainment clean, professional, and non-controversial.

CONCLUSION

If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming holiday party, contact Bourque Law Firm.  Otherwise, Happy Holidays!  Oh, and don’t be a knucklehead on your Uber ride home, or you may end up without a job and on ABC news, like this Taco Bell executive did after some heavy partying: