“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.


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.


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 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.”


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


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:


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