Psychopaths, narcissists and sociopaths: how they are getting ahead in the workplace

What exactly are these personality traits, how do they help people to succeed, and how can you spot them?

Have you ever looked at the management in your workplace and wondered how they made it so high when their personalities leave a lot to be desired? Perhaps you haven’t even noticed, as manipulation tactics tend to be a skill that many workplace sociopaths possess in abundance. With studies showing that up to seven per cent of those in management positions are classed as ‘corporate psychopaths’, it seems that their deplorable personality traits may actually be helping them to get ahead.


Workplace manipulators are skilled in orchestrating situations to achieve the exact outcome they hope for. This may mean playing people off against each other, taking credit for the hard work of others, and generally tricking people into thinking they are more competent and knowledgeable than they actually are.

Unfortunately, the portrayal of this false image usually comes at the expense of others and may involve stabbing others in the back to get where they need to be. As they are so good at it, many people can’t even tell that they are being conned into viewing them in a more positive light than they deserve.


A narcissist is completely focused on themselves – their own success, their own self-image and their own progression. A real leader will encourage the success of others and work as part of a team, while a narcissist will only strive to promote themselves. While this sort of a person may become tiresome to their co-workers, they are perfectly suited to project an image of self-confidence, drive and ability to management, which can help them to progress and gradually move up the ranks.

Antisocial outlook

In most cases, an antisocial outlook would be considered a negative quality; however, when you are attempting to move up the ranks, a blatant lack of empathy for others can go in your favour. For one thing, it means that you are not afraid to step on anyone’s toes to get where you need to be. ‘Loners’ of this nature also tend to have an inflated ego that makes them believe they are above others – another trait that may help them to present an image of superiority and charm in the eyes of management.

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