Monthly Archives: January 2008

Dealing with the office psycho

The other day, former co-worker asked me for advice on how to deal with a difficult situation at work. Apparently I am regarded as “wise” in some circles. As this person was still stuck in the worst workplace I have ever suffered through, I thought the problem would be pretty dramatic. As it turns out, it didn’t sound very dramatic. In fact, what he really wanted was confirmation that something was going on at all because he wasn’t sure.

He described someone else in his project team that he thought was taking credit for for all of his work. They had clearly delineated areas of responsibility yet he always felt like this person was spending too much time looking aver his shoulder rather than doing their own work. She would drill him with a lot of questions so she had an effective working knowledge of what he was doing. None of this was necessary for her to do her own work.

Then she started answering questions from management that were directed at him. She would go so far as to talk over him if he managed to start his answer first which made him so uncomfortable he stopped talking. After this had been going on for a while he discovered she was sending “update” emails to management detailing his work but phrased to suggest it was all coming from her. Needless to say, he wasn’t being sent copies of these email communications.

“I feel like she’s out to get me, that she’s going out of her way to screw me over. But that’s crazy, why would she do that?”

The answer’s actually quite simple: she’s a psycho. Coming out and describing someone as a psychopath tends to get a laugh in response: “Yeah, she’s crazy all right.” But it isn’t a joke. This type of behaviour is a perfect example of psychopathic/sociopathic behaviour. The diagnosis of a psychopath in the workplace is often not taken seriously because the term is coloured by preconception. People often confuse it with “psychotic”. And those who know the difference are often influenced by popular fiction like “Silence of the Lambs”.

What the office psychopath and Hannibal Lecter have in common is a complete lack what’s commonly known as a conscience. They are perfectly aware of the concepts of right it wrong, they simply don’t care. They don’t feel remorse because anyone hurt by their actions is unimportant. The difference between a serial killer and an office psycho is what they want from you.

In case you think you think talking about psychopaths in the workplace is overblown, statistically, it’s almost certain you work with or regularly interact with a psychopath. Most studies suggest that between 3% and 5% of the population suffer from the milder condition known as anti-social personality disorder and 1% of the population are psychopaths. In other words, 1 in 25 people you meet is a dick (you hadn’t noticed?) and 1 in 100 is dangerous (a smaller number of these are violent predator types).

The likelihood of running into these characters at work is higher than this simply because of the number of companies who seem to actively encourage this sort of thing. How many managers would react positively to someone described as “a real results person, nothing gets in their way. They can charm anyone and won’t hesitate to go after goals other people say are impossible. Anyone who’s not on the team better get out of the way because this guy will crush them.”

This is not saying all high achievers are psychopaths, in fact, most psychopaths can’t maintain positive results for an extended period of time. This is mostly because they achieve their goals in an incredibly destructive way. They won’t hesitate to cause major damage to everyone and everyone around them. Because they simply don’t care.

The three main traits usually ascribed to psychopathic/sociopathic personality types are they are very egocentric, they have no empathy for others and they are incapable of feeling remorse or guilt. On the surface, this would appear to make them obvious monsters that could never fool anyone. The scary thing is that many of them are more than capable of faking all the human characteristics they lack in reality. The smarmiest person in the office, the one who easily makes friends and establishes trust can easily be the one who has no real concern for anyone around them.

So how to deal with an office psycho? The first and simplest rule is to get the hell away from them. These people will not hesitate to make your life miserable. They will destroy your career, your finance and your health. Don’t try to appeal to their better nature. They don’t have one.

Getting away from them means up to and including getting a different job. If you’re working in an environment that encourages and rewards sociopathic behaviour, changing jobs is by far your best option. Seeing as how there are usually people who say changing jobs isn’t viable for them, I’ll provide a few more coping strategies. Seriously though, there are times when you need to bite the bullet and change jobs. There are very few jobs worth the long term emotional and even physical damage a workplace psycho will do to you.

One of the common strategies a workplace psycho will use is to isolate you. You absolutely must not allow this to happen. They want other people to doubt you and they want you to doubt yourself. The best remedy for this is frequent communication with everyone but your tormentor. In the case of my friend, the psycho went out of her way to block his attempts at communication. I suggested he deal with it as follows:

Send daily email updates on progress to your manager. The psycho was not informed of these because they were nothing to do with her. My friend did not report to her and she was not directly involved in his work. The manager doesn’t even have to read these unless somewhere down the line there’s a clash with the psycho. Then you have a timeline of activity that should protect you from their attacks.

Seeing as the psycho had the habit of talking over him and answering “for him” when his manager asked questions, I advised him to find times when she wasn’t around to talk to his manager. These discussions don’t have to be formal meetings although there are times when meetings help. Something as simple as having lunch at a different time to the psycho and taking the opportunity to talk while she’s at lunch can work wonders.

If you are the target of the office psycho, they will go out of their way to make it look like you contribute nothing. The last thing you want is at some critical point for the boss to go “That’s true, what does that guy ever do?” Regular chats (whether informal or formal) will help keep the boss appraised of exactly what you do.

Another important point is to give the psycho as little information as possible. This goes for both your work and your private life. If their plan is to steal credit for your work, obviously you can make it harder for them by not providing them with the required information. If you’re going to starve them of information it’s vitally important that you keep other informed of what work you are doing (both your manager and trusted peers). That way if the psycho complains that you’re withholding information others can say that you’ve kept them fully informed.

If you’re put on the spot as to why you haven’t provided the same information to the psycho, be direct but not defensive. It isn’t their job and they had no need to know.

Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping your private live private, either. These office psychopaths can be especially skilled at appearing friendly. They are frequently consummate actors and in fact they often appear to be the most emotional person in the office. But it’s all an act. The don’t want to hear personal details out of genuine concern for you or anyone else, they want to use this information as a weapon against you. Don’t give them that opportunity.

But one of the most important things you can do when dealing with an office psycho is to recognise them for what they are. Most of us are basically decent people and we tend to assume other people are as well. Psychopaths and sociopaths use that to their advantage. What we regard as a conscience, they regard as a weakness to be exploited. If you’re like my friend you’ll make the mistake of letting them get away with it for ages before doing anything about their behaviour.

These people are not just jerks and most studies suggest more than not being interested in changing, it isn’t actually possible to change their behaviour – their brains are different. One way to tell if a troublesome person is actually a psychopath is their propensity for lying. And I’m not talking about “No, that outfit doesn’t make you look fat” type of lies.

If someone can blatantly lie to your face and not back down even when you expose their lie, that’s a bad sign. If they can do it twice, they’re very likely to be a psychopathic personality. If they do it three times – hide the sharp knives.

Here’s a little more fun reading for you:

This Fast Company article is one of the best pieces I found while researching this post.
Bob Sutton has a simple suggestion for companies wanting to keep psychos out – implement a “No Asshole” rule.  No matter how good someone seems to be, don’t hire them if they’re an asshole.

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Australia Day

I had a really lazy Australia Day weekend.  The most active thing I did was lots of barbecuing, like a good little Aussie.  So here’s some cooking tips from me along with some general musings on the day:

And just in case any international readers are wondering what Australia Day marks, here’s an explanation video I made last year:

And one I made that caused redneck bogans to get worked up for some reason.  This also features the first appearance of the Aussie burgers:

Happy Australia Day!

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Angry Brother

So I’ve decided to have my own “reality” video show.  Mainly because my head is crowded with all these creepy characters who manifest themselves in videos wearing masks.  I need to vote a few of them out of my head.  The plan of action was basically my daughter’s – she started off by suggesting “Angry Idol” but I’m not cruel enough to inflict my singing voice on you.

And so “Angry Brother” was born.

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Nanna Jelly Love

The man you see in the video still above is comedian Ross Noble and this post is designed to mess with his head. Ross is a very funny performer and anyone who has seen him will tell you he has absolutely astounding improvisational skills. He’s in Australia for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the moment and he’s also hosting a comedy show in Northcote (hello vettiliveinnorthcote!) each Sunday night for the next few weeks.
The series of shows was organised by a comedian I featured in my series on last year’s Comedy Festival, Dave Bushell. Each night four or five comedians perform with Ross having a bit of a chat with the audience between each act. Usually the host of a show like this will do maybe five minutes each time they are at the microphone. They way Ross Noble tends to go off on wild improvisational tangents means that he can there for up to half an hour. Five times during the evening.
Dave asked me to come along to the shows and video the acts so they would have some footage they could use for promotional purposes. You may end up seeing some of the performances here although maybe not as they’re much funnier than me and I don’t want to be shown up. One thing I don’t do is video Ross Noble’s pieces. There’s all sorts of complicated contract issues with a performer like Ross but there’s also the fact that he doesn’t want these weird little bits he’s improvising showing up out of context on sites like YouTube.
That’s where we get to me messing with his head. He was off one of his surreal ramble in one of the shows when he started talking about “nanna jelly love”. Before I describe the act of nanna jelly love, a few definitions might be in order. First, “nanna” means grandmother. Second, “jelly” is know to Americans (and possibly others) as jello. If you are American, what you jelly is jam GODDAMMIT! get it right!
So, nanna jelly love involves having a life size mould of your nanna’s naked body, filling the mould with jelly then having sex with the jelly version of your nanna. There was a certain logic to it but you had to be there. Anyway, right at the point when Ross is headed into seriously wrong territory with this (it actually got worse than the explanation I just gave you) he pointed straight at me sitting down the front with my camera and said “This had better not end up on YouTube”.
And of course it didn’t end up on YouTube because I wasn’t shooting at the time. But if he’s ever foolish enough to type “nanna jelly love” into a search engine, hopefully the first thing he sees is that video still and he has a horrified moment when he thinks his nanna jelly love routine has escaped into the wild. Just the thought brings an evil little smile to my face.

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Elevator etiquette

I’m back working in a multi-storey office building for the first time in years which means having to use the elevator multiple times a day.  I have to tell you, I’m astounded how many people simply don’t know how to use a lift effectively.  Because I like to help (really because I like to vent at people who piss me off) I thought I’d compile a handy guide to proper elevator use.

1. Getting into an elevator: There are basically two rules when it comes to entering an elevator.

  • Wait for people to get out before you get in
  • Don’t take all bloody day to get in

For people who don’t place any value on courtesy, letting people get out first still seems like basic common sense to me. There’s more room to manoeuvre outside the elevator than inside. If you push your way in before people get out they’ll have to shove past you. It’s easier all round to just step aside for a second to see if anyone’s trying to get out

The second part can be a delicate balancing act.  If you stand around for too long the doors will close.  If you don’t wait long enough you crash into people coming out.  Some exercise of the brain is required here.  I hate getting some slug-like entity between me and the elevator who does nothing because they’re too fucking stupid to figure out what’s going on.  Then the doors close and I’m left to ruminate on why I didn’t shoulder charge the obvious moron out of my way.

Here’s a tip for the slow learners: try putting your hand on the door frame to hold the door.  You can do this while standing out of the way of anyone exiting.  And on 99% of elevators this will stop the door from shutting before you can get on.  If everyone stands around waiting for someone else to get on first, that isn’t “polite”.  It’s fucking stupid!

2. While in the elevator: Don’t listen to people who say you should never talk in an elevator.  It’s a fun experiment often given to first year Psychology students to get into an elevator, face the “wrong” way and try to engage people in animated conversations.  99% of people will cringe horribly/amusingly when you do this.  But grownups should be able to maintain decorous conversations in an elevator that also contains strangers.

But for the love of the little baby Jeebus, DON’T have loud conversations on a mobile phone.  Either hang up before you get in or continue your conversation at a conversational volume.  If the person at the other end can’t hear you tell them you’re in an elevator and you’ll call them back.  Shouting at a person who isn’t there is fucking obnoxious behaviour to the people who ARE there.  It will be your fault if someone decides to see if your phone will double as a rectal thermometer.

Also, when you get in, stand somewhere that makes sense in relation to where you’re getting out.  If you’re likely to be getting out the first time the elevator stops, don’t stand right at the back just because you’re the first to get in.  Stand to the side near the door but out of the way so other people can come in.  That way you can get out again with a minimum of shoving.

Likewise, if you going to be the last one out DON’T STAND IN THE FUCKING DOORWAY!  The only time you should ever stand right where the doors open is if there’s no other choice.  Or maybe if you’re getting off on the next floor (but if that’s the case, why don’t you take the stairs you lazy bastard?)

And if you are in the doorway because there was no choice, when the door opens and it isn’t your floor, get out of the fucking way!  Step out of the goddam lift and hold the door.  Then get back in when people have exited.  Don’t force people to wriggle past you.  Pull that shit with me and you’re likely to get an “accidental” kick to the back of the knee.

So please, people, I’m begging you.  There are precious few things that separate us from the beasts.  Knowing how to interact with random people without causing trauma is one of them.  If you don’t have the mental capacity to navigate an elevator without making other people want to punch your lights out, maybe you’re not enough of a grown up to be part of the workforce.  Stay in your home with your 24 cats and leave the rest of us alone.

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Story time – Mr Angry and the cops

Given some people thing there is not much distinction between the character of Mr Angry and my real personality, what do you think is the most extreme thing I’ve done to a cop?

Has anyone done anything more extreme than that and gotten away with it?

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Cory Delaney, party boy, is an idiot. The media are BIGGER IDIOTS

Sadly, this travesty of a non-story seems to have travelled around the world.  A 16 year old is allowed to “stay with friends while his mum and step dad go on a holiday.  Nothing should go wrong because he’s sternly told “no parties”.  Yeah, that’ll work.  The inevitable happens and the kid organises a party.

Except this particular knucklehead youthful arrogance and a complete inability to understand the concept of consequences and couples that with modern communications.  He’s actually stupid enough to announce the party and give out his home address on MySpace.  The predictable outcome ensues – a huge crowd shows up, the party gets out of control and the cops are called.

At this point, most people are probably thinking “been there, done that” (apart from the MySpace debacle).  Not quite.  The cops say there were 500 people (that’s a suspicious round number – I strongly suspect it’s bullshit).  The crowd was described as violent (riotous if you believe some reports) and the cops called in the dog squad and helicopter to disperse them.

This still wouldn’t have been a particularly unusual story if it wasn’t for the media angle.  One of the particularly cretinous tabloid “current affairs” shows decided it was their moral duty to publicly humiliate a 16 year old.  Yeah, way to take the moral high ground.  The intent was bad enough but when you couple that with a host who’s too incompetent to get the better of a none too bright kid, well, it devolves into the realm of deeply pathetic.

Predictably, the interview clip was a huge hit on YouTube.  If you haven’t seen it already, check it out and see who you think comes off as the bigger idiot:

While I’m not a fan of self-absorbed teenagers who seem to have been coddled their whole lives and have never been bothered with anything so tiresome as having to face the consequences of their actions, I really hate shitty media outlets.  I mean, seriously, an irresponsible 16 year old?  That’s a news story?  And the media wonder why they have all the credibility of a used car salesman.

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What makes me angry? The people!

One of my earliest inspirations for this blog was a former co-worker who had a hilarious way of expressing her frustration with stupid people by simply going “The people!  The people!”  OK, maybe I’m easily amused.  But she was a New Yorker and that sounds really funny in a New York accent.

I’m actually working on my grand unified theory of why people are fucked.  Seriously.  Expect to see some musings on this in the coming days.  Some kind of serious and some plain silly.  I’m starting off on the silly side with these videos.

The first was inspired by a weekend shopping trip where I had to deal with some truly fucked people.

I actually got a huge response from my YouTube viewers to my question “Why do people suck so much?”  A cavalcade of comments and quite a few video responses seemed to be of the common opinion “They just do!”  Leave it to Little Miss Angry to enlighten me as to why people actually behave this way:

Well, I did say I was starting silly.

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Nude lesbian bikini beach babe orgy!

I swear it’s true! In the crowd scene just off to the left I’m sure I saw a lesbian orgy going on. OK, I’ll tell the truth: I’m just trying to wind up the porn seekers (search result that lead to this blog continue to weird me out).

This video is really about promoting the music of my YouTube friend Nutyas of NSG Music. He makes my “angry aussie theme” in case you’ve ever wondered. He has a new track called summer holiday and he’s asking people to contribute clips for a music video. Seeing as it’s actually summer here I thought I’d shoot some stuff for him. Plus people keep asking me to shhot at the beach more often.

Enjoy!

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Really angry about copyright

So yet another example of how fucked the current situation with copyright is surfaced on YouTube again this week.  As someone who creates original content (even if I’m not making money from it) I get really pissed off when someone steals my content.  From my perspective, stealing includes someone taking my work, reproducing it elsewhere and pretending it’s theirs as well as someone trying to make money from it without giving me money.

Both have happened multiple times.  Probably far more times than I’m aware of.  This is basically because people are fucked.  The other end of the spectrum is when people (usually big companies) start claiming the right to exert insane levels of control in the name of copyright including, believe it or not, the RIAA’s belief that you are breaking the law if you copy your own legally purchased music to your hard drive or MP3 player.

And because some people are stupid enough to believe these companies are right no matter what level of control they try to exert here’s the evidence they’re totally fucked.  Big companies have been caught out multiple times claiming copyright infringement against people who are totally innocent.  They make a (knowingly) false claim of ownership over someone else’s completely original creative work.

This happened to a friend of mine on YouTube this week.  And I got ANGRY!

At least there was a happy ending.  After a huge outcry, YouTube and Viacom admitted they were wrong and apologised.  I still say (a) Viacom should face charges for making a false claim and (b) YouTube should stand up for their fucking partners!

Here’s a little more reading for anyone who’s interested in seeing just how bad this problem is:
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/02/03/viacom-terrorizes-yo.html
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/02/08/eff-video-seeks-yout.html

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