In times of low unemployment, companies become desperate to hire enough people. They often need to speed up their hiring decisions, or risk losing a good candidate. However, this also leads to hiring mistakes. There's nothing more costly than an employee who kills productivity and hurts your corporate culture. Among the worst offenders? Employees who turn out to be sociopaths.

Sociopaths are toxic to a corporate culture.

In the more than 15 years I've been in recruiting and HR, I can tell you, I've seen plenty of sociopaths ruin a team, department, division, and even an entire company. They feed off manipulation and thrive on destruction. The worst part? It's a game to them--and they love playing games. Sociopaths are generally very smart. Work comes easy to them, so playing mind games makes things more exciting. Unfortunately, there are casualties that can include talented people quitting your company, customers leaving, and much more. If you've seen this happening and think a sociopath in your office could be the culprit, you need to seriously think about how to remove them.

16 Signs That an Employee Is a Sociopath

Research shows sociopaths will show several of the following traits. Do any of these sound like one of your employees?

  1. They're superficially charming and intelligent. 
  2. They sometimes say things that seem very irrational.
  3. At times, they display signs of extreme nervousness, or other neuroses.
  4. They aren't reliable, are often late to meetings and delivering projects and it feels passive-aggressive. As if they're doing it intentionally.
  5. You've caught them in lies and saying mean things about other employees in their absence.
  6. They never apologize. Or, if they do, it's not sincere.
  7. They will suddenly be anti-social for no reason. Usually, to make others feel uncomfortable.
  8. They make the same mistakes repeatedly, and you get the feeling they're doing it on purpose to make life more difficult for others.
  9. They have a big ego, and struggle to be in long-term loving relationships.
  10. They don't show empathy or "laugh off" emotionally touching situations.
  11. They love to share their insights in all situations, but hate it when others try to give them advice, calling them "preachy."
  12. They act very kind and almost overly social to strangers. 
  13. They are huge partiers.
  14. They've made comments about suicide, but you can tell they would never act on it. 
  15. They imply that their sex life is wild and impersonal.
  16. Their life seems to have no plan.

Want to Get Rid of a Sociopath? Here's What to Do...

There are steps you can take to make a sociopath voluntarily move on, or get themselves in a position that they can be legally terminated.

A) Focus on their weaknesses. Be very empathetic when you share how you understand their vulnerability and that it's unfortunate they are making mistakes and not strong in certain areas. They can't get angry at someone who is trying to be helpful, but at the same time, they will hate that they are being portrayed as weak.

B) Hold them accountable at all times. If you tell them something needs to be done and it isn't, get vocal about it. Make sure everyone knows that you know they didn't deliver. And have a clear punishment in place, e.g., "If you can't get this done on time from here on out, we'll have to look at a performance review and possible termination." Which leads to my next point.

C) Document, document, document. Keep an online journal of every behavior, who was there, and what they said. It's important you be specific and write down the exact words or comments. That way, when it comes time to fire them, you have a log of the inappropriate behavior and can establish a pattern and how it impacts the team's morale and productivity.

D) Never let them see you sweat. This is by far the hardest, because they are going to try to increase their efforts in an attempt to make you lose your cool. Don't do it. Stay calm, smile, and carry on. Stick to the facts and deflect back to them by saying with empathy, "It seems you are angry or upset. Is this too much for you?" Your goal is to stay kind, yet firm.

Sociopaths are frustrating. It's even worse when a company fails to get rid of them. Usually, that's because they're good at their jobs and management doesn't want to lose productivity. But the truth is, they're doing so much more damage long term. In my experience, keeping them always comes at a hefty price.

And finally, if it looks like management isn't going to get rid of the sociopath on your team any time soon, consider finding a new job. Life's too short to spend time in a toxic workplace.