Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Pocket Psycho

An older and wiser friend lent me The Pocket Psycho, a distillation of author John Clarke’s Working with Monsters (which I haven’t read).

The Pocket Psycho is deeply sensible and very informative. I am glad to say I have never worked with a workplace psychopath (they are, as Dr Clarke says, quite rare—psychopaths are estimated to make up 1 to 3% of the male population and 0.5 to 1% of the female population). But, as Dr Clarke sets out, they can be devastating in the psychological effects (not to mention the careers) of their victims. Indeed, one of the by-products of the book was to make me feel much better at how damaging for me working with a disastrous manager was. (That his management style manifested the same type of personality dysfunction as my mother’s parenting made things rather worse.)

In penultimate chapter Mistaken Identity? Dr Clarke notes that most dysfunctional employees are not psychopaths and provides some information on personality types (including the Type A, B, C and D model – I am type C) and the more common other forms of personality disorder – Passive-Aggressive, Narcissistic (estimated to be less than 1% of the population, majority males) and Histrionic (estimated to be 2 to 3% of the population, half male, half female). He carefully warns against misdiagnosis.

The rest of the book sets out the damage organisational psychopaths can do (to people and organizations), how to recognise them, how to deal with them (including simply leaving) and how organizations can seek to minimise their negative impact. Dr Clarke’s tone throughout is very sensible and grounded in practicality. He writes very clearly and accessibly. The Pocket Psycho is thus a useful and informative small book.

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