One common feature of interpersonal reactions with psychopaths and sociopaths, particularly in the workplace, is their relentless desire to create issues out of nothing. They love to make a big deal out of something that doesn’t need to be, or even just create an issue out of nothing when there wasn’t one to begin with. What in the world motivates this bizarre behavior?
There are a number of reasons psychopaths like to do this. Primarily, it is a control mechanism, whereby they can control people who are especially prone to doubt, over conscientiousness and self blame by blowing up issues out of all proportion or manufactuing ones out of nowhere. Secondly, psychopaths and sociopaths do tend to get bored very easily, and in the absence of any drama do like to create some to liven up the constant inner dullness they feel.
This is why living or working with a psychopath can be so draining, since life just become a never end drama and power game that victims just get sick and tired of, but often struggle to extricate themselves from cleanly.
If you are their primary target, you will also find your reputation smeared, as their tendency to create issues or blow them out of all proportion may have damaged you in the eyes of others, as the psychopath constantly works to undermine targets in the workplace especially.
Creating Issues Out of Nothing
“The Psychopath is strictly will to power, strictly master-slave dynamics, with him being the master and you being the slave….The psychopath is working strictly upon enslavement of your mind and on his will to power – dominating you”
The most obvious way psychopaths cause trouble in this way is to simply create issues when there is absolutely no need to, either making issues out of nothing or more commonly exaggerating little things into big things. Psychopaths love to hide behind “rules” and “just doing my job”, but the real underlying motive with them is control over others.
Here are some common ways this manifests:
- Making issues out of things which don’t need to be issues, like tiny events or unimportant rules.
- Pouncing on tiny mistakes and making them into big issues. Refusing to let silly little things go.
- Focusing on silly little rules which make no difference to the outcome. To modify the saying, they are constantly “sweating the small stuff” in an effort to control others.
- Finding fault with something no matter what you do – always finding an issue with your work, because they are intentionally determined to find an issue.
- Creating issues out of nothing. If nothing is wrong and everying is going fine one day, a psychopath will often seek to create a problem, either for the drama or the control over others.
- In a work scenario, will sometimes require the keeping of “mistake logs”, where every single error is recorded. Creates an oppressive atmosphere where staff feel their every move is being watched.
- Always some clever explanation of why they behave like this, like “rules” or “efficiency”, but the atmosphere continues to grow more oppressive and unenjoyable.
- Understanding the underlying motive of the psychopath, of control over others, is key here to seeing through the excuses and rationalizations for their behaviour.
The general underlying theme here is one of relentless micromanagement. Many people will recognize this in managers they have worked under, and while it is true that not all control freak bosses are psychopaths, it is true that all psychopath bosses are control freaks.
Many readers will recognize that Sunday night dread of having to go to work under a micromanaging boss. It is part of the oppressive atmosphere their controlling personality creates.
I had one particular experience with a psychopathic manager who pulled all the staff in for performance reviews, in my case seizing on two tiny little errors I had made several days before, the sort that normal people would have forgotten about within an hour.
The entire episode was bizarre and seemed completely ridiculous and pointless to me – why make two tiny little errors into something which is even discussed at a performance review? Any normal person would have barely even clocked the incident, and very quickly forgotten about it, so tiny and insignificant it was.
Not the psychopath! They will seize and pounce on every tiny little mistake, and make it into a big issue. It’s a power game to them. They are looking for ways to score points and control others. They won’t let anything lie, and in the absence of real problems they’ll actively seek to find and create them out of the most ridiculous little things.
The entire incident seemed nonsensical and silly to me. I didn’t really know what the point was of them doing this; I just knew that any normal person would not have even made those two things into an issue. Once I understood the psychopathic personality, and their relentless drive for power over others, the whole thing started to make sense.
In the words of a fantastic essay on psychopaths and parasitic personalities in general, “They have secretly bookmarked a long list of your would-be infractions to deftly and ruthlessly use against you when the time comes”
How Psychopaths Create False Narratives About Others
Another subtle way in which psychopaths create issues (literally) out of nothing is to create false narratives about someone and spread them as far and wide as possible. This is very common in workplace scenarios, and is part of the smear tactics psychopaths are well known, where they seek from day one to undermine anyone they see as a threat in the company.
This simply involves spreading things which are plain lies and false information about someone. Psychopaths can lie very brazenly and convincing, and many of them do simply invent things out of nowhere.
They can also jump on something which was maybe an initial misunderstanding or the tiniest of disagreements, and blow it up into a permanent issue. Again the psychopath is looking to cause trouble, using whatever they can, or creating something.
Once they have something, either invented or exaggerated, in workplaces the psychopath just keeps hammering away with gossip and smearing, spreading the false narrative as far and wide as possible. They know that if they put ideas in enough people’s heads, eventually the person’s reputation will start to suffer. Whether it’s based on fact, partial fact or total fabrication is not important to the psychopath.
This can happen in the highest of positions or the lowest, and a crucial thing for people to be aware of here is that the psychopath will behave this way even towards people who have no intention or desire to usurp or undermine them.
Someone who may just be passing through a company, collecting a paycheck while they are putting other plans in place, can be the victim of the psychopath’s scheming and conniving. Psychopaths are disciples of power and assume everyone else is as well, regardless of how much evidence to the contrary.
Your motives and intentions, however noble and harmless, are irrelevant. If you psychopath has earmarked you as a threat (and therefore a target) in their paranoid mind, then they’ll work to undermine you right from the start.
Any appeals to reason -“hey, man, I’m not out to get you, I’m just passing through here for a year or two then I’ll be moving on” – will fall on deaf ears. If they see you as a threat then you’re in trouble, because they’ll be doing everything they can to smear you behind your back and set you up to fail.
Therefore if you encounter this kind of smearing and unnecessary issue creation in the workplace, it is very important to document everything, find out what the troublemaker is saying about you, and raise your concerns with upper management if you find them to be receptive and supportive. If the management and culture is unsupportive and tolerates and encourages this sort of behavior, it is best to find a new employer.
Manufacturing Offence and Indignation
Another way psychopaths create issues and drama is to manufacture offence and outrage, or deliberately create situations and then act outraged, as a way of attacking and undermining their target.
Again, in the absense of any real drama and conflict, a psychopath loves to create it to relieve boredom and also as part of the game they like to play after the honeymoon idealize stage, where they move on to devaluing and discarding their victims.
In the latter stages a psychopath need a reason to begin the discarding, hence the need to manufacture indignation even when there is no real reason for it. Victims sometimes find they literally “flip” one day for no reason, suddenly turning abusive and obnoxiousness, usually exiting very soon after. Other times, the process is more drawn out and the abuse progresses more slowly as the psychopath steps up their boundary violations more gradually.
To add insult to injury on this, they often manufacture offence out of a sitaution they are responsible for creating in the first place. Either through laziness or careful planning, they will set up a situation to blow up in your face, and when you express any kind of displeasure or anger, they will turn the sitaution around on you, acting outraged and indignant that you would ever dare question them.
This is part of the more general trend of psychopaths and sociopaths of gas-lighting and inversion of reality, where everything is flipped on it’s head and any normal, sane person caught up in this starts to think they must be going mad, for living in this person’s world seems to turn logic, reason and sanity on it’s head.
It is always someone else at fault, never the psychopath’s, and they can very convincingly play the outraged card in response to a situation they created themselves. In psychological terms they are constantly using projection to shift blame and responsibility onto others.
Resisting The Psychopath’s Control
One of the worst mistakes you can do here is allow yourself to fall under the dictates of the psychopath’s control freak tendencies, since there is nothing you can do to really please a psychopath who sees you as a threat and a target.
They are chronically guarded and paranoid people and are impervious to any kind of reasonableness. They see the world as a very dangerous place and once they have made their mind up, that’s it.
Even if you conform to some silly demand they have, they will find something else to nitpick and micromanage you on. It is part of the game they play where they need control over people. If you are a high quality person, the psychopath is simply against you full stop, regardless of how much you try to conform or please. So don’t even bother.
In other words, the psychopath is plotting and scheming against you from the start no matter what you do, so don’t allow them to even get away with this sort of manipulation the first time, or else they’ll just keep going and the end result will be the same anyway, when the inevitable discard or workplace blowup occurs because they have been smearing you behind your back the whole time anyway.
Instead, document the instances of micromanagement, realize that the underlying motive of the psychopath is always control over others (don’t fall for all the excuses), and seek another workplace if you don’t see the troublemaker being properly dealt with.