The notion of a colleague betraying you is at least as old as the tale of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, who famously uttered the phrase "et tu" as Brutus plunged a knife into his back.
And if you’ve ever encountered a co-worker who will do anything to get ahead — even if that means ruining your good name in the process — you know how calculating and callous such people can be.
But did you realize that such a person could also have psychopathic tendencies?
We often think of a psychopath as being a serial killer. Yet according to former criminal profiler Gregg McCrary, psychopathy runs on a continuum — with white collar criminals falling in the middle.
As a former agent for the FBI for 25 years, 10 of that in the behavioral science unit, McCrary knows the pattern of psychopaths well. While they vary in degree, he says psychopaths share common traits. “They have no guilt, remorse or shame. They’re deceitful and egotistical. It’s all about them.”
Using standards developed by Dr. Robert Hare, a leader in the study of psychopathy, researchers estimated that 3 million Americans — or one percent of the general population in the U.S.— were psychopaths compared to about 20 percent of the prison population.
High Functioning Psychopaths: The White Collar Criminal
When it comes to white-collar criminals, they might not physically destroy you, but they have no problem financially destroying you. According to McCrary, this type of psychopath should be considered high-functioning.
Unlike lower-level criminals who might rob a bank and leave behind evidence, white collar psychopaths are much harder to catch. They’re intelligent, have great interpersonal skills, powerfully persuasive and able to disguise themselves very well.
“A psychopath’s approach to life is all about manipulation,” McCrary said. “They make great natural psychologists. They read people well and look at them and businesses as being there to serve their needs. They’re always assessing, “How can this particular job or person meet my needs? How can I exploit them?’” McCrary said.
Take the story of Jim Hammes.
McCrary has not met Hammes but said his actions clearly exhibited psychopathic behavior. For nearly 15 years, Hammes worked as the controller of a Pepsi bottling company in Lexington, KY. Viewed as a trusted employee at the family-run business, Hammes appeared to be a devoted father and top-notch employee.
Then an anonymous tip led investigators to uncover that Hammes had allegedly been embezzling money for more than a decade, taking $8.7 million from the company and putting it into his personal account. When the FBI confronted Hammes with the allegations, rather than defend himself he chose to run. Just like that, he became a fugitive and abandoned his family.
Compartmentalizing: Playing the Perfect Role
To a certain extent, most people compartmentalize and lead different lives. It's entirely normal for your work persona to be divergent from your family life. With psychopaths, however, McCrary says the compartmentalizing is much more exaggerated.
When Amanda Hammes learned of the accusations against her father, she refused to believe authorities.
“I knew I would get a call. I knew he’d show up at my house. I knew for sure he would. And then when he didn’t, I was like yeah, this is true,” she told CNBC’s “American Greed: The Fugitives.”