Monday, March 21, 2011

Jim the Psychopath

I’ve known Jim for years, or at least I thought I did. As I look back now, though, I realize that we had never been close friends; I’ve never visited his home and we rarely did anything that wasn’t ultimately work-related. I considered the social outings at the Riverton Club, even the ad hoc brainstorm sessions at the Starbucks across the square from the office, a part of the job. It’s in these settings that Jim’s personality drew me in; I’d go drinking with him anytime. Still, ten months after his arrest for fraud and embezzlement, I'm seeing a therapist to deal with the pain he’s caused a lot of people. I’m getting ahead of the story.

We started out as co-workers, the kind of wide-eyed and ambitious MBAs that you’d see in the movie Wall Street for example. When the board appointed him regional CEO within a year, I of course didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I thought that, despite his age (he’s one year younger than I), he deserved this position.  It was not a mystery even back then as to how he rose to the top.  Jim was quite the charmer, no doubt about it.  I remember his first day with the firm.  Marcia, our HR guru, was singing his praises, especially after he complimented the way she facilitated the board meeting and made  a seemingly earnest remark about her "pleasant demeanor."  Who knew that a guy from rural North Dakota with just an associate's degree could effortlessly work the system and impress everyone around him, like a supermodel walking down a runway.  Nobody could know at the time that Jim falsified almost his entire resume.  He had neither a graduate degree from Brown nor a few years of experience as an investment advisor in New Delhi.  He portrayed himself as a worldly-wise, well-travelled sophisticate and whiz kid on investment with such conviction, and everyone bought it.

It took some time, but eventually a number of us in both the New York and Philadelphia offices discovered a common source for the backbiting and tension that had been going on ever since Jim's employment with the company.  He stopped at nothing to rise up the corporate ladder and all the while portray himself in the most positive light.  He would use underlings, higher-ups, and colleagues, such as myself, to get the next promotion, ultimately landing the lofty position mentioned above.   Until the FBI caught wind of some of his schemes, thanks to some brave souls willing to risk their jobs, Jim would probably own the company by now.  Having ingratiated himself with the firm's power brokers, who shall remain nameless pending another lawsuit, he would plant rumors and sow the seeds of discord behind the scenes, like an evil puppeteer manipulating the strings.  If he sensed trouble, if he suspected someone might report on his questionable practices and tactics, he'd stir the pot.  But nobody ever suspected Jim's divide and conquer strategy, not for years anyway, even if he struck some of us as rather paranoid at times.  Behind that infectious smile, the soothing voice, those carefully scripted words, and a thoughtful brow hid a psychopath.

I feel foolish for having been duped for so long.  As you read my account, you probably think I'm gullible, easily led astray.  That's not the case.  I'm usually a good judge of character, I assure you.  I have a minor in business psychology and am usually good at reading faces.  I know this will sound strange to you, but I feel violated and abused.  Having spoken with others in the office, I realize that I'm not alone.  We were mere pawns for him to achieve his objectives, namely a zero-sum game that involved the promotion of the Self and a corresponding abasement of others.  It's as if he got inside my head, set up shop there, and used the sacred interior of my soul as a base of operations.  Jim's defense attorneys argued that he has no interior of his own, as if that's a defense!  I hope he burns in hell someday.