Beating the bullies

A PSYCHOPATH boss or colleague can make work life hell and lead to ill health and depression, says clinical psychologist Sophie Henshaw.

With no empathy, these bullies can be charming one minute and vicious the next, and those at their mercy are left struggling to know what to do and how to deal with the situation, as their confidence plummets and their work suffers.

Henshaw, a Cockburn local, was bullied while doing her first job in the prison service, and for more than 20 years has counselled hundreds of people with similar stories.

She recently set up a free, interactive Facebook support group, Empaths at Work.

“I’m passionate about helping people…who tolerate a hostile workplace and a bad boss but can’t leave because too much is at stake, an income, a career, a reputation,” she says.

Empaths is a term coined by best-selling Australian author David Gillespie in his book, Taming Toxic People.

• Clinical psychologist Sophie Henshaw.

“I regard the world as being divided into two types of people; empaths and psychopaths,” he writes.

“Compared to psychopaths, I reckon we’re all empaths.…It sounds so much less clinical than the more politically correct ‘neurotypical’.”

According to Gillespie, one in 80 people are psychopaths, and it’s a scary one in five amongst executive ranks in corporations.

Lack of empathy, feelings of superiority, micromanaging subordinates, glibness or superficial charm, an ability to lie well and a lack of guilt and remorse, are the telltale signs, according to Gillepsie.

Most of us are hardwired for empathy, Dr Henshaw says.

“It’s impossible not to feel empathy unless there’s an abnormality of brain functioning,” she says.

“For example, the brains of psychopaths show reduced activity in the orbital cortex, thought to play a role in regulating our emotions, impulses, aggression and ability to make moral decisions.”

Empaths at Work is a safe environment for victims to talk, and a chance for one-on-one sessions with Dr Henshaw.

For more information go to or call Sophie Henshaw on 0422 232 089.


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