Corollary of Parkinson’s Law for sociopaths

The Minnesota Republican party is in shambles after multiple complaints that its chair Jennifer Carnahan created and oversaw a highly toxic environment of casual racism and sexism at all levels of the organization that resulted in many people leaving in disgust.

In conversations with seven current and former staffers of the Minnesota Republican Party, most of them women who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, all shared similar experiences of racism and sexual harassment or assault by high-level employees of the state organization. 

Likewise, all outlined a pattern of reprisal from Carnahan targeting anyone who spoke out about these and other issues within the organization, subjecting employees and even some activists affiliated with the party to repeated verbal abuse.

Two former staffers even described sustained harassment campaigns directed against them and others that included male staffers showing up at their homes at odd hours — an apparent intimidation tactic — and drastic measures like withholding paychecks for anyone who complained about Carnahan or her top lieutenants’ behavior.

The state’s College Republicans chapter also released a statement last week alleging that Carnahan covered up the sexual assault and rape of a member of the Republican youth organization — choosing not to act when the accusations were brought to her attention and maintaining a public friendship with the accused even after he left his job in politics.

Anton Lazzaro, one of the state party’s top donors and a close personal friend of Carnahan’s, was indicted for child sex trafficking — alongside a rising College Republican star, Gisela Castro Medina, who chaired the University of St. Thomas College Republicans. Federal prosecutors allege the pair recruited and abused at least five minor victims in a scheme Carnahan maintains she knew nothing about.

You can read the article for all the details of what went on.

But what I wanted to focus on is how such awful people rise to high levels in organizations in the first place. Carnahan is by no means an outlier and political organizations are not the only ones in which people who have such glaring faults that should disqualify them from high positions somehow rise to the top. I am pretty certain that every person reading this has had experience with such a person personally in their workplaces or knows someone who has. How can this happen? It cannot be that such people took a serious turn for the worse only after they rose to the top. People’s characters and personalities do not change so much so quickly. While it is true that power corrupts, it usually takes some time to do its work. The signs of having an abusive personality must have been visible long before. Why were alarm bells not ringing all over the place warning that placing such sociopaths in positions of authority would likely result in serious problems down the road?

The only reason that I can come up with is that as these people were rising up the ladder, they did not have the opportunity or the license to express the full extent of their sociopathic qualities and those around them saw just a mild form of it that they could overlook as merely unpleasant quirks that would not affect the functioning of the organization too badly.

Parkinson’s Law famously said that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and has spawned a lot of corollaries. Perhaps another corollary should be added: “The abusive behavior of sociopaths increases to the extent that it is enabled to do so.”


  1. TGAP Dad says

    Singham’s corollary: The abusive behavior of sociopaths increases to the extent that it is enabled to do so.

  2. kestrel says

    In my experience people who have kind of ugly personalities and believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, seek out positions of power because they like ordering others around and lording it over them. There are certainly people who are in power who did not seek out the position for that reason; I happen to know a guy like that, who just basically wants people to like and appreciate him. He does not like giving others orders or pushing them around. But most of the people around me who seek out these positions are like the former type of person.

    I could wish that people who are good people and genuinely have the best for all concerned at heart would run for office or positions of power, but it’s like they have better sense than to do that or something. I therefore applaud it all the more when it actually happens.

  3. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    My hypothesis is that there are people who are willing to support sociopaths, if the sociopath nominates them to the second level of bosses. That is higher up the ladder than what they could reach on their own. The kind of people who use the Nuremberg Defense: I just followed orders.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Granted that this could happen in any organization, but the example provided is from the Republican Party. No one should be surprised to encounter casual sexual abuse and other forms of sociopathy in the Republican Party. It is not an unfortunate side effect, it is the point.

  5. garnetstar says

    @4 is correct, as is seen in cults. If the sociopathic, abusive guru selects you as a direct underling and accomplice, the abuse you must endure lessens, and you are given the power to abuse and exploit those underneath you, so long as you slavishly toady to the concerns of the guru.

    Which is an exact description, as @5 says, of the current republican party.

    Those whose personalities compel them to seek power, as @2 says, usually only succeed because they’ve amassed a following of such underlings. Again, Trump and the republican party.

  6. lorn says

    Why was it tolerated?

    It likely started out small, at first innocently, then gray area stuff, that was laughed off. One would think this would rapidly become a disqualifying behavior but this sort of bug has a way of becoming a feature. It morphs into a proof of power, they ruin all who resist or complain, effectively providing both an object lesson and a loyalty test. And once s staff member lets it slide they are locked in because of their complicity and betrayal of the victims. Denial is safer and provides an ongoing proof of loyalty.

    Denying the abuse of others also tends to negate the ability to object if the staff member has or becomes a victim. Add some gaslighting ‘it wasn’t that bad’ , ‘he was joking’, ‘they could have left as any time’ and the victims can become both abusers and enablers.

    Of course the GOP damaged souls they are really likes their rough, tough, virile, pussy-grabbing men. In part because it gives the Libs conniptions.

  7. rich rutishauser says

    My experience only…people in an organization with toxic management (who don’t want to deal with it) tend to move on to other jobs/positions. As this happens over time, people who either directly support the toxic behavior or are willing to look the other way are all that is left after a while.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Overall, they found that someone with a high degree of narcissism was around 29% faster in their career progression to the position of CEO, compared to the average candidate of similar qualifications.

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