Psychopathy, often confused with sociopathy, is typically defined as a personality disorder with symptoms of persistent antisocial behaviour such as frequent violence; impaired or nil empathy and remorse, and brash, disinhibited, egotistical personas. Whilst the term is often used by the media to describe the psychotic and mentally ill, Professor Robert Hare, the creator of the ‘Psychopathy Checklist’, explains that psychopaths are not disorientated with reality and suffering from hallucinations or extreme distress but rather are very rational and have a high awareness of their behaviour and environment. All of their resulting actions are made out of choice and are freely exercised.
The Psychopathy Checklist, the most valid and reliable psychopathy measuring tool, points to three recurring observable characteristics of psychopathy: boldness, disinhibition and meanness. Psychopaths are well-known for their lack of empathy, coupled with predatory and parasitic behaviour. They are found in 1% of the general population but the number rises to 3.5% at the management level in corporate organisations.
The Corporate Psychopath’s Behaviour
Corporate Psychopaths are too often successful in organisations and the workplace. They are very career orientated but behaviourally they are ruthless, unethical, manipulative and extremely exploitative in order to quickly climb the corporate ladder. Some behavioural trademarks are:
• Superficial charisma
• Emotionally shallow
• Pathological lying and manipulation
• Lack of empathy, remorse or guilt
• Promiscuous sexual behaviour
• Grandiose sense of self-worth
• Constant impulsive and irresponsible behaviour
• Lack of realistic long term goals
Psychopathic behaviour differs when exposed in different environments. At an organisational level or within the workplace environment, these behaviours would typically result in scenarios such as:
• Frequent temper tantrums to cause high anxiety amongst peers
• Ridiculing or blaming others for bad work performance
• Intentionally spreading malicious lies for their benefit
• Stealing credit for the accomplishments of others or sabotaging others
• Refusing to take responsibility for behaviour or errors
• Doing whatever it takes to close a deal with no regards for ethics or legality
• Often taking the belongings of others without any intention of returning
Research shows that there are more instances of corporate psychopathic behaviour at the management level when compared to the general population, the reported scenarios are as such:
• Setting unrealistic and unachievable expectations to set employees up for failure
• Reluctance or refusal outright to attend meetings with more than one person
• Threatens perceived opponents with dismissal or discipline in order to taint employee profile
• Refusal to provide sufficient training or instructions to victim
• Invasion of personal privacy of employees
• Multiple sexual encounters with junior and/or senior employees
• Developing new ideas without real follow through
• Public humiliation of others and even encouraging of peers to torment or humiliate others
Havens for Corporate Psychopathy
Corporate Psychopaths are attracted to organisations and positions where they can easily gain power, influence, position, prestige and money typically in the financial services, media and legal sector. Other less known sectors include the civil services (e.g. the military, police, government and even the clergy). Clive Boddy’s paper on “The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” comprehensively explains and illustrates how corporate psychopathy when left to flourish at the top hierarchy of companies, specifically Wall Street Banks, were the main culprits of the Financial Crisis of 2007-08 in America. None of the biggest culprits were prosecuted and they got away scot-free with their ill-gotten gains. What was most revealing was their behaviour: their total lack of empathy for the chaos and massive suffering they had caused to individuals, economies and countries.
There are measures to identify, prevent and monitor instances of corporate psychopathic behaviour in the workplace. The dilemma is the reluctance to use them due to company policies, data protection and confidentiality clauses. In our next article in this series, we will delve deeper into details concerning workplace norms, employment cases, legal implications and penalties of corporate psychopathy from a British perspective.
Excerpt from “The Corporate Psychopath’s Arsenal” By C.H.I. Talent Assessment, Nov 8 2016