Bad Boss? The Psycho-Path To Success.


  • One study found senior managers are four times more likely to be a psychopath
  • Office psychopaths mimic rather than feel emotions, often leading to destructive behavior
  • While associated with violence, psychopathic behavior doesn’t necessarily lead to crime
  • Psychologists believe 1% of people have the mental disorder, which is rooted in genetics

Think you suffer from a “psycho” boss? A small but growing body of global research suggests you might be right.

Call it the “Psycho-path to Success.”

Psychopaths — narcissists guided without conscience, who mimic rather than feel real emotions — bring to mind serial killers such as Ted Bundy or fictional murderers such as Hannibal Lecter or “Dexter,” the anti-hero of the popular Showtime TV series. But psychologists say most psychopaths are not behind bars — and at least one study shows people with psychopathic tendencies are four times more likely to be found in senior management.

“Not all psychopaths are in prison — some are in the boardroom,” said Dr. Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who is co-author of the book “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work.”

And British researcher Clive Boddy goes further: He thinks the 2007-2008 financial crisis may have resulted in the growing proliferation of psychopathic personalities in the corner office — an offshoot of the erosion of single company employment in the last generation.

“If you worked at a company over the course of 20 or 30 years, people got to know what you’re like, how they treat people, regardless of how you appeared in an interview,” said Boddy, whose “Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis” was recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics. “Obviously these days, as people move job to job every two or three years, that’s not possible any more.”

His paper follows a 2010 study Hare co-authored that found about 4% of senior managers displayed psychopathic tendencies, up from the 1% that researchers say could normally be found in society.

Psychopaths are great bullies — they feel no remorse or guilt about what they’ve done
UK researcher Clive Boddy

“People tend to think of psychopaths as criminals. In fact, the majority of psychopaths aren’t criminal,” said Hare, a pioneer in the study of psychopathy who developed the first diagnostic test for the mental disorder in 1980. “They don’t go out and maim, rob and rape but find other ways to satisfy themselves without doing something necessarily illegal … such as taking risks with someone else’s property or money.”

Which raises a disturbing question: Why are psychopaths four times more likely to be found in senior management?  Read the full article by Kevin Voight for CNN.com here.

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Posted on January 20, 2012, in Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, HR Management & Leadership. and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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