In a recent study of more than 200 executives, nearly 4 percent scored at or above the traditional cutoff for psychopathy using the Psychopathy Checklist. By contrast, just 1 percent of the general population is categorized as having psychopathic tendencies. Admittedly, it’s just one study, but it suggests that business leaders could be four times as likely to be psychopathic than the average person.
Robert Hare, renowned expert in criminal psychology, is the creator of the Psychopathy Checklist. The 20-item personality evaluation has become the standard tool for making clinical diagnoses of psychopaths. A psychopath is someone who has no conscience and has a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win — and take pleasure from their power over other people.
According to Hare, “There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You’ll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one’s position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something.”
Hare has broken down the 20 personality characteristics from the Psychopathy Checklist into two subsets, or “factors.” Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others” category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints “chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle,” the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.
Psychopaths tend to be terrible at managing and they’re not team players but their charm helps them climb the corporate ladder. They can be very devious – saying things you want to hear to your face at the same time they’re knifing you in the back.
Psychopaths make excellent first impressions. They are full of self esteem. They have no doubts or hesitations which enables them to present themselves very well in a job interview. The psychopath is a master at creating a ‘mask’ to hide their true nature. It may be possible that you might not realize that your boss is a psychopath.
It can be argued that four percent is still a relatively low number. People are quick to apply the ‘psychopath’ label particularly with a demanding and task-focused boss with whom you have communication challenges. If you experience conflict with your boss, it could be a result of differing value systems. Avoid turning people you find difficult into villains and explore developing good communication skills.
Recent research conducted by Manon Dulude PhD, has shown that 23.2% out of a sample of 138 subjects who self-selected to participate in a coaching study, were experiencing an elevated level of emotional distress. This emotional distress is likely going to translate into difficulties managing one’s self and coping with the complex challenges and demands of work. When people have challenges at work, it is easy to deflect responsibility yet no single problem can be viewed from only one direction.
Before you decide that your boss is a psychopath and quit your job, contact a professional coach who can help you find strategies to cope or navigate a difficult workplace relationship. Consulting with a coach can help create new perceptions and develop strategies to increase resilience.
For help in understanding these concepts, contact a professional coach at (905) 873-9393.