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Are there too many psychopaths in Corporate America?

No, this isn’t going to be some anti-capitalist, internet crank rant. Not all psychopaths are running around stabbing people. Some are quite successful:

Despite increasing interest in psychopathy research, surprisingly little is known about the etiology of non-incarcerated, successful psychopaths. This review provides an analysis of current knowledge on the similarities and differences between successful and unsuccessful psychopaths derived from five population sources: community samples, individuals from employment agencies, college students, industrial psychopaths, and serial killers. An initial neurobiological model of successful and unsuccessful psychopathy is outlined. It is hypothesized that successful psychopaths have intact or enhanced neurobiological functioning that underlies their normal or even superior cognitive functioning, which in turn helps them to achieve their goals using more covert and nonviolent methods. In contrast, in unsuccessful, caught psychopaths, brain structural and functional impairments together with autonomic nervous system dysfunction are hypothesized to underlie cognitive and emotional deficits and more overt violent offending.

Source: “Successful and unsuccessful psychopaths: A neurobiological model” from Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Volume 28 Issue 2, Pages 194 – 210

So you may not want to piss off the shifty guy in the marketing department.

Why do I point the finger at corporate America? Because apparently there are a disproportionate amount of psychopaths there:

There is a very large literature on the important role of psychopathy in the criminal justice system. We know much less about corporate psychopathy and its implications, in large part because of the difficulty in obtaining the active cooperation of business organizations. This has left us with only a few small-sample studies, anecdotes, and speculation. In this study, we had a unique opportunity to examine psychopathy and its correlates in a sample of 203 corporate professionals selected by their companies to participate in management development programs. The correlates included demographic and status variables, as well as in-house 360° assessments and performance ratings. The prevalence of psychopathic traits – as measured by the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R) and a Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) equivalent – was higher than that found in community samples. The results of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) indicated that the underlying latent structure of psychopathy in our corporate sample was consistent with that model found in community and offender studies. Psychopathy was positively associated with in-house ratings of charisma/presentation style (creativity, good strategic thinking and communication skills) but negatively associated with ratings of responsibility/performance (being a team player, management skills, and overall accomplishments).

Source: “Corporate psychopathy: Talking the walk” from Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Volume 28 Issue 2, Pages 174 – 193

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About Eric Barker