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Characteristics of Corporate Psychopaths and Their Corporations

Summary by J. Scarlet

From the books, Snakes in Suits by Dr. Paul Babiak & Dr. Robert Hare, Corporate Psychopaths by Dr. Clive Boddy, Working with Monsters by Dr. John Clarke & Without Conscience by Dr. Robert Hare

“It is important to study [corporate] psychopaths because of the large-scale financial, environmental and human resources that many modern international corporations have at their disposal.  Many corporations are bigger financially than some nation-states: of the 100 largest economic entities in 2002, 50% were corporations,” (Boddy, 6).  The actions of some senior managers have destroyed corporations and such collapses have become more common in recent years, (1).  When these managers lie about their involvement in such catastrophes, walk away with huge payoffs and seemingly unaffected by the lives they have devastated, normal people wonder what kind of person would behave this way.  It is my hope that by compiling this paper the reader will understand the traits of corporate psychopathy and why it is important that employers screen for them.

Dr. Robert Hare states that a portion of the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist-Revised), which was created to detect violent criminal psychopaths, also identifies corporate psychopaths, (Boddy, 7).  According to Dr. Hare, corporate psychopaths are glib, superficially charming, have a grandiose sense of self-worth, are pathological liars, conning, manipulative, lack remorse, are emotionally shallow, callous, lack empathy, and fail to take responsibility for their actions, (39).  He believes that criminal and anti-social definitions of psychopathy are inappropriate for corporate psychopaths so a revised definition should be used to detect them.

All psychopaths thrive off of the feelings of power and control they get from dominating their victims, but corporate psychopaths victimize people in primarily psychological ways, (Clarke, 10).  They seek out leadership positions because money, power, status and control are what make them tick, (Boddy, 5).  “Some psychopaths are violent and end up in jail; others forge careers in corporations.” (1).

Corporate psychopaths can control their behavior and that of others much more effectively than violent criminal psychopaths can, (Boddy, 42).  Although they appear charming, charismatic and likeable, corporate psychopaths are emotionally disconnected to others, viewing them as objects to be used, (2).  Of their psychopathic traits, the least noticeable are their manipulative behaviors and callousness, (42).

It is not difficult for these psychopaths to rise to very high levels in corporations, particularly in today’s uncertain and constantly changing corporate climates, (Clarke, 10).  There are actually three and a half times more psychopaths in senior managerial positions than there are in the general population, (Boddy, 104).  The managerial positions they move into exceed their abilities, but they are able to attain these positions because of the false personas they create, (3).  Corporate psychopaths masterfully fool others into believing they are talented and trustworthy, but in reality their behavior is extremely destructive, (2).

According to studies conducted by Dr. Clive Boddy, corporate psychopaths accounted for 26% of workplace bullying, (Boddy, 44).  When they were present in an organization, 93.3% of the employees witnessed bullying in the workplace, (60).  When they were not present, the percentage was 54.7%.  Not all corporate psychopaths are bullies, but the ones who are tend to be more abusive than charming, (Babiak & Hare, 187).  They humiliate, intimidate, harass and scare their victims, and will become vindictive if they don’t get what they want, (Boddy, 44).  They also encourage others to act these ways and such behaviors can spread through companies like a virus, (59).  “Employees who worked in organizations where corporate psychopaths were present experienced people yelling at them at work more than five times more frequently than did employees who worked in organizations where corporate psychopaths were not present,” (58).

Unethical leaders create unethical followers, which in turn create unethical companies and society suffers as a result, (Boddy, 169).  The more corporate psychopaths there are in a corporation, the less the corporation is socially responsible, environmentally friendly, beneficial to the community, and committed to its employees, (69).  Based on his research, Dr. Boddy developed the Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis: that corporate psychopaths, rising to senior positions within corporations, where they have considerable power and influence over the climates of the organizations have largely caused the financial crisis we are experiencing today, (164).

As Dr. Hare states in his book, Without Conscience, “If we can’t spot them, we are doomed to be their victims, both as individuals and as a society,” (Hare, 6).  Dr. Hare teamed up with Dr. Paul Babiak to develop the B Scan, a diagnostic tool used to screen for dysfunctional behavior in organizations.  More information can be found at


How Psychopaths Climb Corporate Ladders

Summary by J. Scarlet

From the books, Snakes in Suits by Dr. Paul Babiak & Dr. Robert Hare, Corporate Psychopaths: Organizational Destroyers by Dr. Clive Boddy  and Working with Monsters by Dr. John Clarke

Psychopaths employ a particular pattern of tactics to enter corporations and rise up corporate ladders, (Babiak & Hare, 103).  They bear certain characteristics that make them appear to be ideal candidates for jobs.  Lying and manipulating come naturally for them, so they can create compelling resumes that make them look good to potential employers, (104).  Since they are charming and don’t get nervous like normal people do, they come off as confident, assertive, intelligent, and smooth during interviews.

The Assessment Phase

Once hired, corporate psychopaths begin assessing their new environments.  They pay close attention to relationships among workers and to the cultures of the organizations, (Babiak & Hare, 122).  They study their responsibilities and the company policies so they know where the loop-holes are and what explanations they can create if any questions or complaints should arise, (Clarke, 173).

Psychopaths use their charm to make good impressions on others and to gain their trust, (Babiak & Hare, 48-49).  They also observe everyone’s personalities so they can custom tailor personas that fit with what they think people will like to hear.  They act very accepting of others and can become so popular that they gain the trust and loyalty of many, (74 & 125).  Over time, a rapport is established with the employees and a false perception of who they are is solidified, (Clarke, 134-135).

While they are befriending everyone, corporate psychopaths are also assessing each person’s value so they can see of what use they might be to them, (Babiak, & Hare, 74).  Some people will be used for information, money or connections, while others will be used to protect and defend the psychopath’s behavior, (125 & 127).

The Manipulation Phase

Once corporate psychopaths have developed good reputations within their companies, they begin manipulating others for the purposes of entertainment, advancing in the companies and gaining power, (Babiak & Hare, 128).  They cause conflict and confusion for fun and to distract attention away from their inappropriate behaviors, (Boddy, 59).  They engage in intimidating behavior and also encourage bullying in the workplace.

Corporate psychopaths are very clever at manipulating communication between employees, (Babiak & Hare, 128).  They spread disinformation to make themselves look good, to make their rivals look bad, and to keep others from uncovering the truth.  They are even able to con some coworkers into carrying their workloads for them, (132).

People who the psychopaths are not attempting to manipulate might be able to see how the psychopaths are using others, (Babiak, & Hare, 126).  These people may try to warn the others about how manipulative the psychopath is being.  If this occurs and the psychopaths hear about this, they are so smooth that they will easily blame these concerns on things like a misunderstanding or an envy of their popularity.

Corporate psychopaths prefer operating in private, using bonds with individuals to gain information and support that they can use to advance their careers and to destroy the careers of their rivals, (Babiak & Hare, 130).  They manipulate groups from behind the scenes and appear to be friends with everyone when really they are controlling the entire situation, (Clarke, 110).

The Ascension Phase

Once all the key players in the corporate psychopath’s games have successfully been manipulated, the psychopaths direct their attention to being promoted, (Babiak & Hare, 140).  It is common for them to select targets among senior management to befriend, (Clarke, 107).  Charming the manager’s personal assistants and developing relationships with them can also help open the door for future promotions, (108).

As corporate psychopaths are promoted within their companies, they enjoy having more power and control over the people around them, (Clarke, 112).  Usually when they reach the higher level ranks in organizations, they begin implementing strategies that cause unnecessary stress for their employees, because they enjoy watching people suffer.

Types of Workplace (Corporate) Psychopaths

From the books, Working with Monsters by Dr. John Clarke and Corporate Psychopaths: Organizational Destroyers by Dr. Clive Boddy

Summary by J. Scarlet

Most psychopaths are successful at avoiding detection, because they do not engage in violent criminal behavior.  According to Dr. Hare, these types of psychopaths are able to control their anti-social impulses and are so clever and charming that they are able to avoid getting in trouble with the law, (Boddy, 39).  Dr. Boddy characterizes these psychopaths as glib, superficially charming, having a grandiose sense of self-worth, accomplished liars, conning and manipulative, lacking remorse, emotionally shallow, cold and calculating, lacking empathy, and refusing to accept responsibility for their actions, (14).

Dr. Babiak, Dr. Hare, and Dr. Boddy have labeled this subtype as ’corporate’ psychopaths.  Labeling them as ‘corporate’ can be misleading, however, because they do not all work at corporations.  They can also be found in religious organizations, law enforcement, the military, politics, and even in medicine and education.

Dr. John Clarke is more specific and places these ‘successful’ psychopaths into three categories: ‘occupational’, ‘corporate criminal’, and ‘organizational’, though some psychopaths fall into more than one category.  “Everything they do is in their own self-interest.  How they satisfy their needs is what sets them apart,” (Clarke, 183).  For the purpose of this paper I will explain Dr. Clarke’s subtypes.

The Occupational Psychopath

The occupational psychopath uses their occupation to satisfy their desires while avoiding or minimizing punishment, (Clarke, 76).  They don’t necessarily want to climb the company’s ranks, because they enjoy the power and control that they already have.  Psychopaths who are police officers, army officers, parking officers, security guards, or those who work for government agencies fall into this category, (76-77, 168 & 172).

Occupational psychopaths can exhibit violent and non-violent criminal behaviors and manipulate others in the workplace to escape detection, (Clarke, 180).  They employ multiple tactics to gain complete control over their victims, (179).  They play on their victims’ fears and emphasize their victims’ fates for disobeying them.  Obedience is gained by getting the victims to think they are the only person that can be trusted, (180).

The Corporate Criminal Psychopath

The corporate criminal psychopath commits crimes in their workplace, or as a part of an organized ring devoted to corporate crimes, (Clarke, 65).  “This category includes bank employees who defraud their employers, stock brokers involved in scams, builders who ‘con’ clients, real estate agents who dupe home owners, lawyers who spend their clients’ trust funds, second-hand car salespeople who alter cars to get a sale, gangs who are involved in identity theft and the use of fraudulent checks and so on,” (65-66).  They rely on peoples’ greed and their low self-esteems to help them commit their crimes, (133).

When these psychopaths enter companies they make connections with people they can use to help them cover up their behavior, (Clarke, 125).  They are usually superficial and brilliant at giving the ‘right’ impressions to con their victims, (67).  They find weak spots in the systems that allow them to steal large amounts of money and avoid detection for long periods of time (125).  They blend so well into organizations and societies that it is difficult to detect them until it is too late, (143).

The Organizational Psychopath

The organizational psychopath craves a god-like feeling of power and control over other people, (Clarke, 95).  They prefer to work at the very highest levels of their organizations, because this allows them to inflict harm the most amounts of people, (60).  Psychopaths who are political leaders, managers and CEOs fall into this category.

Organizational psychopaths generally appear to be intelligent, sincere, powerful, charming, witty, and entertaining communicators, (Clarke, 84 & 99).  They quickly assess what people want to hear and then create stories that fit those expectations, (98).  They will con people into doing their work for them, take credit for other people’s work and even assign their work to junior staff members, (92-93).  They have low patience when dealing with others, display shallow emotions, are unpredictable, undependable and fail to take responsibility if something goes wrong that is their fault, (90-95).

“Psychopaths Caused the Financial Crisis…”

…And They Will Do It Again and Again Unless They Are Removed From Power”

A senior UK investment banker and I [were] discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.

He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.” (click to view article)

“Brain of a Psychopath”

An Introduction to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)

An Introduction to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R)

Summary by J. Scarlet

This information has been compiled from the book, Without Conscience by Dr. Hare, The PCL-R by Dr. Hare and the Assessing Psychopathy with the PCL-R workshop offered by Dr. Hare’s Darkstone Research Group.

Dr. Robert Hare and his students developed the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) for assessing psychopathy in males in forensic settings.  It has also been validated for assessing psychopathy in females in forensic settings.   This test was designed to diagnose unsuccessful, or “failed,” psychopaths and it is important to note that most psychopaths are not detected by the criminal justice system.

The PCL-R contains 20 items that rate individuals on their personalities and lifestyles. Each item on the PCL-R is scored on a scale from 0-2.  A score of 0 means the item does not apply, 1 means it applies to some extent, and 2 means it applies and there is a good match.  If there is insufficient data to score a particular item on the list, it is omitted.  Up to five items on the list may be omitted with the test still being considered reliable.  A total score of 10-19 on the PCL-R diagnoses an individual as mildly psychopathic, a score of 20-29 diagnoses them as moderately psychopathic, and a score of 30-40 diagnoses them as severely psychopathic.

Administering the PCL-R requires appropriate credentials and training.  It is preferable for scorers to use in-person interviews in addition to reviewing file information when calculating the scores.

Below is a summary of the 20 items that appear on the PCL-R.  It has been written to introduce the reader to the items on the test without plagiarizing it.  This summary excludes, for the most part, the specific methods used by the scorer to rate each item.

Item 1 describes individuals who are glib and superficial.  These people are very witty and articulate and they may be quite likeable.  They can be funny and entertaining, tell unlikely but convincing stories that make them look good, and have quick and clever comebacks.   Although they may appear to know a lot about many subjects, they usually only know enough technical jargon to impress some people.  They also generally sound so slick that they come off as not being entirely believable to some.

Item 2 describes individuals who are egocentric and have a grandiose sense of self-worth.  They may brag a lot, be narcissistic, opinionated and self-assured.  It is common for these people to aspire to pursue careers with status, but they have little understanding of the qualifications required to attain such careers.  Their egos are so inflated that instead of being embarrassed about their legal problems, they view them as being the result of something like bad luck or injustice.

Item 3 describes individuals who have an excessive need for stimulation and are unusually prone to becoming bored.  These people are risk-takers who seek excitement and go where the action is.  They may frequently move to new residences, change jobs, become alcoholics, use many different types of drugs and/or commit crimes just for the thrill of it.   They will often complain that certain tasks like school, work, or long-term relationships are too tedious or boring.

Item 4 describes individuals who habitually lie and deceive others, including people they are close to.  They may be proud of these abilities and go so far as to create elaborate stories just for the delight of fooling people.  If they are questioned or caught in a lie, they have explanations and excuses for everything and are able to quickly change their stories or the subject without appearing embarrassed or confused.

Item 5 describes individuals who cheat, defraud and/or manipulate others, including people they are close to.  Motivated by a desire for personal gain, such as money, power, sex, and/or status, they will scam their victims without any concern.  Sometimes their behavior will involve breaking the law, but other times it doesn’t.

Item 6 describes an individuals who lack remorse or guilt for their criminal and noncriminal actions.  Although they may verbally express that they have remorse, their actions and/or other responses contradict this.  They are concerned with the effects their actions have on them rather than any suffering they have caused their victims or damage they have done to society.  They are unable to appreciate the seriousness of their actions, blame their victims or society for the circumstances, and continue to engage in activities that are harmful to others.

Item 7 describes an individuals who have a shallow affect and lack the ability to experience a normal range of emotions.  Their emotions are generally dramatic, shallow, and short-lived.  They may claim to exhibit strong emotions, but these emotions may not be consistent with their actions or the situation.  They may experience sexual arousal instead of love, frustration instead of sadness, and irritability instead of anger.

Item 8 describes individuals who have a profound lack of empathy and a callous disregard for others.  They view people as objects to be manipulated and are not concerned with the feelings, rights, or welfare of others.  They process the pain and suffering of others on an abstract, intellectual level.  They are selfish and cynical, and do not hesitate at mocking people, including those who have suffered misfortunes or who have physical and/or mental handicaps.

Item 9 describes individuals whose financial dependence on others is a part of their lifestyle.  These people are able to work, but have a parasitic pattern of relying on family, friends, and/or social aid for financial support instead.  They get what they want by presenting themselves as helpless, deserving of sympathy, and by exploiting their victims’ weaknesses.  Others are called upon to support them and cater to their needs no matter what the cost.

Item 10 describes individuals who have poor control over their behavior.  These people are easily offended and can become angry over petty things.  They tend to respond to frustration, failure, discipline, and criticism by becoming verbally abusive and/or violent.  They are known to be short-tempered, hot-headed, suddenly irritable, annoyed and/or impatient.  Often their outbursts are short-lived and they may quickly act as if nothing has happened.

Item 11 describes individuals who have promiscuous, impersonal and/or trivial sexual relationships.  They may have more than one partner at the same time, engage in casual sex, have one-night-stands, use prostitutes, and/or not discriminate when selecting sexual partners.  They might have a history of coercing others into having sex with them and may also have prior charges for sexual assault.

Item 12 describes individuals who experienced serious behavioral problems at the age of 12 or younger.  These problems are more severe than those exhibited by most children.  Repercussions can include discipline from schools and/or contact with the police.  Some examples of these problems are persistent lying, cheating, theft, fire-setting, cruelty to animals, truancy, drug-use, vandalism, violence, bullying, running away from home and/or preconscious sex.

Item 13 describes individuals who are not able or willing to develop and carry out realistic, long-term plans and/or goals.  These people can make short-term goals and tend to live in the present without giving serious thought to their futures.  They don’t seem concerned if they have done little with their lives or are going nowhere in life.  They may change their plans frequently and not be interested in having steady jobs.

Item 14 describes individuals who acts in impulsive ways.  These people don’t think before they act and are known to do things on the “spur of the moment” just because they feel like it or an opportunity presented itself.  They don’t spend much time considering the pros and cons of a situation and will change plans on a whim without bothering to tell others.

Item 15 describes individuals who are irresponsible in a variety of areas.  These people have little to no sense of duty or loyalty to family, friends, employers, societies, ideas, and/or causes.  Their irresponsible behavior is expressed in a variety of ways including engaging in behavior that puts others at risk, poorly managing their finances, having careless or sloppy work behavior, and/or failing to honor commitments to people in both their personal and professional relationships.

Item 16 describes individuals who are unable or unwilling to accept personal responsibility for their actions.  They make excuses for their behavior, including rationalizing it or blaming it on circumstance or someone else.  Sometimes they will accept responsibility in a superficial manner, but they will minimize or deny the consequences of their behavior.

Item 17 describes individuals who have had many short-term marital relationships.  Live-in relationships that have involved some degree of commitment, common-law marriages, heterosexual and homosexual relationships are also included.  A score of 2 applies to individuals who have had 3 or more of these relationships before the age of 30.

Item 18 describes individuals who were delinquent as juveniles.  They have a history of serious antisocial behavior from the age of 17 and younger and have had formal contact with the criminal justice system.

Item 19 describes individuals who have violated a conditional release or escaped from an institution.  They may have violated the conditions of their parole, probation, restraining orders, bail, and/or have received new charges while on parole.  They may have also escaped from jail or another institution.  A major violation or escape warrants a score of 2.

Item 20 describes individuals who, while adults, have been charged with many different types of crimes.  Charges can include theft, robbery, assault, fraud, arson, and/or minor charges including vandalism, causing a disturbance, etc.  Six or more types of offenses results in a score of 2.

“Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice…the answer: psychopaths.” -Ronson

An excerpt from The Psychopath Test  by John Ronson

“He said, almost to himself, ‘I should never have done all my research in prisons.  I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well.’

I looked at Bob [Hare].  ‘Really?’ I said.

He nodded.

‘But surely stock-market psychopaths can’t be as bad as serial killer psychopaths,’ I said.

‘Serial killers ruin families.’  Bob shrugged.  ‘Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies.  They ruin societies.’

This–Bob was saying–was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair?  Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty?  The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn’t function right.  you’re standing on an escalator and you watch the people going past on the opposite escalator.  If you could climb inside their brains, you would see we aren’t all the same.  We aren’t all good people just trying to do good.  Some of us are psychopaths.  And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society.  They’re the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond.”

“Which of Our Leaders Are Psychopaths? A Voter and Shareholder Guide”

“Among the serious problems we face, from world hunger to nuclear proliferation to climate change, one of our most serious may be that some leaders we depend on to address these problems are psychopaths that charm us to get power and then abuse it to hurt us and others – people we can’t trust to address these problems.  Until we recognize this problem and take steps to address it, psychopaths will continue to charm us as they destroy countless lives and contribute to the destruction of civilization and the environment upon which our lives depend.” (click to view article)

“I am <fishead(" Documentary about Corporate Psychopaths

The documentary can be viewed for free here:

Narrated by Peter Coyote

how psychopaths and antidepressants influence our society
a provocative snapshot of the world we live in

     It is a well-known fact that our society is structured like a pyramid. The very few people at the top create conditions for the majority below. Who are these people? Can we blame them for the problems our society faces today? Guided by the saying “A fish rots from the head.” we set out to follow that fishy odor. What we found out is that people at the top are more likely to be psychopaths than the rest of us.

     Who, or what, is a psychopath? Unlike Hollywood’s stereotypical image, they are not always blood-thirsty monsters from slasher movies. Actually, that nice lady who chatted you up on the subway this morning could be one. So could your elementary school teacher, your grinning boss, or even your loving boyfriend. The medical definition is simple: A psychopath is a person who lacks empathy and conscience, the quality which guides us when we choose between good and evil, moral or not. Most of us are conditioned to do good things. Psychopaths are not. Their impact on society is staggering, yet altogether psychopaths barely make up one percent of the population.

      Broken into three parts, our search for the <fishead( starts in New York City, on Wall Street, where a big chunk of the world power is concentrated. This small plot of city land is where the economic crisis erupted and what we found there has far-reaching consequences, both for the psychopaths and us normal folk.

     The second part of the film touches on how, for a small number of people, overuse of antidepressants can result in behaviors that appear to mimic some psychopathic features. Although overuse of these medications will not produce psychopathy, they may stifle emotion and decrease the user’s ability to feel empathy. They also may have the opposite effects, “normalizing” emotional experience and empathy. More than one-third of the Western population uses and, in some cases, abuses these drugs. But why? So why do we want to take a pill that flattens or normalizes our normal feelings? We think something sure smells fishy again.
     It is not too far fetched to say that for the first time in history we not only praise psychopaths in the highest positions of power, but in many cases, they became our role models. On top of that, we don’t seem to think it’s a problem. In the third part, we come back to the idea of us, the normal people in our day-to-day life. How much different are we from the average psychopath? By embracing a superficial culture, each of us maybe unwillingly supports the <fishead(. Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

     Through interviews with renowned psychologist Professor Philip Zimbardo, leading expert on psychopathy Professor Robert Hare, former President of Czech Republic and playwright Vaclav Havel, authors Gary Greenberg and Christopher Lane, professor Nicholas Christakis, among numerous other thinkers, we have delved into the world of psychopaths and heroes and revealed shocking implications for us and our society.

Length: 80 min.
Released: Sep 11 2011

Psychopath MRI

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