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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 http://www.b-scan.com/.

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“Brain of a Psychopath”

“I am <fishead(" Documentary about Corporate Psychopaths

The documentary can be viewed for free here: www.FHmovie.com

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

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