One in 25 Bosses is a Secret Psychopath. Is Yours?
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 – a checklist researchers regard as the “gold standard” for assessing this personality disorder. These findings were cited by Paul Babiak, one of the researchers who conducted the study and co-author of the book, “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work.”
One out of every 25 bosses is believed to have the mental disorder, but disguise it through their high status, charm and manipulation in the workplace. In contrast, a mere 1 percent of the general population is categorized as having psychopathic tendencies. Therefore, the study suggests that business leaders could be four times as likely to be psychopathic than the average person.
By definition, a psychopath is characterized as being a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior. Their ability to manipulate and charm plays a major role in their success in business.
“There are many natural traits of psychopathy that are easily mistaken for good leadership traits,” Babiak said. “For example, ‘charm’ looks like charisma, a talent of all great leaders; ‘grandiose sense of self,’ if couched in the right language and behavior begins to look like self-confidence and strength, again leadership traits,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s part of human nature to go with our first impressions and psychopaths make excellent first impressions,” Babiak said.
“The psychopath is a master at creating a ‘mask’ which hides their true nature,” Babiak said. “So, higher-level executives are only shown the ‘mask’ and they see an ‘ideal employee and future leader,” he said.
In fact, he often uses the phrase “parasitic predator” to describe corporate psychopaths. “They are parasitic in that they are looking for a host to support them,” he said. “A big company is an easy place in which to hide.”
It’s very possible that you may not ever realize that your boss is a psychopath. In fact, it’s possible that you could be married to a psychopath for 10, 20, 30 years and never know it, he said.
Next time the thought “Physcho!” comes to your mind amidst an argument with your boss, you will have some scientific ammunition to back up your theory.