Organisational psychopath, which is also often known as corporate psychopath (or executive psychopath, industrial psychopath or organisational sociopath) (Boddy, 2011), can be explained as the “intra-species predators that use charm, manipulation, intimidation and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs” (Hare, 1993; as cited in Millon, et. al., 1998). Before discussing in-depth into the concept of corporate or organisational psychopath, the word ‘psychopath’ will be firstly explained and discussed. For that, based on the definition provided in A Dictionary of Psychology, psychopath is explained or defined as follow: “a mental disorder roughly similar to anti-social personality disorder, but with emphasis on affective and inter-personal traits such as superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, lack of remorse and callousness” (Boddy, 2005). From such a definition, it would then not hard to sense that organisational psychopath is a term associated with negative connotation, with the focus is on the context within an organization. Based on the estimate provided by Hare (1993), it is believed that roughly 1% of the populations are psychopaths, whom are operating within business organisation. That would be considered a serious statistics, considering that the adverse impacts from organisational psychopath to people in an organisation would be huge.
In this case study, Richard is an organisational psychopath whom his attitudes and behaviours will be analysed. From analysing the case study, evidences or symptoms on which Richard can be categorised as an organisation psychopath will be examined, with supports from opinions from scholars. As such, in the first part of the report as follow, the analysis will focus on how Richard behaviours support the idea that he is an organisational psychopath. Then, in the second part of the report however, the focus will be on how to deal with organisational psychopath, in case the reader is so unfortunately working together or close with an organisation psychopath.
Theoretically, it would be hard or impossible for a person to live at the expense of the rest of the humanity. However, that is not true for organizational psychopath as they will lie their ways towards achieving their goals, at the expenses of others – without any feeling of empathy, being shame, or remorse (Verstappen, 2011; Bracken, 2007; Caponecchia, Sun, and Wyatt, 2012). For those psychopaths, lying is becoming very easy and natural for them. Indeed, according to Verstappen (2011), those psychopaths can even pass through polygraphs easily, when they are lying. For even some of those psychopaths that are expert at lying, they may even cheat those trained psychiatrists.
For those psychopaths, lying is the way of which they can easily get up the corporate ladders, or in moving towards higher position in an organization or society. Through lying, they can easily win over the trust and confidence of others, such as the managers or their supervisor, so that they can get promoted faster and easily (Ray and Ray, 1982).
The case study had indicated convincingly and obviously that Richard is a liar. For example, it is learnt by other people whom know Richard for some time to find out that he is actually a habitual and impulsive liar. He is also someone that never keeps his promise. In case that someone had caught him lying, he is also fast to switch topics. Such patterns is recurring and the opinions or viewpoints that he is a liar is known or acknowledged by most of the people whom know him.
Psychopath can appear very friendly, nice and easy to get along with people. They can be initially seen as of excellent interpersonal skills, and of charisma. Perhaps that is because those psychopath often able to tell other people what they want to hear – and make them easy to win over the trust or heart of other people (Clarke, 2007; Boddy, 2014; Stevens, Deuling, and Armenakis, 2012). With such characters, those organization psychopaths can get along with the colleagues easily – at least initially – in an organization.
Such description definitely fit Richard, whereby he is a person with expertise in sweet talking (not to mention that he is also good looking as well). Through sweet talks, he often able to leave a great impression on the managers, as he will speak only those words that the managers want to hear.
As argued by Verstappen (2011), psychopaths are often irresponsible, and being irresponsible is perceived by them as natural because the psychopaths do not ever think that problems are created due to their own problems or fault. As such, blaming is natural and a habit for the psychopath. For those psychopaths, problems or wrongdoings are apparently always the fault of other people (Boddy, 2006; Pech, and Slade, 2007).
Richard is definitely an irresponsible person, as he always left the assignments or projects to the others – and fast to switch to new projects or assignments, and that resulting in a situation whereby other people have to clean up the mess for him. Worse, when failures occur, Richard will blame the others – often the superiors or co-workers. He believe that his self-serving behaviours is natural and ‘justified’
Leadership is about setting examples, engaging the others, motivating people towards making a difference and accomplishing goals or objectives of an organization (Mullins, 2007). For that, it would be very clear from the discussions presented earlier that an organizational psychopath would not be an effective leader. This is quite obvious for Richard, as it is learned that his leadership style can best be described as ‘the great unfinished’ mundane activities.
Organizational psychopaths are often those that like to manipulate other person with empathy, as well as without any sense of guilt despite the harm they did to others (Boddy, 2005). This is because that those psychopaths will only look after their own interests, for their own benefits. This is very different from ordinary people whereby they would have empathy, to care for others sincerely, a characteristic that make us human (Verstappen, 2011; Boddy, 2006; Pech, and Slade, 2007). Nevertheless, it would be however inaccurate to mention that psychopaths are someone that do not exhibit empathy behaviors. Indeed, psychopath can pretend to act as if they care, and they empathize. It is however very unfortunately that the manipulative behaviors of psychopaths make them somewhat effective in large organization – given that they know how to get along with people, manipulate others, and to influence others so that they can move up the corporate ladder (Boddy, Ladyshewsky and Galvin, 2010; Stevens, Deuling, and Armenakis, 2012).
It is then not coincidence that Richard is also someone that manipulates others. This can be seen from the observation that he can lie in front of people, while acting as he is candid and honest – in order to earn the trust from the others as well as to ensure that other people trust him. In certain occasions, it is also noted that he would not hesitate to stabs the other people in the back as they turned away so that he can get the trust from them. Indeed, it can be even argue that Richard is an experienced psychopath, given that he has good insight into the needs and weaknesses of other people, as well as on how to take advantage from the others and let them believe on him in order to help him to rise to higher position in the organization. It is only after that those employees being used became disheartened after becoming the victim of Richard.
Through taking advantage of other people, one characteristic of organizational psychopath is that they exhibit a parasitic existence in an organization (Babiak and Hare, 2006). It would not be hard to understand why the organization psychopath can become a successful or effective parasite in an organization. First of all, psychopaths parasitically claim the credit for work they have not done; while being fast in blaming other people for things that go wrong – even that they are the main culprits that give rise to such problems (Boddy, 2006). Yet (as discussed earlier), they are also manipulative and good at acting as if they care and can mix well with others.
The description above actually fir the case of Richard, whereby he had actually never perform any assignment completely or successfully, and it is common for him to leave the mess to others to clean up. In a way, he is actually the parasite that never contributes much to the performance or development of the organization that he is working within. Aside from that, it is also mentioned that Richard shamelessly took credit for other people’s work, which also include that he often request others to help him to complete his work. In a way, he does not want any responsibilities, not willing to contribute, and yet want the benefits or rewards from the work done by others.
In short, it is obvious that Richard is an organizational psychopath, as he fit many of the characteristics of being a psychopath. Some of such characteristics as discussed above include: lying, acting as friendly person, irresponsible, manipulative as well as being a parasite in an organization. In the next part of this essay, the focus will be on providing advice for readers on how to deal with organizational psychopath such as Richard.
It is discussed that psychopath can be problematic people to handle or dealt with within an organization, as they tend to lie, often manipulative but still able or good at acting as if that they are friendly, caring and supportive of others. It is then not unreasonable to expect that people that unaware of such psychopath can be hurt badly – especially when they are being manipulated, used, accused or blamed by psychopath, which can affect their career prospects negatively in an organization – all due to the wrongdoings or to-be-blamed behaviours of psychopaths. Fortunately, there are some possible suggestions that can be provided to reader on how to deal with organization psychopaths.
As psychopath is someone that are good at playing about the perceptions and emotions of other people, it is definitely not easy to deal with them – of which even expert can be cheated and left bewildered by them (Hare, 1994). As such, knowledge and understandings on psychopaths is critical, or perhaps the very first step to deal with psychopath. For that, some of the characteristics of psychopath that anyone should aware of include ethe following:
- They often appear friendly
- They can appear charismatic, charming and seductive
- They often know how to sweet talk to achieve their aim
- They have no empathy
- To do whatever to achieve their personal goals – without concerning the welfare of others
- They are good at manipulating other people, and take advantage at weak victims
- They are good to earn the trust from others
- They contribute very little, and would often push responsibilities to others, or blame others when things go wrongs
- Perhaps more importantly, even experts can get cheated
Anyone will likely be subjected to the harm of psychopaths when he cannot detect the lies placed upon him by the psychopath. As such, and due to the fact that the psychopath are excellent at lying and cheating, it is crucial to pick up the skills to detect lies. In a way, to deal successfully with organizational psychopath, one must be able to think very critically, independently, not easily being influenced, and be sharp in catching potential lies. It is very important not to have only single perspective on someone or something, and it can be useful to be open-minded and be critical in analyzing or dealing with a person (whom exhibit some characteristics of psychopath) or situation. For that, Leedom (2011) does suggest that it is valuable to get more information on someone – so that we can judge someone in a more accurate manner.
Nevertheless, it is acknowledge and aware that it may not be easy to detect the lies of psychopath, as even experts may get conned or cheated (Bracken, 2007; Caponecchia, Sun, and Wyatt, 2012). It may be possible that we might need some time – so to better observe somebody, if he is actually an organizational psychopath. Anyway, the moral of the story is that we should be alert and careful when dealing with others, especially those with some signs of being a psychopath.
It is crucial to also aware that psychopath often chooses the easy route. Too often, when the psychopaths find out that a particular target is hard to be manipulated, the psychopaths will choose other people – of which can be manipulated in an easier way. In that sense, acknowledge the importance of being string, as that would make you appear as a hard or tough target for the psychopaths. In a way, you can effectively prevent you from even falling into the potential victim lists.
There are certain situations whereby psychopaths can get to the victim easier, such as in place like single bars and foreign airport. The reason is that the victims at such places tend to be lonely, and relatively easily susceptible to the manipulation or tricks by the psychopath. As such, in order to prevent falling traps into organizational psychopath (i.e., particularly for those that think that they may be more likely being subjected to the manipulation by organizational psychopath), try to avoid these places. Alternatively, someone should stay more alert when they are situated in those ‘high risk’ places, so that they get their attention high on potential psychopath that want to manipulate or exploit them.
It is perhaps true for ordinary or normal people to truly understand organizational psychopath. However, an important advice is that be sure that you acknowledge that those organizational psychopaths are different from you. For instance, they do not have and feelings of empathy or remorse. They may not feel guilt even they had exploit you, manipulate you and bring huge troubles to you (even after you had assisted them). If people can get that idea, then they will not get caught unexpectedly or surprisingly – after becoming the victim of psychopath (such as stay in disbelief that why certain organizational psychopath do certain things).
If you ever suspect that you are working together with organizational psychopath, then you have a real and urgent need to protect yourself. First of all, you need to become more systematic, and ensure that documentations are available. You may need to keep the relevant hard copies or documents in a secure place, and may expect to use them whenever necessary. In case when the psychopath wants to blame you or exploit you, you will have the necessary evidences to protect yourself.
One of the best ways to deal with organizational psychopath is to disassociate or get rid of them (Psychopath Victims, 2013). This will be easy for the managers, if they discover that someone is actually an organizational psychopath within their team. However, that may not be easy for the employees. For the employees, it is still crucial to voice up to the management that they desire to avoid or exit the relationship with certain organizational psychopath.
The reason that it is easy for organizational psychopaths to manipulate or exploit others is that they know about the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of other people well. For that, it is important for someone to know your own weaknesses. This will make you to stay awake and alert to the potential manipulation on your weaknesses.
It is definitely very challenging to deal with organizational psychopath, but to deal successfully and effectively with organizational psychopath (while protecting you yourself) is inevitable. This is because that organizational psychopath is not uncommon. This is because as discussed earlier, and based on the estimate provided by Hare (1993), it is believed that roughly 1% of the populations are psychopaths, whom are operating within business organisation. That would be considered a serious statistics, considering that many people would like to deal with an organisational psychopath in their career life (as anyone will likely need to deal with various different people in modern business organisation). Perhaps worse, it is very hard for untrained person to detect them, as the organisational psychopath, by definition are those who appear friendly, caring, and charming; but will resort to manipulation and lying techniques to achieve their goals, without regards of the needs or feelings of others.
In this report, the case study on Richard is used for analyzing and demonstration purposes. It is discussed that Richard is indeed an organizational psychopath, given that his behaviors and actions fit many of these characteristics: lying, acting as friendly person, irresponsible, manipulative as well as being a parasite in an organization. Fear not, some advices are also provided, for the readers to deal successfully with those potentially very dangerous organizational psychopath. Some of these advices provided include: be educated and aware of characteristics of organizational psychopath, learn to detect lies, start strong to avoid being the easy target for organizational psychopath, avoid putting yourself in high risk situation, expect and understand that psychopaths are different from you, and systematic and maintain documentations to protect yourself, stay far away from organizational psychopath, as well as be aware of our own weaknesses, so to ensure that the weaknesses are not being manipulated by the organizational psychopath.
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