Study shows successful business people are psychopaths

Peter Terlato 14 September 2016

Successful business psychopath corporate

Is your boss cool, calm and collected or totally unstable?

New research shows high ranking corporate executives have greater than expected levels of psychopathic traits, heralding them "successful psychopaths".

When we hear the word psychopath we naturally think of serial killers and violent criminals. However, this isn't necessarily the case. Violence doesn’t make you a psychopath, and not all psychopaths are violent. The broad definition of a psychopath is someone who exhibits repeated antisocial, disinhibited behaviour with diminished empathy or remorse.

Forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks, working alongside research colleagues Dr Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Dr Simon Croom of the University of San Diego, examined the likelihood of psychopathic traits in the business sector as part of his PhD studies.

Studying 261 corporate professionals in the supply chain management industry revealed extremely high prevalence rates of psychopathy. The results found that 21% of workers had clinically substantial levels of psychopathic traits. In comparison, 20% of incarcerated individuals are psychopaths, while just 1% of the general public carry these traits.

"Successful psychopaths" are at the top of the corporate ladder, possessing traits such as insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, charm, ego and superficiality.

Brooks suggests companies undertake psychological screenings as part of their recruitment processes in order to identify these individuals.

"Too often companies look at skills first and then secondly consider personality features," Brooks says.

"Really it needs to be firstly about the candidate’s character and then, if they pass the character test, consider whether they have the right skills."

The research shows successful psychopaths may engage in unethical and illegal business practices and have a toxic impact on other employees.

"Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other," Brooks says.

Brooks is presenting his findings to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Congress, held in Melbourne this week.

It's not only business people who are "successful psychopaths". Chefs, journalists, surgeons and police officers are just some of the careers that attract the most psychopaths.

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Picture: Shutterstock

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