Why are so many psychopaths the boss?


Is your boss causing you stress? Does your team have retention issues? Are there some days when you think of work and your boss you feel so deflated you want to run back to bed? Does anything sound better then a meeting with your team leader? What about the word psychopath - seem to fit their persona too easily? If yes to any of these read on...

A recent study by a team of researchers from the University of Huddersfield that people with psychopathic personality traits matched with a high IQ are able disguise many of the less appealing aspects of their personality so that they can manipulate their way into positions of power and influence – in another word, strategically sweeten the ‘right’ people so that they become the boss!

Who is a psychopath?

A strict clinical interpretation of a psychopath is someone living with a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviours. However, most psychopaths we meet in the street do not match this extreme diagnosis.

The psychopath most of us know in the office (or at the kitchen table) is someone who displays callous motives and a limited ability to connect empathetically with others. They tend to be devoid of commons social emotions such as shame, guilt and embarrassment; with very limited sense of fear and self-awareness.

How does one become a psychopath? (Note this is a bit of simple explanation of a complex matter)

This is an interesting question and for many years it has been discussed ‘is a psychopath born or created’ – the general feeling is yes to both…

Exciting research being conducted now at various institutions suggest that the psychopaths brain is wired slightly differently in that is constantly seeks reward for their actions. Hence then the link to created concepts; the environment of family, schools, friends, etc often reinforces this need (like a drug) by giving the rewards. Eventually as time passes those around the psychopath get sick of it and move away, leaving a few who default into an easier but burdensome relationship of praise, support, reward…

So back to the research…

As mentioned earlier some interesting stuff reported in ‘Psychopathy, intelligence and emotional responding in a non-forensic sample: an experimental investigation’ by Carolyn Bate, Daniel Boduszek, Kaite Dhingra and Christopher Balethat in the general community we estimate 1% of the population can be defined as psychopaths; however within the business community, in leadership positions this is believed to be as high as 3% plus of the population group.

That is somewhat of an increase, why do you think this is so?

The researchers considered this question strongly and found the correlation between intelligence and psychopathic personality traits married well for a successful career in business. The psychopaths successful in business are not the dangerous type followed by police and secret services, but rather socially charming with degree of self-confidence, but with emotional deficits that tend to limit their ability to identify the challenges they arise in others, particularly their under-reports and in some case their peers. Being both clever and lacking in empathy, they are comfortable ‘stepping over’ others to get what they want in the workplace...

What to do if your boss is a psychopath?

This is a hard one to answer – do a quick google search and you will find expert after expert suggesting the best solution is to find another job; but this is not always an option...

I encourage to practice the art of real-time-resilience and psycho-immunisation. Some steps to take here are:

  1. Identify the patterns of behaviour that your boss displays and avoid or null yourself to them;

  2. Don’t have high expectations for praise or reward from them, in fact expect to be used;

  3. Connect with the benefits the job gives you – either within the workplace or what it pays for outside – and remind yourself of these benefits daily, as you remind yourself why you put yourself in this ‘war-zone’ several times a week;

  4. Be sure to have periods of self-indulgence regularly; yes, get a facial, have a long lunch from time-to-time, take holidays, do some yoga, get a massage – the list is up to you, but be sure to indulge regularly!

  5. And when you know, as you will know, if at any time, it is getting too much then it is time to cut your losses and leave!

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p. +61 (0)2 8213 2442 | admin@shanewarren.com | PO Box 1295 Darlinghurst NSW 2010 Australia