How To Tell if Your Boss Is a “Corporate Psychopath”

Corporate Psychopath Snake

New research on corporate psychopathy reveals their significant, destabilizing influence in the business world. Despite their charm, their self-centered actions can have dire consequences. Recognizing their traits and taking preventative measures are essential for business stability.

New research conducted by Dr. Clive Boddy of Anglia Ruskin University delves into the world of corporate psychopathy, shedding light on how these individuals rise to positions of power and the potential damage they can cause. Boddy, a leading figure in the study of corporate psychopathy, has found that while these individuals comprise around 1% of the adult population, their influence in the business sector can be profoundly destabilizing.

The findings were recently published in the International Journal of Market Research.

Characteristics and Influence

Corporate psychopaths are well-performing individuals who function within corporate and political settings. They often exhibit traits such as superficial charm, intelligence, and pure rationality. Despite appearing as effective leaders, their true nature is characterized by a lack of remorse, irresponsibility, emotional shallowness, and a tendency to cheat. Their primary motivation is the relentless pursuit of money, power, and control.

Dr. Boddy’s research indicates that these individuals are disproportionately likely to hold senior positions in various industries. Their seemingly sociable personality traits can deceive many, but their ruthlessly self-serving behavior can have severe consequences. “The quest for money, power, and control is what drives the corporate psychopath, and they are ruthless and efficient in gaining these,” says Dr. Boddy.

Historical Examples

Historically, there have been several notable figures who exemplified corporate psychopathic traits. Examples include Bernie Madoff, who orchestrated the world’s largest Ponzi scheme, defrauding people of $18 billion; Robert Maxwell, who misappropriated £400 million from his employees’ pension funds; and Ken Lay, founder of Enron, which collapsed in one of history’s most significant accounting scandals.

While corporate psychopaths may appear effective and charming, there are subtle signs that can help employees discern if their boss fits this unsettling profile. One of the most telling indicators is a marked difference in their behavior towards junior and senior colleagues. To superiors, they might present as dedicated and competent, but to those beneath them, they can be overly critical and demeaning.

Such bosses often derive pleasure from belittling employees in public, leading to a toxic work environment where talented individuals often leave, and those who stay suffer from reduced self-confidence and morale. Other signs to watch for include an excessive focus on self-image, a penchant for taking credit for others’ work, and a lack of genuine empathy or remorse.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The corporate world, particularly the influential financial sector, must remain vigilant against these individuals.

Although individuals with certain psychopathic characteristics often rise in the corporate finance world, their impulsive and avaricious behaviors can jeopardize not only organizations but also entire economic systems.

Therefore, recognizing the warning signs is paramount. Dr. Boddy suggests that companies improve reference checks and increase the use of psychometric testing, especially for senior appointments. This approach could help in identifying these individuals early on, ensuring that they do not endanger the economy and society at large.

In conclusion, addressing the issue of corporate psychopathy is not merely about identifying a few problematic individuals. It’s a matter of national and economic importance. The presence of these corporate psychopaths in businesses can undermine the productivity and stability of entire sectors. Recognizing and managing this hidden threat is crucial for the sustainable growth and health of the business world.

Reference: “Insights into the Bernie Madoff financial market scandal which identify new opportunities for business market researchers” by Clive R. Boddy, 9 May 2023, International Journal of Market Research.
DOI: 10.1177/14707853231173260

2 Comments on "How To Tell if Your Boss Is a “Corporate Psychopath”"

  1. It’s too bad we don’t have a similar study and published
    criteria for politicians – they are obviously more dangerous!

  2. I doubt that psychometric tests would make any difference, psychopaths will simply lie. Better to survey previous team members if possible.

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