Friday, September 02, 2011

Why so Quick to Call Business Leaders Psychopaths?

I was reading an article over at CNBC entitled "Think Your Boss Is a Psychopath? That May Be True."
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, which researchers regard as the "gold standard" for assessing this personality disorder, said Paul Babiak, one of the researchers who conducted the study and co-author of the book, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work."

By contrast, just 1 percent of the general population is categorized as having psychopathic tendencies. Admittedly, it’s just one study, but it suggests that business leaders could be four times as likely to be psychopathic than the average person....

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."


I have to wonder about this study and the way that CNBC presented this article. It makes it sound like business leaders who are psychopaths are a dime a dozen. Why are they picking on business leaders and the corporate world? Is it because the study authors or CNBC have it in their own minds that corporate bosses are corrupt, kind of like the author of this kooky article entitled "Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths"?

I have taken a continuing education course from Robert Hare, the co-author of the book mentioned above and in the course, he told us that it is a very dangerous thing to diagnose someone with psychopathy. We dealt in the course with adults and juveniles who were jailed for violent and other crimes. Often times, Hare and his colleagues would warn us to be very careful in our diagnosis, lest someone who was charged with a crime end up being discriminated against because of the psychopathy label if untrue. Shouldn't his co-author, Paul Babiak, use the same good advice? Should he use a study of only 200 people to make such a generalization?

Why business leaders? Why not study SEIU members or liberal politicians? Where is that study?

12 Comments:

Blogger JoeCavy4 said...

Wow! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. How is a big CEO different from a big politician, big bureaucrat, big priest, or big whatever?

I have taken several child development classes. Labeling and diagnosing is a very big deal. The very "word" is what is a big deal. This person sounds like they are generalizing and demonizing. It is a tactic to make someone a non-person.

7:12 PM, September 02, 2011  
Blogger ZorroPrimo said...

...because I have worked for some of them.

Seriously. One guy I worked for (who was close personal friends with Reagan) made Hannibal Lecter look like Fred Rogers.

You don't rise to the top by being frikkin nice. You eat people who get in your way.

As a side note, I highly recommend the British political drama trilogy The House of Cards, To Play the King, and The Final Cut starring the late, great Ian Richardson as Prime Minister Francis Urquhart.

Macchiavelli was no choir boy.

7:32 PM, September 02, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

survival of the fittest. these people know, with absolute certainty, that if they show weakness they'll be pulled from their high tower and ripped to shreds.

i provide support for a number of executives and i know first-hand the terror they feel daily, knowing the wolves are at the door all the time...on top of the fact that they have to be right 100% of time and seen as calm and professional...unless they are women of course, in which case they lock themselves in the bathroom, are unavailable until noon or hold themselves up with their hands as they walk down the hall.

(these are all true tales of corporate life from my client's perspective.)

8:57 PM, September 02, 2011  
Blogger br549 said...

Why business leaders? Why not study SEIU members or liberal politicians? Where is that study?

Is this where someone is supposed to say "Because it doesn't fit the agenda."? I felt like Roger rabbit having to sing out "Two Biiiiiiiiits!"

6:49 AM, September 03, 2011  
Blogger Ern said...

Because of my education and skills, I have spent a great deal of time in contact with senior executives of major corporations. I have known some who were fine people, but, as a group, senior executives of major corporations are substantially worse than the general populace. I'd expect it to be the same with successful politicians, etc.

8:47 AM, September 03, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

ern, i think the blandness and mild cruelty of the bureaucrat is a necessary attribute due, in most part, to environment and training given what they have to do in a day.

the general populace tends to be much more emotive in their reaction to things, and this may be a distinction without much of a difference other than the fact that most people don't have the responsibility of steering a corporate entity and would probably unravel quickly under such stress.

6:48 AM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger Griya Mobil Kita said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.
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9:50 AM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger tomcal said...

My observation has been that almost everyone who achieves high level positions, public or private, is a little psychotic, or at least sociopathic. You can't get there without at least some nacissism.

At the highest levels, the public and private sectors are so intertwined through their K Street lobbyists it's hard to tell the difference.

2:21 PM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger The Captain said...

Anyone who has achieved more than the author of the book being pimped via the referenced "study" is by definition evil and deserving of being dehumanized. Envy is as much a cancer of the soul as entitlement is. In this case what's being displayed is a variant of penis envy. By an ostensibly male human, no less.

Viewing the world in binary terms is one mark of a deficient intellect. Unless you're a computer.

3:30 PM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger ZorroPrimo said...

"Why business leaders? Why not study SEIU members or liberal politicians? Where is that study?"

Valid points. Taken.

7:41 PM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger MarkD said...

Your previous post was about how terrible the employment situation is. Of course corporate CEOs are psychopaths.

Government policies making investing and hiring unattractive could only happen in an alternate universe where Obama is not president.

It's those CEOs. I"m sure of it.

7:51 PM, September 04, 2011  
Blogger David said...

A little late to this topic. However, how do they gather the statistics?

2:13 AM, September 07, 2011  

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