Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Psychopaths in the Workplace

Fast Company magazine ran a cover story in the July 2005 issue entitled "Is Your Boss A Psychopath". The article was written by Alan Deutschman. In the article, Deutschman says "psychopaths succeed in conventional society in large measure because few of us grasp that they are fundamentally different from ourselves. We assume that they, too, care about other people's feelings. This makes it easier for them to "play" us." Included in the same article are tips from Martha Stout, the author of The Sociopath Next Door. The tips: 1) Suspect flattery - outrageous flattery is often an attempt to draw you into a psychopath's snare. If you feel your ego is being massaged, you may be dealing with a psychopath. 2) Take labels and titles with a grain of salt - just because someone is older or has a higher position does not mean his or her moral judgment is better than yours. 3) Always question authority when it conflicts with your own sense of right and wrong. 4) Never agree to help a psychopath conceal his or her suspicious activities at work. 5) Never confuse fear of your boss with feelings of respect. 6) Realistically assess the damage to your life.

Mr. Deutschman also quoted Dr. Robert Hare in his article in Fast Company magazine. Dr. Hare, along with Dr. Paul Babiak, an industrial psychologist, now market a personality test called the B-Scan, that companies can use to identify job candidates that "may have an MBA but lack a conscience". Hare went on to say in the article "There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You'll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one's position, you have the power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something.

Unfortunately, psychopaths in the workplace are just as hard to spot as they are in romantic relationships. Psychopaths can conceal their behavior behind normal facades.