Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

At the risk of my boss reading this, here's an oldie but a goodie: Is Your Boss a Psychopath?
Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the "selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others" category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions. Sound like anyone you know? (Corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints "chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle," the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.)

A good point is made in that some psychopaths are created, not born that way, and American individualistic corporate culture is a petri dish for this type of behavior. They get ahead in part because of their traits.

Of course, cynics might say that it can be an advantage to lack a conscience. That's probably why major investors installed Dunlap as the CEO of Sunbeam: He had no qualms about decimating the workforce to impress Wall Street. One reason outside executives get brought into troubled companies is that they lack the emotional stake in either the enterprise or its people. It's easier for them to act callously and remorselessly, which is exactly what their backers want.

The good news is that a productive narcissist makes a great balance for an executive psychopath. Or a productive obsessive. It's all just one big mental hospital in a large corporation. (See the related NY Times short on presidents with mental illness symptoms.)

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