Monday, May 16, 2016

Psychopathic spectrum disorder 2

Twelve years ago, when Robert Hare published his ground-breaking book on psychopathy, Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us, the author stated that psychopaths can found working the stock market and prowling corporate boardrooms.

Hare has now co-authored, with New York corporate psychologist Paul Babiak, a new book on that very subject.

Snakes in Suits (Regan Books/Harper- Collins) examines the phenomenon of white-collar psychopaths.

Most people associate psychopathy with serial murder and other violent crimes, but the majority of psychopaths are non-violent. Psychopathic executives do share common characteristics with thrill-killers, however.

They are manipulative and controlling, lack emotional depth, and care nothing about harm done to others as they go about their business. Often they are charming and likeable, although they're more likely to turn the charm around those who in positions of power, and act ruthlessly to those who are not.

"Think of a psychopath as a social predator who's attracted to areas where there is some sort of advantage to be obtained," says Hare in an interview.

They go where the action is, and the action is where you can get power and prestige and control.

"If you have somebody who has all the social skills, is fairly intelligent, attractive and raised in the right environment, this person isn't going to rob a bank, he's going to get in the bank." Hare, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia and president of Darkstone Research Group, states that about one per cent of the general population fit the psychopathy profile. That area will be lower in certain areas, such as a convent or a social work agency, and higher in others -- law, politics and business.

"It's almost certainly higher than one per cent in the corporate world," says Hare. "Would you want a manager who scored well (in a psychopathy test) and could operate in a convent or a monastery quite well? Probably not. You'd want someone who's hard-driving and aggressive and can be ruthless when it's important to be ruthless.

"Many of these psychopathic traits can actually be advantageous and useful in business." Hare has developed a number of screening checklists for psychopaths, but doesn't feel companies need to use them when hiring people. He does, however, hope those in charge of hiring would look beyond the interview process, because psychopaths are so good at manipulating an interview to make an impression.

"Quite often we don't thoroughly investigate individuals right at the front end," says Hare, who says a person's credentials often go unchecked. "A psychopath with proper social skills and intelligence and who's reasonably good-looking can easily fake out any personnel manager. It's not very difficult to get in.

"We go by first impressions, and quite often if the impression is very favourable we don't go beyond that." Psychopaths thrive in chaotic situations.

In business, they do well in companies that have upsized or downsized or restructured, where the rules fall into a grey area.

"When things are changing so rapidly, nobody has a chance to keep track of someone," says Hare. "In the old days, you had a stable corporate structure where everyone knew everyone else and you worked your way up. Nowadays, people are parachuted in. There are corporate takeovers. You don't know who's doing what. That's a good environment for (psychopaths)." We hear of those with psychopathic tendencies who have crashed and burned -- Enron executives, for example -- but too often psychopaths continue to thrive.

"One of the themes of our new book is someone who did just that," says Hare.

"Many of these people crash and burn, but a lot of them don't."



    I hired a psychopath! And so far it's working out pretty good. But watch out.

    According to Dr. Robert Hare, the incidence of psychopathy stands at about one per cent in North America, meaning that in Canada alone there could be more than 300,000 psychopaths. The question is: Are you working with or for one, or is one sizing up your offi ce? Signs of a psychopath at work include the following: - Gives the perfect interview, and quickly becomes everybody's favourite employee.

    - Can be charming and exudes confidence and determination -- but may seem too good to be true.

    - Works way into a high-powered position or gets assigned important projects because he/she has associated only with the people who can advance his/her career.

    - Soon becomes controlling and abusive toward other employees, starts to break small rules, manipulate colleagues, and gets caught blaming others for his/her faults.

    - It is later revealed that he/she has been destroying the management while pushing his/her way to the top.

  2. Note that in 2004 we first posted about the possibility that a proportion of corporate managers, including those in health care, could be psychopaths, raised then by two experts on psychopathy, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare. In 2006, they published Snakes in Suits, about the dangers of psychopaths as executives and managers (see post here). However, the issue got scant attention in those days of letting the good times roll.

    Defining Corporate Psychopaths

    Boddy described psychopaths as:

    the 1% of people who have no conscience or empathy and who do not care for anyone other than themselves. Some psychopaths are violent and end up in jail, others forge careers in corporations. The latter group who forge successful corporate careers is called Corporate Psychopaths.
    Corporate Psychopaths as Leaders

    Such people do not make good leaders:

    Although they may look smooth, charming, sophisticated, and successful, Corporate Psychopaths should theoretically be almost wholly destructive to the organizations that they work for. The probable mal-effects of the presence of psychopaths in the workplace have been hypothesized about in recent times by a number of leading experts and commentators on psychopathy.(continued)

  3. (continued)Researchers report that such malevolent leaders are callously disregarding of the needs and wishes of others, prepared to lie, bully and cheat and to disregard or cause harm to the welfare of others. Corporate Psychopaths are also poorly organized managers who adversely affect productivity and have a negative impact on many different areas of organizational effectiveness.

    How Corporate Psychopaths Could Have Become Prevalent

    Despite the dangers posed by such leadership, corporate psychopaths may rise quickly in management:

    Psychologists have argued that Corporate Psychopaths within organizations may be singled out for rapid promotion because of their polish, charm, and cool decisiveness. Expert ccommentators on the rise of Corporate Psychopaths within modern corporations have also hypothesized that they are more likely to be found at the top of current organisations than at the bottom.

    The nature of current corporate culture may facilitate the rise of corporate psychopaths:

    These Corporate Psychopaths are charming individuals who have been able to enter modern corporations and other organisations and rise quickly and relatively unnoticed within them because of the relatively chaotic nature of the modern corporation. This corporate nature is characterized by rapid change, constant renewal and quite a rapid turnover of key personnel. These changing conditions make Corporate Psychopaths hard to spot because constant movement makes their behaviour invisible and combined with their extroverted personal charisma and charm, this makes them appear normal and even to be ideal leaders.

    The destabilization of modern corporations likely lead to the ascendancy of the corporate psychopath:

    However, once corporate takeovers and mergers started to become commonplace and the resultant corporate changes started to accelerate, exacerbated by both globalisation and a rapidly changing technological environment, then corporate stability began to disintegrate. Jobs for life disappeared and not surprisingly employees’ commitment to their employers also lessened accordingly. Job switching first became acceptable and then even became common and employees increasingly found themselves working for unfamiliar organisations and with other people that they did not really know very well.(continued)

  4. (continued)Rapid movements in key personnel between corporations compared to the relatively slower movements in organisational productivity and success made it increasingly difficult to identify corporate success with any particular manager. Failures were not noticed until too late and the offending managers had already moved on to better positions elsewhere. Successes could equally be claimed by those who had nothing to do with them. Success could thus be claimed by those with the loudest voice, the most influence and the best political skills. Corporate Psychopaths have these skills in abundance and use them with ruthless and calculated efficiency. In this way, the whole corporate and employment environment changed from one that would hold the Corporate Psychopath in check to one where they could flourish and advance relatively unopposed.

    Implications for Health Care

    This is chilling. It also unfortunately is highly relevant to health care. As we noted, most recently here, leaders of big finance firms, including those whose failures were most spectacular, now often sit on boards of trustees of hospitals, academic medical centers, medical schools, and their parent universities. Thus, the likelihood that a good proportion of the stewardship of our most prominent not-for-profit health care organizations may be in the hands of psychopaths is not negligible.

    Furthermore, health care organizations have become as unstable and chaotic, in the way these terms were used by Boddy, as finance firms. This would suggest that their current nature would make it as easy for psychopaths to rise to positions of power in them as they may have in financial firms. In health care we certainly have seen the consequences he suggested were due to psychopathic managers, including - intimidation (per Boddy, corporate psychopaths are "prepared to lie, bully and cheat and to disregard or cause harm to the welfare of others"); - self-interest ("pursuit of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement") leading to outrageous executive compensation ("senior level remuneration and reward started to increase more and more rapidly and beyond all proportion to shop floor incomes") - fraud and other crime ("corporate fraud, financial misrepresentation, greed and misbehaviour went through the roof,... ")

    So as we noted in 2006, "a high prevalence of psychopathic managers could explain the prevalence of mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and corruption in the leadership of health care organizations that we have often discussed on Health Care Renewal."!comment=1?src=WNL_bom_160516_MSCPEDIT&uac=60196BR&impID=1098063&faf=1

  5. As Robert Hare, inventor of the PCL-SV and PCL-R Checklists for Psychopathy put it:
    "I always said that if I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do so at the Stock Exchange.”
    The authors begin with explaining the typical behaviors and proclivities of what is referred to as the general “Anti-Social Personality Disorder” (APD) a diagnostic category found in the American Psychiatriac Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition” or “DSM- IV” and found among about 3% of the populations of most—not all-- cultures. They then go on to differentiate, through illustrations and case studies, psychopathy and sociopathy. According to the authors, psychopathy and sociopathy are closely related and overlapping: malignant narcissism; shallow affect; lack of empathy and remorse; sense of entitlement and being destined to rule others; grandiosity; predation; avoidance of taking personal responsibility when things go wrong; adept at manipulation, schmoozing, networking and conning; see other people as objects to be used and disposed of when no longer useful; charismatic; thrive on the edge but also calculatingly cautious; megalomania; cynical and facile deceit; inability to manifest a normal range of human emotions; etc.
    The authors note that psychopathy and sociopathy are considered personality disorders and not forms of mental illness or psychosis per se. Psychosis means that someone cannot, for various reasons, perceive, understand, react to, or operate within, “reality” as most people, free of psychosis would. Psychopaths and sociopaths, often not only have a clear understanding of aspects of reality as most people would understand and react to them, but they even have heightened senses of what is reality for most people and what most people do; and as predators, they use that knowledge for their own advantage. For example, most people are not comfortable telling open and naked lies, and give themselves away when they do so. And since most people think that others are like themselves, when they encounter the absolute certitude, faked sincerity, and look-straight-into-your-eyes intensity of a psychopath or sociopath outright lying to them, or manipulating them, they typically react thinking, that, like themselves, no one could possibly be this certain and appear this sincere if they were lying; that is precisely what con artists, psychopaths and sociopaths are counting on. As Marx put it:
    "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
    Groucho Marx, that is.(continued)

  6. (continued)Psychopaths may be distinguished from sociopaths in one fundamental respect. Whereas sociopaths have no allegiance to, and even contempt for, any values or rules or laws of a wider society beyond their own small sub-group, such as a gang or cult, psychopaths have no allegiance to anything transcendent beyond themselves. Within gangs and cults, at war with society, there are certain codes and sociopaths are capable of holding to forms of allegiance and adherence to transcendent—beyond the individual--values and rules at least of the sub-group. Psychopaths, are total and ultra-individualists and narcissists, and have no allegiances beyond themselves and their own notions of their own narrow and selfish interests. Both psychopaths and sociopaths may not only find the business world a “target-rich” environment, they also can find religious, non-profit, educational, legal, military and political organizations attractive as well.
    According to the authors, the corporate worlds (any organizations run like corporations), are increasingly a “target-rich” environments for psychopaths for four basic reasons:
    1) Some core psychopathic personality traits (“talents”) may seem attractive in job applicants and get them hired; traits such as: assertiveness; ability to appear genuine when faking sincerity and honesty; ability to quickly assess vulnerabilities of people and manipulate them; shallow affect; take-charge narcissism; and expertise manipulating through schmoozing and networking; etc;
    2) Superficial notions of effective management and “leadership” (focus on hierarchy; taking charge; exercise of top-down power and decision-making but with avoidance of accountability; etc) play right into the hands of psychopaths. Typical proclivities for megalomania, malignant narcissism, manipulation, intrigue and using/treating people as mere useful objects or instruments, may appear, to those themselves not real managers or leaders, or even to fellow psychopaths, as “decisive management”; and even “leadership”. Either like attracts like, or, those lacking substance, typically, are not willing to select for substance even if they could recognize it.
    3) The changing nature and structures of businesses often favor psychopaths. As businesses become less hierarchical, more lean, more complex and more flat, and as businesses have to become increasingly flexible and agile, the devolution of power and accountability—or at least accountability—to what were “lower” levels of corporations, then, in such contexts, the “take-charge”, ruthless, demanding, manipulative and apparently “results-oriented” managers, often psychopaths, appear increasingly attractive to those at the top who want power and perks but not proportionate accountability on themselves. What appear to be “take-charge”, as well as “take-the-heat” types, sometimes psychopaths, appear to be perfect for those at the very top who want power and perks but not accountability. Of course, psychopaths typically do the same to those below them.
    4) In the context of increasingly lean, complex and agile businesses and other institutions, the types of individuals who are willing to ignore “cumbersome” and “constraining” rules, laws, best practices in management, and, are ruthless and devoid of empathy, coupled with abilities to con and manipulate as well as “direct”, may be attractive in some fast-paced and ultra-competitive organizations.
    As Plato, one of the first recorded analysts of psychopathy (along with Lao-tze) put it:
    "Those who seek power are invariably the least fit to hold and wield it."

  7. Read the official definition of a psychopath written by Robert Hare, and see if you can score yourself on the PCL-R checklist.

    Robert Hare is a researcher in criminal psychology, and this is officially the "golden standard" for assessing psychopathy. There are 20 items in the PCL-R checklist. Scoring for each item:

    - 0 if it does not apply at all

    - 1 if there is a partial match or mixed information

    - 2 if there is a reasonably good match to the offender.

    Try to be honest, and add them up to get your score.

    Out of a maximum score of 40, the cut-off for the label of psychopathy is 30 in the United States and 25 in the United Kingdom.A cut-off score of 25 is also sometimes used for research purposes.

    Psychopathy Checklist-Revised: Factors, Facets, and Items

    Factor 1

    Facet 1: Interpersonal

    Glibness/superficial charm
    Grandiose sense of self-worth
    Pathological lying

    Facet 2: Affective

    Lack of remorse or guilt
    Emotionally shallow
    Callous/lack of empathy
    Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

    Factor 2

    Facet 3: Lifestyle

    Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
    Parasitic lifestyle
    Lack of realistic, long-term goals

    Facet 4: Antisocial

    Poor behavioral controls
    Early behavioral problems
    Juvenile delinquency
    Revocation of conditional release
    Criminal versatility
    Other items

    Many short-term marital relationships
    Promiscuous sexual behavior