Corporate managers have more psychopathic traits, says study

October 19, 2011

More corporate managers are psychopaths than the general population, a detailed research project has discovered.

The University of British Columbia study “Corporate Psychopathy: Talking the Walk”, published in Behavioural Sciences and the Law, March/April 2010, looked at professionals who had been spotted as potential management material, the people thought to have the skills that could get them to senior positions.

Over a period of two years, 203 of them were interviewed and their performance reviews and 360 degree feedback reviews were scrutinised.

On a test of psychotic traits, nearly 4% had scores that put them at the threshold for being psychopathic, compared to just 0.2% of the general population. Other subjects had scores that were significantly higher, meaning their psychopathology was likely to be significantly worse.

A further 6% of the subjects qualified as potentially or possibly psychopathic (in addition to the 4% who clearly were), compared to just 1.2% of the population as a whole.

Of the nine people rated the most psychopathic, seven were already managers. Two were vice presidents, two were directors, two were managers or supervisors, and one had another management position.

The researchers think that the reason for the success of psychopaths in corporate life is because of their lack of realistic life goals, which gets called "strategic thinking" in corporate-land.

Of course, empathy can get in the way of making profits. Having a psychopathic lack of empathy is seen in the corporate world as “being strong”, being prepared to take tough decisions or being cool during conflict.

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