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Could your boss be a psychopath? Science says the odds are scarily high

This may not come as much of a shock for those working in business

Could your boss be a psychopath? Science says the odds are scarily high
14 September 2016

Good luck to you if you work in the business sector because your boss is probably a nutcase.

A new study has found that around 21 per cent of corporate business professionals display high levels of psychopathic traits, and at the top of the chain of command that figure is even higher. While those of you who work in business may be thinking “Well yeah, obviously. My boss is a complete whopper”, for the rest of us it’s a pretty frightening statistic.

The study, conducted by Bond University in Australia and the University of San Diego looked at how frequently psychopathic traits crop up in those working within the business sector.

The team examined 261 people working in the supply chain management industry and found that 21 per cent showed ‘clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits’. That’s compared to just 1 in 100 of us mere mortals.

But what exactly are these traits that we keep mentioning? Let’s take a look at some of the key ones:

  • Cunning and manipulative

  • Lack of empathy

  • Pathological lying

  • No sense of remorse or guilt

  • Exaggerated self-estimation

Psychopaths may appear charming on the exterior but deep down they’re callous individuals who lack basic emotions that most of us take for granted. However, as it turns out a lack of guilt and a deceptive streak may be just what you need to get rich.

According to the same researchers who conducted the study the amount of financially successful psychopaths has risen dramatically following the financial crisis of 2008, with other studies showing that people with psychopathic behaviours could now make up anywhere between three and 21 per cent of the world’s corporate elite.

The increasing numbers of psychopaths working in business could spell trouble for the industry as they tend to manipulate the people around them and are quite happy to play people off against each other if the result benefits them. Not the kind of person you want in charge of your team really is it?

So we’ve established that being a psycho is great for making money, what it’s also great for is crime. In fact one in five people in the prison system also show psychopathic characteristics. If you hadn’t spotted that’s basically the same percentage as in business. What’s worrying about this is that because of their charm and deceptiveness these types of prisoner are often released earlier, with a study in Canada finding that prisons grant early release to psychopaths almost three times more often than they do to other prisoners.

“Psychopathic individuals are often remarkable actors known for their ability to charm and manipulate others.” Says Steve Porter, a psychologist from the University of British Columbia to the National Post.

“Despite their long and diverse criminal records and much higher risk posed to the community, psychopaths appear to be able to convince decision-makers throughout the correctional system that they can be reintegrated into society successfully.” 

Hannibal Lecter? Not so much.

But if you are working in the business sector with a scheming, manipulative liar in charge of you then don’t worry, because the researchers who conducted the study have also developed a tool that can help to weed out successful psychopaths during the recruitment process. Meaning that hopefully psychos in the workplace will soon be a thing of the past.

If you’re still not convinced then perhaps you should start looking for a new job!