Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Businesses Privacy

Is Your Boss a Psychopath? 878

Dogers writes "Robert Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist, has recently been applying his test 'Is your boss a psychopath' to businessmen and has found some disturbing results. From the article: 'Why wouldn't we want to screen them? We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?'. Citing Enron and Worldcom management as an example, it seems a reasonable argument. The same source also has a quiz (magazine produced it seems) which allows you to test your own boss, too!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

Comments Filter:
  • easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by justforaday ( 560408 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:13AM (#13354838)
    Yes! Next question?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:37AM (#13355033)
      "Is your employee a whining crybaby?"

      For each question, score two points for "yes," one point for "somewhat" or "maybe," and zero points for "no."

      1) Does he/she frequently post on geek websites, complaining about you being a psychopath?

      2) Does your employee hate Microsoft, IBM, the Patent Office, and/or does he feel that somehow his future is threatened by them?

      3) Does your employee believe SCO may have a case?

      4) Is your employee constantly whining about management decisions like purchasing a Microsoft Exchange server or cisco routers?

      5) Did your employee get overly agitated when you decided to pay SCO for their Linux Licenses?

      6) Does he/she often speak in a language uncomprehensible to human beings? using words such as "packet" "protocol" or "xfree"

      7) Does he/she look frustrated when you make bold management decisions, such as assigning half the company to a research project about sending electricity over fax machines?

      8) Is your employee constantly whining about not having enough time or resources in order to achieve his goals?

      1-4 | Our condolences. Your employee may be dead.
      5-7 | Be cautious about not approaching him.
      8-12 | Be afraid of approaching him.
      13-16 | Be very afraid of approaching him.
    • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:46AM (#13355108) Journal
      What about Politicians and political commentators?

      or does that occupation render them immune?

      The problem is that most folks have a natural inclination to disbelieving that sort of thing, especially if it involves their own fearless leader.

      The unbeleivability factor of it is perfect camoflage.

      • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:57AM (#13355192)
        Are you kidding? For those kinds of jobs, being a psychopath is practically a prerequisite.
        • by ( 142825 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:32AM (#13355488) Homepage
          One psychopath that I worked for was Barry Lewis. He would have screaming fits on the phone. After he refused to pay me for a month, he still wanted me to spend time working for him, when I told him that I'd gather what he wanted, once I received payment, he then started calling me about 20 times a day.

          He was convicted of harassment. The ADA told me that Barry Lewis threatened him and some of the other employees of the court.
        • If you read the article, narcism is a pre-requisit. The difference between Andrew Festow and Bill Gates is namely that Bill Gates (while big headed and meglomaniacal) thinks of the company as an extension of himself. Festow saw the company as a means to an end.

          Narcisists are very beneficial to a company. Psychopaths will sell it and the shareholders up the river as soon as it benefits his self interest. And even more scary, psychopaths LOOK for those oppertunities because it thrills them.

          • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @01:12PM (#13356294)
            Googles founders are not narcisists or psychopaths and they are doing just fine in competition with Microsoft.

            A psychopath definately should not be boss, not because they run the company bad fiscally, but because they run the country into the ground to make the company successful. Having a narcisist is not much better if you want a clean environment and good health.

            Do you think food companies give a damn about our health? They want us to have cancer and heart disease because its profitable. Do you think the government cares about our health? They want healthcare prices to rise above our limits and they dont want you getting drugs from Canada. DO you think doctors care about our health? They want to just sell the drugs the drug companies bribe them to sell.

            Psychopaths are EVERYWHERE and unless we create some ethical standards for certain positions or even for getting certain degrees in college its not going to stop. If everyone who wants a masters degree or who wants to be a boss has to pass a psychological screening in the same way we have to pass a drug test I don't think there would be a problem. If we don't do this, then expect our bosses to destroy the world for profit because psychopaths do not care about the world, you do.
  • New Record (Score:5, Funny)

    by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:14AM (#13354844) Homepage
    I think that this could be the very first Slashdot thread composed entirely of AC posts.

    Minus this one of course.
  • by Ckwop ( 707653 ) * <> on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:15AM (#13354848) Homepage
    If Psycopathy has a genetic component, then has it survived natural selection. Surely in ancient times psycopathy would not have got you far. You'd likely be expelled from a society or likely killed.

    It's too common to be a mutation because genetic diseases often have percentage rates of 0.01% or below.

    It makes me wonder!


    • by CDarklock ( 869868 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:19AM (#13354887) Homepage Journal
      > Surely in ancient times psycopathy would not
      > have got you far. You'd likely be expelled
      > from a society or likely killed.

      I'd think the psychopaths would probably be the ones doing the killing.
    • If Psycopathy has a genetic component, then has it survived natural selection.

      Putting aside the arguments over "natural selection", it remains in the gene pool because it works. There are often situations that require someone to push through the bullcrap and make something happen. These sociopaths are far more suited to this task because they care nothing for the consequences, or who's opinion they ignore, or who's feelings they hurt. They may not even care about who lives or dies. (Which in some situations, someone will die no matter what course is taken.) The problem has always been that they are a tough fit for any society they create. As the article says, they want the next thrill immediately. Yet emergency situations requiring their brashness tend to be very rare.
    • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:29AM (#13354963) Homepage
      The reason is quite simple.

      Much of our history has been dominated by violence, and our ancestors are those who survived violent episodes. Either by being very smart, very cute, or very evil.

      Psychopaths are overwhelmingly male and psychopathic behaviour is generally evidenced by the ability to hurt and harm others without the usual remorse and empathic pain that most people feel.

      The reason why only a small fraction of people show this behaviour is because (a) it's quite counterproductive in stable societies, so quickly gets pushed into marginal genepools (the bad boys of any village), and (b) it has a large component of environmental triggering, meaning that many people (mainly men, again) can exhibit psychopathic behavour given the right circumstances.

      Why are psychopaths so charming? Partly because it works well in conflict situations. Partly because it acts to deflect attention. Selection works at the gene level, and the charming psychopathic genes have survived civilisation much better than the pure violence ones.

      • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:53AM (#13355160) Journal
        It's very easy to make up just so stories.

        If there were no psychopaths in our society you'd have a story about how they're weeded out. If society were made up entirely of psychopaths you'd have a story about how psychopaths have what it takes to survive. And if there were a small proportion of psychopaths you'd give the story you've just given. When you don't back up your claims by actual figures and real predictions then what you are doing has as much validity as scholastic theology and only serves to give evolutionary biologists a bad name.

      • Psychopaths are overwhelmingly male

        Wow, you must not date much.

      • The truth is that we all possess the innate ability to suppress normal social behaviors and to engage in violence under "necessary" conditions. That is a proven survival trait. It is the basis of military training. However the psychopath may be miswired to suppress social behaviors too easily, or all the time.
    • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:33AM (#13354996) Homepage Journal
      If Psycopathy has a genetic component, then has it survived natural selection. Surely in ancient times psycopathy would not have got you far. You'd likely be expelled from a society or likely killed.

      To me, it seems like an extension of the "survival of the fittest" meme. People who can manipulate others and use influence to benefit their own ends usually wind up getting more wealth, beautiful women attracted to such, etc etc. Think of the elite hunter-gatherers, who had a ton of food and was attractive to mates due to their cunning and ability to provide, thusly spreading their genes further.

    • Or it could just be some form of all-too-common brain damage.
    • Being a psychopath in a cooperative society is an expression of the Prisoner's Dilemma. You increase your own reward at the expense of everyone else. As long as their are few psychopaths, the few do well. If everyone were a psychopath, then society would fall apart.
    • The nature of the sociopath or psychopath is such that he is favored to be an early winner in any competitive situation since he is unencumbered by the moral and ethical constraints that shackle the rest of us.

      That being the case, the sociopath is likely to breed earlier and with a larger number of partners than the norm. So any genetic contribution to sociopathy is likely to spread widely through a population (since societies tend not to kill off their young until they've done something really, really, b

    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @12:30PM (#13355952)
      > If Psycopathy has a genetic component, then has it survived natural selection. Surely in ancient times psycopathy would not have got you far. You'd likely be expelled from a society or likely killed.

      Or, more likely yet, you'd become the alpha of the group.

  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:15AM (#13354852) Homepage
    Should we screen everyone then? On man's psycopath is aanother man's genius.
    Although there are psychopaths out there- I had an internship where a boss of mine spend 10 minutes screaming at me for stapling something crooked.
  • by BlackCobra43 ( 596714 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:16AM (#13354855)
    to basically earn your way through life by exploiting and berating underlings, some of which are inevitably of equal or even superior skill and/or intellect to you.
    • Actually, no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:59AM (#13355209) Journal
      I've actually worked with nice people in management positions. Even from the bad managers I've seen, the ways in which one can be "bad" at one's job are more diverse than being a psychopath or sociopath. Psychopaths do exist, they're not a majority.

      Also, for a start, I don't think that berating someone is necessarily bad (much less a sign of being a psychopath). People make mistakes, or do something wrong, or whatever. _I_ make mistakes. I like to think a good manager would tell me when that's the case. (But don't blow it out of proportion, and don't forget the positive feedback too when/if that's deserved.)

      I also don't think that "exploiting" someone is a crime. For better or worse, selling my work to a company is the way the economy works. A manager is there to manage and organize that process.

      You can think of it as a necessary evil. Personally I don't even consider it "evil". If the boss is doing a good job of organizing things, that's less chaos for me to deal with, so that's actually improving my life.

      And, anyway, if they do their job well, I see no problem with them earning a living out of that.

      There _are_ ways to be an asshole about it, and yes I've seen awful assholes in management positions. But there are also ways of doing that job without being an asshole.
    • by rho ( 6063 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:43AM (#13355564) Homepage Journal
      Since this is Slashdot, I will couch the example in terms Slashdotters can understand:

      You have a nerd. He's smart. He wants to do what he wants to do, and what he wants to do is almost never go through the bug-list and fix bugs. He wants to do new and clever things which may or may not be of any value to anybody but the nerd.

      You have a boss. He berates and exploits the nerd to get him to do his fucking job, which is maintaining and supporting the application he wrote which has a bug-list as long as his arm.

      If you don't want to work in a structured corporate environment where you have a boss, and maybe a boss's boss, then quit and start your own business. Except if you do, I should warn you that you'll soon start to understand where your boss was coming from as you discover than people are, by and large, lazy and ungrateful shits.

      In the microcosm of business, you need slaves and you need taskmasters. Being a slave sucks, and the taskmasters are sucky, but the cotton isn't going to pick itself.

  • by Amoeba ( 55277 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:16AM (#13354857)
    So apparently I'm in the Be Very Afraid range. Remind me to never go into business for myself or I'll eventually kill the bastard.

  • Quiz? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:16AM (#13354860) Homepage
    God, it's one of those magazine quizzes that are entitled "Are you a homosexual? Find out" and the questions range from "Do you like women?" to "Do you like men?". I hate obvious quizzes.
    Is he a con artist or master manipulator? Who would have guessed!
  • 15 points (Score:4, Informative)

    by protomala ( 551662 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:16AM (#13354866) Homepage
    My last boss was the demon itself! There was a week when every single day someone departed from the job, you know 5 people in a week! If you someday find a colombian called Mauricio Roman that says he studied in MIT... run!
  • Politicians (Score:4, Funny)

    by AnonymousJackass ( 849899 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:17AM (#13354869)
    OK, this must mean that about 95% of politicians are psychopaths:
    - glib and superficially charming
    - grandiose sense of self-worth
    - pathological liar
    - master manipulator
    - lack of remorse or guilt
    - shallow
    - callous and lacking in empathy
    - fail to accept responsibility for his own actions

    Yep, that's a politician alright.
    • Re:Politicians (Score:5, Insightful)

      by schtum ( 166052 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:33AM (#13354994)
      It's practically a pre-requisite. You're being modded "Funny" because there's no "Damn, he's right".
    • by jgardn ( 539054 ) <> on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:53AM (#13355159) Homepage Journal
      I would laugh and agree with you, but I can't. See, I have taken the time to meet and actually discuss the real issues with these folks.

      Yes, they come off to casual observers as being glib and superficially charming. But that is because when they are campaigning they are meeting literally hundreds and thousands of people a day. Try doing that and not acting glib. I saw an example of this last night. One of the people in our group complained about a recent decision by the city council. How many times have they heard this? I am guessing at least 10, maybe 20 times a day. Anyway, the one gal gives the canned, practiced response. How many times had she given this? At least as many times as she heard the complaint. It was a reasonable response, but you had to think about it for a while to understand the real issues. But to the casual observer, it was glib, superficially charming, and meaningless.

      Politicians aren't generally liars or grandiose. Those are the ones you see on TV and read about in the paper. The vast majority of politicians only show up when it's election time, and they have to attempt to manipulate you to vote for them. All of them must make this rite of passage. The only ones that don't are those who are in appointed positions.

      As far as callous and shallow, this is again a trait that the minority has. The vast majority, on both sides of the aisle, really care about what they doing and are pouring their heart and soul into their work. They can't care about everything, though. They can't even know about everything. So while you may see one at a funeral who isn't touched, remember that this is probably the third funeral of the week, and that they probably don't know the guy personally or at least to the point where they have become emotionally attached. After all, it's only politics, and if you become emotionally attached to people prepare for serious heartbreak when they endorse your opponent or turn on you after a bad decision.

      Lack of remorse or guilt, and a failure to accept responsibility... I think you have to really get to know them and see the problems from their perspective. Sometimes, they knew there would be fallout, and they are prepared to accept the bad parts because they want the good part. So when those who are affected by the fallout come to complain, they are going to seem callous. Or would you rather have them say, "I knew this was going to happen, and you would be affected this way, and I made the decision regardless. It was a tough decision, but it was the best damn decision I could've made. And basically you weren't here to show us a better decision and it's water under the bridge now. I know you won't care about what I have to say because you can't see past your own problems, so I won't bother explaining. Just get it out of your system and let us move on to more important things."

      But another thing you will see is that politicians, at the end of the day, are used and abused by their constituents. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people support a candidate only to turn on them moments later, only to support them moments later. It's a roller coaster ride, and the only way politicians can cope is to stay emotionally detached in their work. If there's crying to be done, it's done very privately on the shoulder of their spouse or very. very close and trusted friends. Otherwise, emotion can't enter into it. If it does, they will quickly become psychopathic.

      I want to emphasize that there are a few psychopaths in politics, on both sides of the aisle. They probably aren't who you think they are and a few of the ones who you think aren't probably are. You will find them somewhat equally distributed throughout all levels of politics. Use the criteria, but apply it individually. And you must take the time to get to know the candidate personally. I tell you from experience that the local newspaper is abou as trustworthy as the pious gossip at your local church. If you base any of your opinions on what you see or read second- or third-hand, prepare to be misinformed.
      • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:36AM (#13355524)
        I was always under the naive impression that anyone in office was a sociopath who cared about power or money or whatever, and had therefore concocted a detailed plot to use the government and people for their own benefit.

        Then I actually job shadowed a state senator for a day, sat in on a couple meetings and the general assembly... and I realize that they aren't (for the most part) psychopathic or plotting...

        They're just... average.

        And then I realized that the horrible state of legislation was not the result of malice, but of the pure incompetent that infects the entire society. These were the C students in high school who had the right connections, or just the right interests. They were the masses that I have spent my entire life trying not to disdain because they do not comprehend most complex issues as quickly as my "gifted" friends.

        Heinlein once said (paraphrased) than an elected official, ideally, represents a slightly above average member of his electorate. I realized that day that when I consider my opinion of most people I meet, I am not surprised at all at what comes out of the capital. It is no hand-picked best of the best representatives, nor a oligarchy of vile schemers, but simply a vaguely representative group of the more affluent members of our society.

        Unfortunately, I think that this realization made me expect even less out of government. An intelligent psychopath at least acts intelligently in his own interest, as opposed to blindly herding in whatever direction is popular today.
      • by arbitraryaardvark ( 845916 ) <> on Friday August 19, 2005 @01:34PM (#13356461) Homepage Journal
        That was a thoughtful and passionate response, and there's some element of truth to it, but I'm mostly going to argue the other side.
          Governments, whether democratic or dictatorships, tend to be hierarchical structures in which people compete for dominance. Sociopaths seem to have advantages in that struggle, especially where there is information scarcity and they can cover up bad behavior.
          I've observed three sets of populations where high sociopathic scores seem to confer an advantage:
        a) law school b) the US presidency c) the ghetto.
        I got interested in Robert Caro's biography of LBJ, and have been reading dozens of books about who gets to be president and how. It looks like LBJ was a sociopath, as were Joe Kennedy and Bill Clinton. I haven't read enough on FDR to say, but he's also worth looking into. So that this doesn't look partisan, I would also say that the Bush dynasty - Prescot, George I, W, would score high. See also Nixon.

        Law school rewarded people who were smart, hard working, and completely lacking in a conscience. That seemed to be a deliberate part of the training - people would come in full of idealism and leave as hired guns. I now how to deal with these people as lawyers for the state, who put winning above doing the right thing or obeying their oath of office. They could use this quiz instead of the bar exam, and get similar results.

        I am a poor but honest lawyer, so I live in the hood. A lot of my neighbors are crackheads or alcoholics. Substance abuse seems to turn people into sociopaths, ready to lie or cheat or steal to get a quick fix, with little thought to the long term damage to their reputations.

        The solution, if there is one, to dealing with sociopaths, is information management. Their strategy of ruthlessless has short term payoffs,
        at the cost of long term damage to their reputations, if and when the truth comes out.
        'Wuffie' is cory doctorow's term for reputation capital. In [] Down and out in the Magic Kingdom, he outlines a future economy based on post-scarcity, open source, and reputation capital.
          Applying that to the now, open a dossier on your boss, or local tyrants, if you see sociopathic tendencies. Collect information, be ready to make it public anonymously once a critcal mass is reached. Sooner or later, these types tend to shoot themselves in the foot.

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <jhummel@joh[ ] ['nhu' in gap]> on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:19AM (#13354882) Homepage
    Why do so many bosses suck?

    Because those who desire the power should be the least likely to have it. I've had some good bosses, and 90% of the time they didn't really want the job, they just kind of grew into it over time.

    Other times - whew. There was the one boss who, coming in the first day, told everybody that he wasn't there to be a friend, and he could fire the whole department at a moment's notice if he wanted.

    5 minutes later I was dusting off my resume. When he found me dressing nice (so I could go on lunch breaks, which were really interviews), he told me he'd fired me if he caught me interviewing somewhere else. And he'd know, because he had "contacts" all over town who would tell him. "Contacts" who would call him and ask if I was applying somewhere. Private eyes - were watching me - they'd see my every move.

    Oddly enough, I guess his contacts forgot to call him three days later when I quit and went to my new, higher paying, better hours job.

    So if nothing else, I'm thankful for bad bosses, since they seem to be the greatest force in people finding new and better jobs. (Even though they suck.)
    • I think you just proved you are yourself a psychopath. ;) "[3] Is he a pathological liar? Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light -- for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he's exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he'
    • Why do so many bosses suck?... Because those who desire the power should be the least likely to have it

      You reminded me of one of my favourite Pierre Trudeau quotes (for those who don't know [], one of Canada's most famous Prime Ministers).

      Trudeau knew what Adams knew. The quote during his election campaign:

      CBC Reporter: How badly do you want to be Prime Minister?

      Trudeau (not missing a beat): Not very badly.

      Imagine a politician today having the balls to say something like that... I'll end with another

    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @12:09PM (#13355789)
      "Why do so many bosses suck?"

      The key problem is bosses ARE screened .... by each other. The people doing the hiring LIKE people with this psychopathic profile, because they want people just like them. Its no accident sales and marketing people are the ones most like to make the jump in to senior management because aggressive salesman with no morales are the one this good ole boy network promotes. Its also why R&D is cratering in the U.S. and most U.S. companies are fixated on making their quarterly sales numbers instead of making companies that are built to last, that and the stock market totally incentivizes companies to nail quarters and cannibalize the future.

      Worst problem with American CEO's is they are hired by boards that are basically a good ole boy crony network. They all golf together, are members of the same country clubs, go to the same parties, and were in the same partying fraternities in college. They tend to not evaluate CEO's with a critical eye they are just hiring their friends, with the understanding that the people hire will in turn do favors for them and serve on their boards.

      Then the problem extends downward. The CEO in turn hires good ole boys as President and VP's who in turn hire good ole boys in training to be middle management.
    • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @03:25PM (#13357357) Homepage
      document on the Company comptroller's desk and since I can read upside down, I looked up at him and announced that I was quitting, effective immediately.

      It was an announcement that we were to be saddled with a new head of IT who was getting the job because he sold us a bill of goods, had gotten us into a mess in the first place, (I knew he was the nephew of some muckity-muck at [censored]) and that he was starting on Monday.

      I left that afternoon, with a letter of recommendation, (I was friends with the head of HR, only back then it was called payroll,) found a job that afternoon, and never looked back.

      He didn't want the job and upon arriving he fired everybody, from the chief analyst who was a pleasant enough co-worker, to the data entry clerks.

      I was already working for somebody else but all of the other employees weren't so lucky.

      Sometimes the boss is a 'bungie cord' boss who gets parachuted in on you and when neither him nor you want him there, the results are just awful.

      He was an idiot, an arrogant prick, a blow-hard, a bad manager, an incompetent and he was 'forced' into the job because he'd bankruped his own company so he had nothing better and the Corporate big-wig who'd made the mistake of buying his crap in the first place just couldn't admit it.
  • Not only business (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) * on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:20AM (#13354892) Homepage Journal
    I used to work in an academic department doing research under contract for many years. My bosses (tenured faculty) were psychopaths too. Lying, manipulative scumbags both of them. This article may be talking about the business world, but it could easily be applied to many people in the academic world.

    Now I'm out of the academic world, and with perspective I can see what a shithole that place was.

  • by RamboIII ( 899894 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:24AM (#13354921)
    These are the questions.

    [1] Is he glib and superficially charming?
    [2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?
    [3] Is he a pathological liar?
    [4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?
    [5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?
    [6] Does he have a shallow affect?
    [7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?
    [8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?

    Now RTFM, and see what they scored. Honestly, I feel that any "good" businessman will tell you that without all of these traits, you cannot succeed in this world we call America. I'm not saying that I agree with the attitude, but really look at it, it seems obvious that a lot of bosses have this attitude. It's almost a "must".

  • by gregulrajani ( 21647 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:27AM (#13354939)
    The Corporation []
    This documentary looks at a corporations from a psychologists perspective and finds that corporations are sociopaths
  • Retort (Score:3, Interesting)

    by imstanny ( 722685 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:31AM (#13354975)
    'Why wouldn't we want to screen them? We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?'

    Because if screening teachers & policemen for psychopaths has taught us anything, it's that it obviously doesn't work.

    And secondly, are we to assume that if you are a psychopath you cannot do your job?

  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe ( 550052 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:33AM (#13354987)
    Are you kidding me?... These are desirable characteristics for an executive! You're talking like this should BLOCK them, when in fact they should be screened FOR being a psychopath before they're offered that top management spot.

    The faster we get this mess over with, the better. We should just start offering MBA's to the prisioners in all the "super-max" facilities.... That way, they could start being useful immed. upon their return to society. I can just see it now...."IPO to be offered upon parole"

    To prove my point... []
    see the story about this guy, he's continuing to get paid WHILE he's serving 18 mos. for criminal offenses. The board kept him on because he's a "visionary" and "knows the business" the best!

    Last week, Wiederhorn pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to two felonies--bribing local money manager Jeff Grayson and lying to the IRS. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution and a $25,000 fine.

    Then the other shoe dropped. Turns out that Wiederhorn managed to engineer a deal in which his current company, Fog Cutter Capital Group, granted him a leave of absence, kept him on the company payroll at $350,000 a year--and handed him a bonus of $2 million.

    See what I mean?

    • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:49AM (#13355130) Homepage Journal
      I think you better RTFA. The point being that a psycopathic manager, while many of the characteristics may seem desirable in isolation, is there only to serve his/her own goals and has no loyalty to the company. They do what they do for their own self interests, and if there are shortcuts that help them achieve it they will take those shortcuts even if it harms the company. Witness Enron, Worldcom and other companies that have collapsed as a result of their managers attempts to manipulate themselves to power and money.

      Ultimately, these kinds of managers are a threat to shareholders because they have no empathy not only with the competitors, but also not to the employees nor to the shareholders they are responsible to. They don't care if the company collapses as long as they get out first (and sometimes they don't).

      These people get hired because some of their traits are highly useful, but the people doing the hiring doesn't know about the remaining aspects of their personality. The goal of the test is exactly to expose those who aren't merely tough and able to detach themselves and do the difficult jobs when they have to, but who are actually psychopaths and will happily do something because they don't have any empathy or driven only by self interest.

      There's a huge difference between someone that knows what is needed for the company to succeed and is willing to take tough decisions (like firing lots of staff) but that understands the effects that has on other people and only does it when it actually is needed, and someone who is a psycopath who would be ready to fire whoever they feel like using whatever excuse works if they think it will benefit themselves (ref. the example of Al Dunlap in the article) by impressing shareholders for instance.

      Being able to determine if someone belongs to the former or latter categories would be immensely useful to a lot of companies.

  • by dark-br ( 473115 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:33AM (#13354989) Homepage
    ... you insensitive clod!
  • by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:35AM (#13355010) Journal
    Who cares if your boss is a psycho, when we work out why people who do all the work (manual labour etc.) get 10 times less money then the people who point and go "Get it done by next week" (managers). I think we'll be about ready to ask pointless questions like these..
  • by Deskpoet ( 215561 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:35AM (#13355016) Homepage Journal
    Read The Corporation [] and a different view might emerge.

    The most dominant social system of our time is, by definition, psychotic. It is hardly surprising that individuals "become psychotic" as they work for these organizations. Indeed, if they did not, their jobs would quickly end: if sanity were to prevail when weighing social responsibility against profit, the decision--by corporate by-law a bad one--would damage shareholder value, and be grounds for immediate dismissal. The system guarantees that the inmates will run the asylum (and be praised all the way to the bank for doing so.)

    All that is exceptional about Enron and Worldcomm is their excesses were exposed, not that their excesses occured.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:39AM (#13355050) Homepage Journal
    For each question, score two points for "yes," one point for "somewhat" or "maybe," and zero points for "no."

    [1] Is he glib and superficially charming []?
    [2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth []?
    [3] Is he a pathological liar []?
    [4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator []?
    [5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt []?
    [6] Does he have a shallow affect []?
    [7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy []?
    [8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions []?

    1-4 | Be frustrated
    5-7 | Be cautious
    8-12 | Be afraid
    13-16 | Be very afraid
  • by M trotsky ( 896746 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:39AM (#13355053)
    From RTFA:

    Is he glib and superficially charming? - Is he a people-person?

    Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth? - Does he add value to the company?

    Is he a pathological liar? - Does he keep the investors informed

    Is he a con artist or master manipulator? - Does he attract new business?

    When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt? - Does he have what it takes to thrive in a competitive enviroment?

    Does he have a shallow affect? - Does he let his emotions control his business decisions?

    Is he callous and lacking in empathy? - Is he able to place the interests of the company first?

    Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions? - My personal favorite - Is he able to look at the 'Big Picture'

  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:40AM (#13355056) Homepage Journal
    this is "geeks versus jocks" high school level of insight going on here

    i'm certain bosses could have just as many checklist items of what to worry about psychologically in their geeky employees

    the point is, taking the stereotypical and the shallow seriously is a hallmark of you having the problem

    now i could be accused of not having a sense of humor, except i don't see a big monty python foot next to the article here

    which means somebody is actually taking this claptrap seriously

  • by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:40AM (#13355059) Homepage
    You know it always annoys me when I see these two words confused. As I was taught, a psychopath cannot hide his mental illness. A psychopath is the person who crashes into McDonalds and starts shooting. Sociopaths are serial killers that manage to hide their predilections for years without getting caught.
  • by Rob Carr ( 780861 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:44AM (#13355085) Homepage Journal
    There's some question in my mind as to what this test is really telling about bosses. There's a difference between true psychopathy and psychopathic traits.

    Anti-Social Personality Disorder (formerly known as psychopathy) is a DSM-4 disorder that has a wide variety of presentations. "Psychopaths" is quicker to type.

    Normally, people think of psychopaths as con-men and serial killers. These are the ones that are noticed by the system. What about those who aren't? These are referred to as "functional" psychopaths.

    An advertisement, placed in newspapers and designed to appeal to psychopaths by presenting their features in a good light by saying they needed someone who wasn't tied down, loved adventure and excitement, etc., led to the discovery that there are many psychopaths out there.

    These are people who are highly motivated by money or power, willing to take risks, view people as tools to be manipulated and used, and appear charming. Is it any wonder that bosses, politicians, and others are functional psychopaths?

    But is someone truly a psychopath just because they have some of the traits?

    Police and other public safety personnel tend to score high on the psychopathic deviancy scale on the MMPI (a standard psychological personality test), but not as high as the psychopathic criminals they must deal with.

    I believe the inventory referred to in this article simply tests for psychopathic traits, or at least their appearance. Whether these folks are truly psychopathic would require far more in-depth investigation.

    Some bosses are psychopaths. But some may simply act that way.

  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:51AM (#13355144) Homepage Journal
    That /. is going in. The only topic better than this one would be, "are women psychopaths?" Or, better yet, "women ARE psychpaths...."
  • by Tominva1045 ( 587712 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:54AM (#13355172)
    My software dev team worked for Atilla-the-dumb once. The guy was so afraid of loosing the mid-management position he had clawed his way to that he spend much of his time getting the team to fight with each other so he could step in to save the day.

    We found his resume on the network drive one day, submitted it to Monster, Dice, and a few others. Withn a month he was all excited about his "value" and took another job.

    That's what we call a win-win.

  • We are still serfs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:55AM (#13355182) Homepage Journal
    Basically psychopaths have been organizing society for about 6,000 years.

    Anthropologically speaking, before about 6,000 years ago, ultimate authority resided in the nuclear family. Mom, and Dad, could independently decide what to do. Other people in the tribe, likely to be part of your extended family, could offer advice, and even beat on you if things really got hairy, but ulimately, they couldn't force you to do something that you really didn't want to. In some remote places this is still the case -- I recommend reading Napoleon Chagnon's work with the Yanomamo if you want to get a good idea about life with no ultimate authority to execute justice.

    Then, once you have agriculture and food you can store and transport, you have people submitting to a stranger as an authority, pledging their life to them, and accepting their judgement as ultimate justice -- because if you don't, off with your head. These priest kings thought they were divinity on Earth, and the fact that they ruled over people was just the natural course of things, as surely as the sun moves across the sky. For reference, see the decription of any god-king. God-Kings got their place through the military, either rising to rulership, or usurping some family member in the throne. The person who would do best in this role is a psychopath.

    Fast forward to modern democracies. Government isn't the domain of military leaders anymore, but supposedly more enlightened speakers who rule with the consent of the masses. Those psychopathic people now see their opportunity in business, where they can bully people in the privacy of offices and meeting rooms, and underlings live as undignified yesmen. Again, the people who do best as bosses are psychopaths.

    Now, I'm not saying that all bosses are bad, or that all jobs suck. There are good bosses and enlightened companies, but the best bosses are psychopaths, and the companies that do the best are headed by people who can get their underlings to knuckle and do whatever they're told.

    I've had two bad bosses in my short (15 years) time in the workplace -- after several fuckups and yelling matches, I've found out that these two bosses both believed that the rules didn't apply to them. One would berate us employees for not doing a good enough job following up on delinquent accounts, complaining about customers who refused to pay us, while he had creditors calling us constantly for his *own* delinquent accounts. As the company was running out of money, and we confronted him about late and bouncing checks, he told us it wasn't our place to call him on it. He believed on some deep level that it was very wrong for other people to owe him money -- but if he owed other people money, he should be allowed to slide. The rules just didn't apply to him.

  • by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:56AM (#13355186)
    I am just amazed at the number of people posting "That's what you want in an exec." or "That is how companies need to run to return value." Are we really that misguided as a society? Do the 71% of Americans who claim to go to church actually listen? (Or maybe they do not really attend). Not that church is a requirement for morality, but at least it should be a standard we can claim a measure against.

    The problem is becoming more clear as I read the replies and see what is happening daily. We want ethical treatment but if the other person is acting unethical then heck, I should too. To those who would claim I am misguided, I would say they are. That it is just the way things work in the real world is because of people who go quietly into the dark, seeking nothing but protection for themselves at the expense of others.

    That is what some of the executive who went to prison missed. They made a lot of people a lot of money, and most of them were probably not asking about the details. (For example, most of the get tough laws promised and passed by Congress were never enacted.) However, ethics is not something you do, it is something you are and it is binary choice. You cannot be "sort of" unethical or immoral. That is not to say you cannot make mistakes, humans do. However, to excuse behavior as a long series of mistakes makes you an accessory, not an observer. Part of the problem.
  • Sociopaths (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FriedTurkey ( 761642 ) * on Friday August 19, 2005 @10:59AM (#13355208)
    In American society, it seems like this kind of selfishness is a virtue Ayn Rand crap is increasingly becoming an accepted part of the culture. The crap that American is more successful because we have sociopaths running the government and corporations makes no sense. The Enrons and Haliburtons are draining our society and only bringing American down. Selfish politicians are killing the government.

    People who subscribe to the philosophy that selfishness is a virtue need people who have a consciences to feed on. A world full of Ayn Rand sociopaths would not even be a place were Ayn Rand sociopaths want to live in.
  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:14AM (#13355328)
    There was this great line from the first Red Dwarf novel. I can't find the exact text online, this is how I remember it. It takes place before the 3 million year sleep, right after Lister comes on board and Rimmer is addressing him and the rest of his shift.

    Lister: I'd like to be transferred to another shift, sir.
    Rimmer: Why?
    Lister: With all due respect, sir, I think you're mentally unbalanced.
    Rimmer: There's always one in every group, isn't there. One idiot, one loser, one psychpath.
    Lister: Yes sir, but he isn't usually in charge.
  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:15AM (#13355345)
    - glib and superficially charming
    * seriously disgusting and offputting

    - grandiose sense of self-worth
    * Hate self so much they slash their wrists

    - pathological liar
    * Tells their brutal honest feelings, which are usually offensive or overtly negative

    - master manipulator
    * Can't manipulate anyone because nobody likes them

    - lack of remorse or guilt
    * Guilty all the time, they balme themselves, hate themselves

    - shallow
    * Over sensitive and over dramatic

    - callous and lacking in empathy
    * bleeding heart

    - fail to accept responsibility for his own actions
    * Accepts all responsibility for their own actions until they become the whipping boy

    I don't know which is worse.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @11:54AM (#13355660) Homepage

    But then, I suppose everybody assumes politicians are psychopaths, so nobody cares.

    Bush is a psychotic, dry drunk, typically Chistian hypocritical chimpanzee.

    Latest word is the White House has "weather reports" among the staff each day to see if he's feeling good - or on some rage where he's likely to lash out at anyone around him. Shades of the Watergate Nixon White House.

    Right now, since he's taken yet ANOTHER "vacation" at his "all hat, no cattle" ranch, where he's been forced into hiding by a mother who wants answers for his stupid, greed-and-power-driven policies, we can all expect another "terrorist attack" (read: Reichstag fire incident) in a few weeks, since reportedly all military leaves have been canceled from September into December.

    Presumably the next victim is Iran.

    It's not surprising he's supported by corporate types like Bill Gates and morons like Ah-nuld who generally show similar characteristics.

    Not that Clinton was any better - as he once told Genifer Flowers, he was "born 17 and stayed 17. Hillary was born 40 and stayed 40."

    And don't even get me started on Donnie Rumsfeld, a rambling, lying, arrogant, senile pissant who wouldn't be respected by the counter clerks if he was running a McDonald's in Podunk.

    Still, you monkeys all demand that people respect these assholes, because otherwise you wouldn't know where you are in the primate hierarchy - which might cause chimpanzee anxiety.

    Just read an article this morning quoting Henry Kissinger from Woodward's book saying how military men were all dumb, stupid animals to be manipulated for foreign policy aims, and stating how Kissinger used to dress down General Al Haig in front of the secretaries in the White House for alleged incompetence.

    Primate politics at its best.
  • My experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dexter77 ( 442723 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @12:04PM (#13355738)
    I work as an R&D director in a medium size software company. Some time ago we hired a very promising director. She immediately became close friends with our managing director. At the time I didn't see anything wrong with it. But changes were about to come..

    There was a well liked and very good technical worker in my team. Only problem was his appereance. The director couldn't stand the way he was. He was fat, quiet and wore an old sweatsuit all the time. Technical guy was very content with his appearance and felt no reason to make any changes.

    Just in few months she succeeded to turn the whole management board againts this guy. He suddenly became a lazy and unreliable worker, who created a bad athmosphere to the whole office. When I found about the claims, it was too late. I tried to stand up for him, but couldn't defend him. The director was too cunning and I was too naive -- although I'm not anymore.

    That wasn't the only trick the she pulled, but it was last one againts me. I found out that only way to avoid those tricks was not to talk to her at all.

    I don't want to make this story long by telling about the ways she acted or methods she used. You propably can image them anyway. It's all charm, but totally hollow.

    Problem is that the director still works in our company. I have no tools to fight againts a psychopath and I don't want to risk my position by showing it what I truly think. To psychopath its all black and white, if you're not on their side, you're an enemy.

    If you have any ideas, please let me know.
    • Re:My experience (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FriedTurkey ( 761642 ) *
      Just in few months she succeeded to turn the whole management board againts this guy. He suddenly became a lazy and unreliable worker, who created a bad athmosphere to the whole office. When I found about the claims, it was too late. I tried to stand up for him, but couldn't defend him. The director was too cunning and I was too naive -- although I'm not anymore.

      I know exactly what you are talking about. She didn't target him because he was fat and sloppy. She just targeted him because he was an easy tar
  • by xero314 ( 722674 ) on Friday August 19, 2005 @12:16PM (#13355857)
    The 8 traits that supposedly make up the "Corporate Psychopath" are actuallly very close inline with Pathological Narcissism. As a mater of fact . Grandiosity, Manipulation, Lack of Empathy and Affect are major keypoints in Narcissism. Psychopaths do not make good leaders, Narcissits do. If you want to know more about this then check out The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership by Michael Maccoby.

    Part of the problem is that, atleast in the US, there is no recognized single disorder that covers psychopathic personalities. The most closely aligned, according to the DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is Antisocial Personality Disorder, which does share some traits with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but neither APD or NDP alone would qualify someone as a Psychopath. In the ICD (international equivalent to the DSM) there is a personality disorder covering psychopaths, as well as a couple other disorders that are closesly inline with psychopathic personailty, but most likely neither of those would apply to your boss. There is a reason there as so many different diagnostics and that they some time share traits, because each different combination of traits should be treated differently.

    So please don't everyone go of thinking there boss is a psychopath because they are manipulative, grandiose or don't show any feeling or affect. It's a job, and it is those particular traits that most likely allowed them to get where they are.

I've got a bad feeling about this.