While psychopaths reportedly make up about 1 percent of the country, they occupy nearly 4 percent of its management positions. These figures are part of a study co-authored by Craig Neumann, a professor of psychology at the University of North Texas. He talks about what this means, and how it could affect the workplace.
Interview Highlights: Craig Neumann ...
... on the meaning of psychopath:
"A psychopath technically is a personality disorder. It involves an individual who displays behavioral characteristics in four major domains: Interpersonal manipulativeness / deceitfulness / grandiosity - the second domain is emotional or effective coldness /callousness - the third domain is behavioral impulsivity / recklessness a thrill seeking sort of behavioral style - the fourth domain is an overt antisociality, and this doesn't necessarily just involve criminality but this involves individuals who fail to conform to social conventions. So it's an individual who displays high levels of these traits and these four domains chronically over time."
... on how a psychopathic boss can affect a business:
"We know that it creates increased conflict between work and family life - an increase in emotional distress that have to work with such bosses and perhaps most notably it has a strong impact on job satisfaction."
... on why management positions attract psychopaths:
"This is a very interesting question - in fact it may be a bit of a chicken and an egg question. In business settings it's often a case that to be a good salesman one presents a fairly slick package. Now I'm not saying that sales individuals are liars by any means - but they present an image of the product that is in the best terms and so psychopaths tend to lie to manipulate and deceive and so maybe the case that certain interpersonal characteristics: manipulativeness, deceitfulness, and emotional characteristics like callousness are actually helpful in some senses in the business environment when conducting a deal from the extreme of a hostile takeover to perhaps more mundane elements of trying to make a sale in the local community."
... on what to do if your boss is a psychopath:
"Well the first and foremost piece of advice is to document. It's very important to document any sorts of e-mail interactions, any sort of in-the-hall conversation - write down in a note, date it - if you can have witnesses. In the more extreme case the individual - it might be best for them to seek a job in some other part of the organization or consider leaving and going to a new organization. It can be the case that if say an employee went to human resources and they spoke about what's going on between them and their psychopathic boss that the human resource individual when they go to meet with the boss they find that "oh this is a nice guy, how could this person ever do anything of the nature that the employee is accusing them" so it's very important to document and very important to consider one's well-being and whether it's worth staying with such an organization."
Aftermath is a non-profit organization that provides resources and support for victims of psychopathy.