Here Be Monsters … Fear of Psychopathy in the Workplace

This comment in response to my recent post on skepticism of antisocial diagnoses gave me a bit of a pause:

“Diagnosis of inexact conditions via inexact science should always be taken with a grain of salt.”

Except it’s not an inexact science anymore, is it? fMRI and neuroscience are now confirming the theories of the soft sciences known as psychology and psychiatry. I am on the verge of launching my first company, dnd there is one thing for goddamn sure. Once we can afford it, we will be spending the $1.5m to procure an fMRI to screen allcomers and make sure no borderlines or psychopaths get through the door. It’s worth every goddamn penny!

I don’t know whether to take this commenter seriously or not.  It seems overkill to actively screen for psychopaths in the workplace when waiting for one to fuck up and show their unmasked state is much easier and cheaper.  That said, there seems to be an uncanny desire to equate psychopaths in the workplace with the Enrons and the Sunbeams of the world.  No remorse; power is all that matters.  I think this fear is quite overblown.

Yes, psychopaths are often parasitic and reckless with their approach to employment.  I know that I have constantly fought this over the years.  Many psychopaths treat work as a forgone conclusion and abuse the policies of the employer.  Whether it is the stereotypical indefinite work break or the abuse of paid leave, some psychopaths certainly can be parasites on a business.  However, there are certainly upsides as well.  Our charisma and ruthlessness makes us undeniable choices for a position that acquires new revenue streams.  Our lack of empathy means that the business can certainly come first even when others are falling apart due to their own tragedies.  Our arrogance can lead us to shoot for the stars while others are merely complacent.

Psychopaths can make excellent CEOs.  By being bloodthirsty and without empathy, they can make the difficult decisions to ensure financial solvency that many neurotypicals could not.  Al Dunlop, in particular, was notable for saving Sunbeam through his merciless and cutthroat means to squeezing every dollar possible from the workforce that he commanded.  Yes, the neurotypical may be put off by such buzzsaw methods, but ultimately in business it is money that matters and little else.

We may play fast and loose and carry ourselves in a parasitic manner, but ultimately we can do what the neurotypical cannot: put business first, above all else.  Yes, many psychopaths will focus too much on their parasitic ways, but they surely can be easily identified and eliminated for the sake of the business.  Does one really need an fMRI to replace common sense in this respect?

 

 

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Comments

  1. NT says

    J. I appreciate the response. And I’m glad it gave you pause, although the fact that it did makes me wonder if you’re a genuine psychopath. ;o)

    Unfortunately, I have to strongly disagree with you based on my experiences of the last three years in the consulting division of the company I work for.

    Some background. Eight years ago, (let’s call him) The Rock (as stupid as), was handed our failing division by Executive. They wanted to get rid of him, and basically handed it to him as a lead albatross to sink him.

    However, this guy managed to take a $1m loss-making business and turn it into the second-biggest income generator in the company in three years (the first year was a bloodbath), essentially earning himself a reprieve. However, from then on, the division started failing again PRIMARILY due to staff morale tanking further and further. In fact, last year, I convinced lower levels of management to run a survey of the division essentially asking staff what they felt was going wrong. All fingers were pointed at management for being directionless and out of control. My backdoor feedback from the assessment panel was that The Rock had copped the worst of it. This year we are forecast to post a $1.4m loss again, and thankfully, due to Executive pressure, The Rock finally resigned to the relief of all and sundry, and right now it’s a complete free-for-all due to the low trust levels between staff that were instilled due to his Machiavellian bullshitting and divide-and-conquer tactics. BTW, let me first say that I believe he is more socio than psychopath.

    Let’s turn now to my current manager, The Limpet, a grade-A dyed-in-wool psychopath. This guy has been investigated for a couple of dodgy procurement deals and I have loads of evidence of him trying to inflate proposals and contracts to gouge the customer. He has destroyed so many customer and partner relationships, I have lost count. Not only that, but he has not turned a profit for the last 7 years. How does someone like that stay in his position when he has someone like The Rock in his reporting line? I’ll tell you. Blackmail. This guy is more slippery than The Rock and shrewder. And The Rock knew it. A former colleague who was fired on the basis of a sick note forgery told me that *they* had forged it to get rid of her after she started making noises about a procurement deal. The Rock was part of the deal, and The Limpet then had him in his pocket. The Rock threw out a grievance I lodged against The Limpet for making insinuations about my mental health behind my back earlier this year. But Brutus (another manager who’s wife I visited in hospital while her babies were dying, and later stabbed me in the back) told me that in conversation with The Rock, The Rock had told him that he believed me that The Limpet had done it deliberately, but that it was too difficult to nail him on half truths.

    This is how an organisation is destroyed by an ASPD. He gets himself into power, and then surrounds himself with henchmen and henchwomen who will either join him in his nefarious schemes or turn a blind eye…to the psychological detriment of the neurotypicals that report to this elite class. And when the neurotypicals lose trust in the leadership, it is all over. That division has now been rolled up and amalgamated into a bigger division; an outcome I predicted over a year ago.

    FYI, I am an IT manager so you and I work in the same space. Here’s a little gem I found that is directly related to sociopathy in the IT industry.

    http://www.cioinsight.com/it-management/expert-voices/how-corporate-sociopaths-affect-it-productivity/

    Since we will be starting an ecommerce business, which is heavily dependent on the emotional commitment of knowledge workers, you should be readily able to understand why I deem screening to be so critically important. Waiting for a psychopath to screw up is simply too costly, because 1) you have to catch them screwing up first. The Rock and The Limpet, between them spent over half a century in this company, with Executive knowing they were up to no good but not being able to nail them outright. Our country’s labour laws heavily favour the employee which doesn’t help. 2) The amount of damage they can get away with BEFORE being caught is only measurable after the fact (when it’s too late) and sometimes not even then.

    I read Snakes in Suits by Babiak and Hare, and everything fell into place. Nay. No psychopaths will be allowed through our doors. We might even start a spinoff company doing neuroscientific psychometric testing for other companies using our shiny fMRI unbeatable lie detector.

    • says

      That’s an interesting conundrum. Psychopaths often happen to be in a position where they bring a company down. But where would they be without jobs? They’d be more burdensome if they contributed nothing. If they have no jobs, they’re using our tax dollars to sit on the internet in dingy apartments. Would they qualify for disability benefits if they’re so incapable of working? What you’re suggesting by screening for psychopathy before hiring is discrimination, plain and simple. Familiarise yourself with the American with Disabilities Act. Would you impose the same screening on anyone with mental illness? With a psychical disability?

      I’d like to specifically ask about your earlier comment (quoted at the top of the article) and know what your issue is with borderlines? While it’s not easy to treat, it has more effective treatments than psychopathy, and even marked recovery in some cases. You’re welcome to do your own research. I’m taking most of my data from Medscape.

      While as NTs we wouldn’t want to see them as similar to us in any way, psychopaths are human. It is not only psychopaths who rape and murder; empaths do as well. While there will always be a competing YesAllWomen/NotAllMen or BlackLivesMatter/AllLivesMatter, one should remember that judging a group based on a singular trait is impractical.

      The idea of screening anyone for your company sounds exhaustive. What other kinds of screening will you have? Must your potential employees also trace their lineage to the Aryans and have a Nobel Laureate in their extended family?

      • NT says

        “But where would they be without jobs? They’d be more burdensome if they contributed nothing. If they have no jobs, they’re using our tax dollars to sit on the internet in dingy apartments. Would they qualify for disability benefits if they’re so incapable of working?”

        In fact, I think that’s a fantastic solution to the problem. We’ll fund you to stay out of our hair. At least that means their cost to the economy would be calculable and predictable, unlike the present situation. If we classify them as having disabilities then they can go on social welfare. They must of course be sterilised to qualify for social welfare so that they can’t reproduce further and burden the taxpayer more. Over a few generations, their mix would be removed from the gene pool. Problem solved.

        “What you’re suggesting by screening for psychopathy before hiring is discrimination, plain and simple.”

        How so? In my country, every five years you have to reapply for a drivers licence when they retest your eyesight. I would suspect that sight-impaired people need not apply for public bus driver positions. Why should it be any different for empathy-impaired individuals who are so because their amygdalae are switched off?

        “Would you impose the same screening on anyone with mental illness? With a psychical disability?”

        Yes. It happens all the time in all sorts of industries. Especially in your country where lawsuits are so popular.

        “I’d like to specifically ask about your earlier comment (quoted at the top of the article) and know what your issue is with borderlines? While it’s not easy to treat, it has more effective treatments than psychopathy, and even marked recovery in some cases.”

        I’ve got time for borderlines. I got into this whole psychology bent because I loved one very deeply, and still do even though we are no longer communicating. Had we not been colleagues, I would still be involved in her life if she wanted me to, but she has split me completely black. It’s the fact that we worked together, and her tenuous grip on reality was threatening my job security that I ended it. No untreated borderlines in the workplace. A great personal blog by a very intelligent borderline who helped me understand and empathise with mine, although towards the end I believe she started showing some mild psychopathic behaviour as well. I’m intrigued to understand how that works neurologically cos it seems paradoxical to me.

        “While as NTs we wouldn’t want to see them as similar to us in any way, psychopaths are human. It is not only psychopaths who rape and murder; empaths do as well. ”

        I’m interested by this. Can you point me to some material on empaths being murderers? I can’t see how this would be possible since if they’re empathic, they wouldn’t want to murder someone on the basis that they wouldn’t want to be murdered themselves.

        “The idea of screening anyone for your company sounds exhaustive. What other kinds of screening will you have? Must your potential employees also trace their lineage to the Aryans and have a Nobel Laureate in their extended family?”

        This is an invalid argument on the face of it. Screening occurs in the vast majority of cases. How else does one make a selection for an advertised position? If the job requires donors for a genetics company specialising in in vitro fertilisation of blue-eyed blonde babies, then yes, having only applicants of Aryan lineage (according to Hitler, in any event), would produce a higher chance of a productive employee. On the Nobel Laureate, I can’t think of a position in which this would be a requisite. But if the position is one which requires the fostering of an unified, enthusiastic and committed workforce, then yes, screening of psychopaths is essential. It’s already done today in an industry called psychometric testing, and applicants are tested to identify possible dysfunctional behaviours. The only problem is, the tests are primitive and psychopaths can beat them easily. The fMRI ups the game to a point where if a psychopath knew he was going to be tested, he would probably not even bother applying.

        I suggest you get yourself a copy of Snakes in Suits by Babiak and Hare.

        • Evelyne says

          Every time you said or referenced a psychopath, replace the word with ‘black’.

          Is every drunk driver who has ever killed a psychopath? No. It’s possible that some are, but the majority of them are people who drank to escape pain, and made a bad decision to drive afterwards.

          In the author’s book, which I highly suggest you read if you already haven’t, they tell about a time that they were driving home and saw that a group of their peers had crashed their car. The peers were drunk, as was the author. They chose to drive on so that they wouldn’t be charged as an impaired driver. The author has confirmed that they have driven drunk a few more times, uneventfully.

          Is every drunk driver a psychopath now? Regardless of whether or not they kill someone while driving?

          I’m familiar with Snakes in Suits; it was my literary introduction to the world of psychopathy. I’ve also read a few other books on the topic. I enjoyed Bob’s Without Conscience as well, but I found that Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test was a bit fluffy. I’m currently reading Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, and Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That.

          Your position on borderlines seems very biased, based on “I’ve got time for borderlines. I got into this whole psychology bent because I loved one very deeply, and still do even though we are no longer communicating.” It sounds like you’re letting your experience with one person change your perspective on the group as a whole. I could pick apart the rest of the subtleties of your language, but there’s really no point on fighting you on a bias that you’re not ready to give up.

          Since you’ve stated that you’re an IT professional, I’m curious as to why you think you can diagnose anyone as a psychopath. I could go into detail about my issues with this, but it’s really not worth my time since you’re uneducated and think that reading a Bob Hare book makes you expert enough to diagnose 3 people.

          I’d also like to point out that I’m neurotypical, and was in an abusive relationship with a young man with conduct disorder for six months. I am fully aware of the damage that they can cause. Instead of being a eugenicist, perhaps consider when a psychopath is the least dangerous. And you’ll have to talk to them to get that answer. But if you can create that situation, they’re better than anyone else at what they do. If you’ve got such an issue with them using you for their own gain, why not investigate how to make them work for you?

          I linked to my blog in my name above. If you’d like to chat as neurotypicals, I’m open to it.

          • Anonymous says

            “Every time you said or referenced a psychopath, replace the word with ‘black’.”

            And what would that accomplish? Replace the word psychopath with skycraper, fungus, balloon, electron. What would the exercise prove? Nothing. Replacing the word psychopath with the word black is irrelevant, because in the vast majority of cases, being black has nothing to do with competency to perform a particular job. THAT is when it is unethically discriminatory; when you are selecting based on an attribute which has nothing to do with the requirements desired.

            “Is every drunk driver who has ever killed a psychopath? No. It’s possible that some are, but the majority of them are people who drank to escape pain, and made a bad decision to drive afterwards.”

            Ah. Tell me. You have a vacancy for a bus driver. You have two candidates. Both have public bus drivers’ permits. The first comes to the interview 5 minutes early, is neatly dressed and presents a no-nonsense demeanour. The second comes in 15 minutes late, and is reeking of booze. You just discriminated against the guy who has a drinking problem (which in all likelihood, is due to some psychological problem). Shame on you. How could you judge the guy like that? Easy. The lives of other employees and customers is on the line. You make a judgement call on which of the two is less likely to cause a problem.

            “The author has confirmed that they have driven drunk a few more times, uneventfully.”

            And that makes it ok?

            “I’m familiar with Snakes in Suits; it was my literary introduction to the world of psychopathy.”

            Mine too, incidentally.

            “I’ve also read a few other books on the topic. I enjoyed Bob’s Without Conscience as well, but I found that Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test was a bit fluffy. I’m currently reading Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, and Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That.”

            Not read Without Conscience yet but have spent a lot of time on Sociopathworld (M.E.’s site). I have a copy of Ronson’s book in waiting, but have watched a few of his youtube talks. And yes, I do think his stuff is a bit fluffy, but my understanding is he’s not a mental health profession by qualification so I’m okay with his perspective.

            “It sounds like you’re letting your experience with one person change your perspective on the group as a whole. I could pick apart the rest of the subtleties of your language, but there’s really no point on fighting you on a bias that you’re not ready to give up.”

            Are you suggesting that I SHOULDN’T have time for borderlines? Well, fuck them then. :o)

            “Since you’ve stated that you’re an IT professional, I’m curious as to why you think you can diagnose anyone as a psychopath. I could go into detail about my issues with this,”

            Can anyone? Even Hare says he gets fooled by them. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be on the lookout to protect ourselves and others from antisocial behaviour.

            “but it’s really not worth my time since you’re uneducated and think that reading a Bob Hare book makes you expert enough to diagnose 3 people.”

            HENCE the fMRI which provides an incontrovertible diagnosis.

            “If you’ve got such an issue with them using you for their own gain, why not investigate how to make them work for you?”

            Psychopaths are no longer required. As Hare says all over the show, they are causing IMMEASURABLE damage and destruction in modern civilisation. They were useful once, they are not anymore. That last bit is my own conclusion. Not putting words in his mouth.

            “I linked to my blog in my name above. If you’d like to chat as neurotypicals, I’m open to it.”

            Apparently I fluctuate between INTJ and ISFJ…

  2. FNP says

    Finally, found another blog that doesn’t automatically equate psychopath with bloodthirsty mass-murderer. Most of us don’t care about killing people, because prison sucks and the death penalty is a counterproductive end for us.

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