How do you recognise the corporate psychopath? Part 2

Following on from last week’s blog.

Dr. John Clarke, a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sydney, consultant to the NSW Police Force, and widely regarded as Australia’s expert on corporate psychopaths said that prospective employers should look for two things on a potential employee’s resume: frequent job changes and something suspicious about the person’s educational qualifications.

Corporate psychopaths, or Low Normal Hustlers, as they are known in the Humm create a very good initial impression but subsequently their peers become intolerant of their workplace habits. In particular, people dislike their taking credit for the ideas of others; and putting the blame for mistakes they have made onto someone else, typically an underling. Corporate psychopaths are very good at sensing this antipathy, and so change jobs frequently; often leveraging themselves into a higher position.

The other useful clue is what the person puts down about his or her education. School and university ultimately judge their students on their academic results, which for most of us means work. Psychopaths are inherently lazy, and their charm and people skills are of little help in the examination room. Most people elaborate on their education, specifying dates, subjects done, awards and extracurricular activities. The education section of a resume is something which is very easy for an employer to verify. If there have been issues, and with psychopaths there generally are, the education entry will often be pithily short.

Until recently a prospective employee had little information about his or her boss, and working for a psychopath can be a terrible experience. However, with the advent of LinkedIn, all this has changed; you now can easily check the profile of prospective boss. And if there is not one available, you should ask yourself, why not?

Psychopaths are estimated to comprise 1% of the population, yet for corporate psychopaths the number has been set around 3% of the workplace. Also there are probably another 12-15% of the workforce with psychopathic tendencies.

Supposed signs an employee might be a corporate psychopath are putting others down, telling lies, demonstrating a lack of empathy, creating internal power networks and using them for personal gain. All this is true but by the time you have picked up these clues it is generally too late. How then do you recognise a psychopath in the first 60 seconds?

Dress is a major clue; red and gold are the two give away colours. So if you meet someone wearing a bright red tie, a gold Rolex, and a gold bracelet on the other wrist become suspicious. If you meet a female executive in a red suit, gold handbag, and gold shoes, and wearing a lot of gold accessories lift your level of watchfulness. Search Google Images for Ken Lay of Enron and in most of them he is wearing a red tie. The other give away in dress are famous designer symbols. Chanel sunglasses are another giveaway.

The office of the psychopath is generally tasteful however again oranges, reds and golds will often be present. The feeling is usually one of glitz. Try to see if there is a photo on on the desk. Machiavellian personalities are often divorced; you will often see a family picture with the ex-wife missing or a second picture with the trophy wife. Another clue are pictures with famous people. Psychopaths see themselves as winners and want to be seen as circulating with winners.

People with psychopathic tendencies are common in business, particularly at management levels. Being commercially realistic, they are often seen as having the ability to make tough decisions, and they don’t seem to experience stress. If they have a conscience and are ethically based they will generally be very successful. If not they will be initially successful, but then their weakness of trying to bend the rules brings them undone, particular in times of economic stress.


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