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December 21, 2004

The psychopath as C.E.O.


The B-Scan 360 is a test invented by industrial psychologist Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathology in prison inmates.

From Michael Steinberger's article in the New York Times magazine:

    According to Babiak and Hare, white-collar psychopaths are not apt to become serial rapists or murderers.

    Rather, they are prone to being "subcriminal" psychopaths: smooth-talking, energetic individuals who easily charm their way into jobs and promotions but who are also exceedingly manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless.

    The individual being evaluated does not actually take the test.

    Instead, it is given to his or her superiors, subordinates, and peers.

    They rate the subject in four broad categories - organizational maturity, personal style, emotional style, and social style - and 16 subcategories, like reliability, honesty, and sincerity.

    [Babiak and Hare] point out that the frenzied nature of modern business - the constant downsizing, the relentless merging and acquiring - provides a very fertile environment for havoc-wreaking psychopaths, who thrive on chaos and risk taking.

    As Hare put it in one interview, "If I couldn't study psychopaths in prison, I would go down to the Stock Exchange."

David Hogben wrote an article for the Vancouver Sun earlier this year on the subject; it follows.

    Psychopaths Are Attracted To Today's Business Climate

    The corporate crazy in a suit is rarely the image that immediately comes to mind when the topic of psychopaths is raised.

    But the world of the unfeeling psychopaths is not limited to the popular images of monsters who steal people's children, kill without remorse or plunder pension funds for personal pleasure, according to two leading experts in the field.

    Now those experts on psychopaths have developed a guide for identifying the psychopathic managers increasingly attracted to the fast-paced business world.

    "The psychopath has the ability to look like an ideal leader, because he or she can demonstrate those traits the organization needs and wants," corporate psychologist Paul Babiak said in an interview Friday.

    Babiak and the University of B.C.'s Robert Hare, a professor emeritus in psychology, have developed a 107-point questionnaire for identifying psychopaths in the corporate world.

    Hare has studied psychopaths for 35 years and has also developed a clinical checklist to detect psychopaths that has been used in Canadian criminal trials.

    Hare has argued there are good reasons for psychological screening of corporate leaders, just as there are for psychological screening of police and teachers.

    He told a meeting of the Canadian Police Association in 2002 that such screening of corporate leaders could prevent some of the massive frauds perpetrated in the business world.

    The "B-Scan" is used to assess corporate managers and identify the potentially destructive individuals who, although they have psychopathic traits, can portray themselves as ideal corporate leaders.

    "You can guess that one to two per cent of the people that you work with could have psychopathic tendencies," said Babiak, a New York-based private psychologist with 25 years experience in management development for major international corporations.

    The corporate psychopath is not one that easily attracts attention.

    "The psychopath is someone who comes across as smooth, polished and charming. That is a good thing for most managers, for most people, to be, yet we know that almost every psychopath is charming, smooth and polished.

    "The psychopath is the kind of individual that can give you the good impression, has a charming facade, can look and sound like the ideal leader, but behind this mask has a dark side. And it's this dark side of the personality that lies, is deceitful, is manipulative, that bullies other people, that promotes fraud in the organization and steals the company's money and does not help shareholders at all," Babiak said.


    Babiak said the quickly changing corporate world is increasingly susceptible to the psycho in a suit.

    The old, staid, bureaucratic organization filled with rules, policies and procedures was too frustrating and unattractive to the psychopath, Babiak said.

    "Now, because the pace of business has accelerated so much, only organizations that can move fast can survive. It also makes it more fun to work there, not just for you and I, but for the psychopath as well," he said.

    Babiak said he has dealt with corporate psychopaths who not only demonstrate the defining characteristics of lack of remorse and empathy, but also enjoy causing others pain.

    "Believe me, I have seen individuals fire people and take great pleasure in doing it," he said.

    It's not only business, but fields such as politics, law, policing, religious organizations and news, that attract psychopaths.

    "I would expect more in those areas, because of the money, the faster pace, the excitement and the glamour. Those are the things that attract the psychopath."


    10 Ways to Spot a Psycho Boss

    The 107-question B-scan asks other workers - peers, employees and supervisors - questions such as these to determine whether executives have psychopathic traits.

    1. Comes across as smooth, polished and charming.

    2. Turns most conversations around to a discussion of him or herself.

    3. Discredits, puts down others in order to build up own image and reputation.

    4. Lies to coworkers, customers, or business associates with a straight face.

    5. Considers people he or she has outsmarted or manipulated as dumb or stupid.

    6. Opportunistic; hates to lose, plays ruthlessly to win. 

    7. Comes across as cold and calculating.

    8. Acts in an unethical or dishonest manner.

    9. Has created a power network in the organization and uses it for personal gain.

    10. Shows no regret for making decisions that negatively affect the company, shareholders, or employees.

    December 21, 2004 at 01:01 PM | Permalink


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    how can you control a pyschopath ceo despite that the majority of folks are mild pyschopaths too.

    Posted by: peter mulenga | Dec 11, 2007 8:19:44 AM

    I f this information is correct it really eplains not only the problems we are having today but also the major thing and event that have happened in the past Ie the French revolution the 1st and 2nd WW. the real crime problems and why they are even produced in the first place these are the people who are really telling their own story. God help us I think this way of identifing there people is very critical if the Human race is to survice and the hell with the criminals rights

    Posted by: Merlyn Hutchinson | May 24, 2007 8:34:30 PM

    Great article ! I've researched this topic a lot recently. I'm currently in litigation seeking relief under the oppression remedies due to having a corporate psychopath for a brother in law. He's also the majority shareholder & CEO of our family business. This man is textbook !!! What a nightmare to deal with. The scary thing is that we didn't see him coming. It's easy to recognise a psychopath/bully when you become the target. Before that, all seems normal. He's gone so far as to try to personally & emotionaaly bankrupt us with no regard or concern for the outcome of his bad behavior. We've been stuck in this mess for almost 2 years with no end in sight. He will fight us for the sake of fighting. There definately needs to be more awareness on this issue & the judicial means to deal with corporate mental cases.

    Posted by: Carey | Jun 22, 2005 3:12:02 PM

    It's not only business, but fields such as politics, law, policing, religious organizations and news, that attract psychopaths.
    Heh. One by one now: business - conservatives excel politics - bush won re-election, karl rove is the mastermind law - up for debate, law schools are liberal but CORPORATE LAWYERS are conservative. Think Enron. religious organizations - heh, not worth addressing. news - everyone claims the news is against them, but this category is probably directed at Fox b/c they're the new guy on the block and get the highest ratings/most attention.

    Posted by: fat kid | Dec 21, 2004 1:52:43 PM

    Heh. I'd like to take a look at this doc's voting record. This ties in nicely with that Berkely study that said "Conservatism is a mental illness" and, that push about 2 years ago to "medicate Republicans". Of course people who succeed in the business world are going to tend to be conservative - let's just raise the flag of suspicion that we're all "psychopaths".

    Liberals wonder why nobody takes them seriously.

    Posted by: fat kid | Dec 21, 2004 1:49:09 PM

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