Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The Corporate Psychopath

Magazine article The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

The Corporate Psychopath

Article excerpt

Psychopathy is one of the most studied personality disorders. It consists of variations of 20 well-documented characteristics that form a unique human personality syndrome--the psychopath. Many of these traits are visible to those who interact with the psychopath who possess some or all of these characteristics. For some, superficial charm and grandiose sense of self make them likable on first meeting. Their ability to impress others with entertaining and captivating stories about their lives and accomplishments can result in instant rapport. They often make favorable, long-lasting first impressions. This personality disorder is a continuous variable, not a classification or distinct category, which means that not all corporate psychopaths exhibit the same behaviors.

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Beneath the cleverly formed facade--typically created by psychopaths to influence their targets--is a darker side, which people eventually may suspect. They can be pathological liars who con, manipulate, and deceive others for selfish means. Some corporate psychopaths thrive on thrill seeking, bore easily, seek stimulation, and play mind games with a strong desire to win. Unlike professional athletes moved by a desire to improve performance and surpass their personal best, psychopaths are driven by what they perceive as their victims' vulnerabilities. Little research exists on their inner psychological experiences; however, they seem to get perverted pleasure from hurting and abusing their victims.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) research indicates that psychopaths are incapable of experiencing basic human emotions and feelings of guilt, remorse, or empathy. (1) This emotional poverty often is visible in their shallow sentiment. They display emotions only to manipulate individuals around them. They mimic other people's emotional responses. Some lack realistic long-term goals, although they can describe grandiose plans. The impulsive and irresponsible psychopath lives a parasitic and predatory lifestyle, seeking out and using other people, perhaps, for money, food, shelter, sex, power, and influence.

Psychopathy is a personality disorder traditionally assessed with the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). (2) Often used interchangeably with psychopathy, the term sociopathy is obsolete and was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1968. Currently, there is no formal diagnosis of psychopathy in the DSM-Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR); however, it is being considered for the 2013 DSM-V list of personality disorders.

Facade

It is fascinating that psychopaths can survive and thrive in a corporate environment. Day-to-day interactions with coworkers, coupled with business policies and procedures, should make unmasking them easy, but this does not always hold true. Large companies' command-and-control functions ought to make dealing with them simple and direct; however, this may not be the case.

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Psycnopatnic manipulation usually begins by creating a mask, known as psychopathic fiction, in the minds of those targeted. In interpersonal situations, this facade shows the psychopath as the ideal friend, lover, and partner. These individuals excel at sizing up their prey. They appear to fulfill their victims' psychological needs, much like the grooming behavior of molesters. Although they sometimes appear too good to be true, this persona typically is too grand to resist. They play into people's basic desire to meet the right person--someone who values them for themselves, wants to have a close relationship, and is different from others who have disappointed them. Belief in the realism of this personality can lead the individual to form a psychopathic bond with the perpetrator on intellectual, emotional, and physical levels. At this point, the target is hooked and now has become a psychopathic victim.

Corporate psychopaths use the ability to hide their true selves in plain sight and display desirable personality traits to the business world. …

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