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American Psycho frame

Are you working with a Psychopath?

When we hear the word Psychopath we commonly think of mass murderers and other criminal elements. Did you know that people with psychopathic tendencies make up 1 to 2 percent of the population? We encounter them frequently in our lives and they are particularly well designed for high power corporate positions! Not naming any names of course but we have probably seen a number of them in the news recently. 
Lets look at some of the characteristics of psychopaths:


Psychopathy Characteristics Checklist 

Facet 1: Interpersonal

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative

Facet 2: Affective

  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Emotionally shallow
  • Lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Facet 3: Lifestyle

  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irresponsibility

Facet 4: Antisocial

  • Poor behavioural controls
  • Early behavioural problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Criminal versatility

Do you know people who have some of these characteristics?

People often ask are psychopaths born or do they develop that way? Most research points to a bit of both. There are clear brain functioning patterns that are unique to psychopaths such as low activity (or no activity) in the area of the brain responsible for empathy, but there is also evidence of an element of nurture and development too. 

Look at the characteristics above, if you possessed all of these and you had a neglectful or abusive upbringing you might well develop criminal tendencies. However if you had these attributes and you were brought up to work hard, always beat the competition or win at sport you may well end up in the boardroom, an entrepreneur or a professional sportsperson. 

And some of these characteristics can be quite useful in certain context, if you had the absence of anxiety or remorse and possessed intelligence and charm, what could you do with your life? So psychopaths are not all bad. If you work in the SAS for example, some of these characteristics would be very useful. 

The point is that people who exhibit these characteristics are all around us, I came across a fair number of them when I worked in The City of London. They are often brought in to ‘drive change’ or ‘shake things up’ and consequently leave a trail of human destruction behind them. If you work with them it will not work to appeal to their human side, they will not even think about winning people over, you have to speak to them in terms that will make sense to them (ie how they will win more if they do what you suggest or how they will lose if they don’t). If you are in recruitment, think about what you are taking on if you take on these kinds of people; expect a shake up for sure, but do not expect them to  attend to the people side of things, it is not a skill they are capable of. And having known a few, it’s fair to say the psychopaths are not all bad - they can be outrageous, charming, fun to be with and spontaneous. 

For more on this topic, I would highly recommend the book The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton and The Good Psychopaths Guide to Success by Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab both available from Amazon 

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