Yesterday I received a link to this interesting article by Hannah Norton “How to spot an office psychopath”. The article argued that there are certain personalities who deliberately inflict harm to others and that these personalities fall within a category that psychologists call the ‘Dark Triad’ which comprises three sub-personalities: Machiavellianism, sub-clinical narcissism and sub-clinical psychopathy. There is a strong correlation between psychopathy and bullying behaviour and unfortunately while Psychometric testing is commonly used by companies at the recruitment very few if any test for the Dark Triad. The article then says that common signs of the corporate psychopath include superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy. This is all true but recognising these traits during a behavioural interview is very difficult, and once you have hired the corporate psychopath it is too late.
There is one profiling methodology that does include corporate psychopaths and that is the 7MF/Humm-Wadsworth. Here are some clues during the recruitment phase that might prove useful. First you should check out the LinkedIn profile for frequent job changes and few if any recommendations from senior executives. Corporate psychopaths create 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.
During the interview you first check out their dress. 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 Donald Trump and in most of them he is wearing a red tie.
During the interview corporate psychopaths will be charming, but two things give them away. They will soon drop names by asking if you know some important person and implicitly showing they associate with winners. Also, corporate psychopaths are driven by the desire for material success so they will talk about recent gambling wins or money made in on the stock market. Their interests outside of work either include gambling interests such as horse racing or expensive “winner” sports like sailing or skiing.
While clinical psychopaths are estimated to comprise 1% of the population, for corporate psychopaths the number has been set around 3% of the workplace. However there are probably another 12-15% of the workforce with psychopathic tendencies. We all have a little psychopath inside us.
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