Folk wisdom has established strong links between psychopathic tendencies and success in business — it seems almost intuitive that someone who is charming, good at taking the credit, and who experiences no remorse would make a great CEO!
Joking aside, studies have found a significantly higher rate of psychopathic behaviour in upper management types — a whopping 4%, versus 1% in the general population. And while working under a psychopath may be good for business, it can wreak havoc on the mental and emotional health of employees.
A team from Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières has sought to standardize the identification process for workplace psychopaths, and quantify those miserable health repercussions for workers. The team has confirmed the current identification test, the B-Scan 360, which rates a subject in four antisocial behaviour categories of five traits each. (Click here for the full list.)
The researchers then analyzed how psychopathic bosses affected their workers in both the public and private (specifically financial) sectors. They found some intriguing differences:
“Within the public sector, perceived psychopathy of managers directly predicted psychological distress. In the financial settings, psychopathy predicted distress only indirectly, via [a] common link to work-family conflict. It is possible that in the private sector, employees are more accepting of supervisors who exploit or manipulate them, because they’ve come to expect such treatment.”
The team also found data to complicate their conclusions, including the fact that there were more women in their financial sector group than in the public group — women who may have felt more pressure to keep family life in balance with their work, and whose psychopathic bosses may have given them more trouble over it than the men in the sample.
For those of us who work away from traditional offices, worrying about a psychopathic boss might not enter into our day-to-day lives. But, if your workplace has bosses, it may be handy to keep the B-Scan 360 around to periodically check in with. If you are a boss, it may prove even handier — after all, a functional, welcoming workplace environment is important for everyone.