psychopathic bosses

Is Asia's financial industry rife with psychopaths?

A recent study showed that one out of every 25 executives may be a psychopath, so we asked readers last week to share their feelings about their own bosses.
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Psychopaths wear suits too (AFP)
<div style="text-align: left;"> Psychopaths wear suits too (AFP) </div>

Most of our readers suspect that their bosses could be psychopaths, according to last week’s web poll. There is a good chance that some of them are probably right, according to a recent study that found business leaders are four times more likely to be psychopaths than the average person.

That could be a low-ball estimate according to our readers, only 16% of whom said there was no way their boss could be a psychopath. The rest reckoned that it was either “almost certain” or “possible”, which suggests a far higher rate of psychopathy among Asia’s financial professionals (unless our respondents all work for the same person).

The study’s authors, Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, interviewed 200 executives and were alarmed to discover that eight of them could be classified as psychopaths — including individuals who were directors and CEOs.

Psychopathy can be defined as “a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity and deceptiveness”, according to Wikipedia. If that sounds familiar, it may be time to consider a new job — because psychopaths do not make good bosses. Generally speaking, they are intelligent, have no conscience, want to win at all costs and are skilled liars and manipulators, which gives them all the tools they need to thrive in the workplace, probably at your expense.

The financial industry likely attracts an even higher proportion of such people, given the high rewards paid to successful risk-takers and persuasive salespeople (psychopaths can be women, too). Indeed, the tumult afflicting financial markets lately is like a playground for psychopaths, who thrive on the excitement of chaotic situations.

Hare’s psychopathy checklist, which takes the form of an informal interview and he claims is a reliable way of identifying psychopaths, measures a revealing list of traits: “glib and superficial charm, grandiosity, need for stimulation, pathological lying, conning and manipulating, lack of remorse, callousness, poor behavioural controls, impulsivity, irresponsibility, failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions” and so on.

Coincidentally, this is also the time of year that FinanceAsia conducts its awards interviews, which involves many hours in the company of the region’s top bankers. Checklist in hand.

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