Beware of corporate psychopaths in leadership positions

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Emmanuel Zvada

By Emmanuel Zvada
DID you know that, there are more corporate psychopaths than one might think and they are still occupying positions of power in organisations.

Business leaders and board members must not believe that corporate psychopaths are only found in other companies.

They need to pay attention to the red flags, within themselves and among other employees in an organisation because it’s a reality.

Corporate psychopaths are not as rare as one might think.

And they not only create a toxic environment but they also destroy the long-term success of the company. If you think your corporate or organisation is immune, think again or you may be one.

Corporate psychopathic behaviour

This is a form of corporate conduct, which meets the psychiatric criteria for human psychopathy, that is, a failure to conform to social norms and the violation of accepted ethical standards without remorse.

Some researchers recognise corporate psychopaths as constituting the biggest threat to business ethics that we currently face.

They embody a variety of traits which collectively constitute an unsympathetic and ruthless character who tends to bully other people to get their way, and to avoid being challenged or scrutinised.

The other traits of corporate psychopaths are that they have unimpaired intellectual functions, which allow them to skilfully manipulate and mislead others.

They usually hide behind the façade of a charming and sincere friend, leaving a long-lasting first impression of a character too grand to resist.

As master manipulators and pathological liars, they find behaving in a misleading way relatively easy.

Psychopaths consider themselves superior to others and have an unshakeable belief in their exceptional intellect and capabilities.

The organisational psychopath

Organisational psychopaths normally have a stranglehold on other people. They prefer to work at the very highest levels of organisations, which allows them to control the greatest number of people.

Psychopaths, who are political leaders, managers or CEOs, may generally appear to be intelligent, sincere, powerful, charming, witty and charming orators.

They quickly assess what people want to hear and then create stories that fit those expectations.

They will con people into doing their work for them, take credit for other people’s work and even assign their work to junior staff members.

But they have no patience when dealing with others, display shallow emotions, are unpredictable, undependable and fail to take responsibility if something goes wrong.

Corporate psychopaths destroy employee morale and engagement

Employee confusion, mental distress, reduced well-being, workplace withdrawal and organisational decline are the outcomes of their presence as leaders.

Whether at a corporate level or a departmental level, corporate psychopaths lessen employees’ commitment to the company.

The cost to an organisation of hiring a psychopath can be enormous, encompassing cultural disruption, poor team morale, ruptured stakeholder relationships, opportunity loss, potential litigation and damaged
reputation.

Corporate psychopaths create a toxic environment

Corporate psychopaths create a toxic environment. They seem to enjoy causing pain and they normally cause a toxic work environments where negative, antagonistic, or bullying behaviour is baked into the culture of the organisation.

Corporate psychopaths are bullies and bullying is used as a tactic to humiliate subordinates.

Bullying is also used as a tactic to scare, confuse and disorient those who may be a threat to the corporate psychopaths, particularly in high-level leaders, causes suffering and is, therefore, an ethical issue.

But there’s another issue as well: It potentially costs businesses as far as culture erosion is concerned.

Are psychopaths easy to spot?  How can you spot one?

One thing that many people want to know is how easy it is to spot a psychopath? Is it possible for instance to spot them almost as soon as you meet them?

The reality is that in most cases it is very difficult if not impossible to spot a psychopath when you meet them.

Most of them are very adept and clever at concealing their true nature and can even come across as the most charming and likeable people at first sight.

They are also inherently manipulative and deceptive and, therefore, even vastly experienced researchers and profilers can struggle to spot them.

Spotting a psychopath involves looking out carefully for signs of this mask slipping and glimpses of their true toxic nature peeping out.

You are looking for contradictions between their contrived persona or image and their actual behaviour as you see them over time.

How do you deal with corporate bullies and psychopaths?

We have all come across an office bully at some time in our lives who can make life unbearable in the workplace and for everyone around them. Bullying in the workplace is the abuse or misuse of power.

Bullying is defined as behaviour that intimidates, degrades, offends, or humiliates a co-worker.

Faced with such a predicament your firm should have a workplace behaviour policy that includes information about bullying.

Find out as much information as possible, including notifying supervisors and the measures you may anticipate them to take.

The Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] prohibits the victimisation of employees who make complaints or intend to complain.

Bullying is a form of harassment and is defined as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another, or others, in the workplace, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate workplace
practice.

All managers and supervisors have a responsibility to model appropriate standards of professional conduct at all times and to ensure that the workplace is free from harassment, victimisation and bullying.

Nevertheless, solving these problems does not happen instantly, especially if such behaviours are deep-rooted practices. Company owners and managers must take the lead in discouraging such behaviour.

Corporate psychopaths destroy morale, cause the best employees to leave and even commit whole-scale fraud and often use blatant lies and cheating to fool their bosses into believing they are valuable assets.

  • Emmanuel Zvada writes in his own capacity. He is a human capital consultant and an International Recruitment Expert. For comments inbox to emmanuelzvada@webmail.co.za or call +263771467441.