A number of weeks ago, I saw the movie Horrible Bosses, a dark comedy with Kevin Spacey who not only horribly mistreats his workers, but also ends up being a psychopathic killer. (Note: the film has already grossed over $170 million).
The UK Daily Mail (2 September 2011) reports that psychologists have found that “one in 25 bosses is a [real] psychopath‘ but hides it with charm and business-speak,” and that this is 4 times higher than the prevalence of psychopathology in the general population.
According to Oregon Counseling
, a psychopath “lives a predatory lifestyle. They feel little or no regret…[and they] see people as obstacles to be overcome and eliminated
The position of a boss at work would seem like a comfortable perch for a psychopath to occupy, where they could feed off of vulnerabilities of their underlings.
Thank G-d, not all bosses are like this–I can vouch for some very good ones out there–who truly are devoted to the success of the enterprise and look out for their people. As one of my good bosses told me, “we are going to set up together to succeed!”
At the same time, there are other bosses out there, who as one of my best friends would say, “the wheel is still turning, but the hamster is dead.” They are there purely for themselves–plain and simple. Their career, their success, their next promotion…everyone else is just part of the food chain.
If I had to guess, I would bet that narcissism is highly correlated with psychopathic behavior at work. Note–to organizational behavior researchers out there, please verify!
So how do the psychopaths achieve the positions of power?
According to the research cited in Daily Mail, they actually cover up their poor performance and climb the social corporate ladder “by subtly charming supervisors and subordinates.”
In other words, boss psychopaths are chameleons–expert at hiding their true colors or as my father used to tell me if that person has two faces, why would they use that one? 🙂
Boss psychopaths are NOT real leaders–they lack empathy, are callous, deceitful, and use others for their own gain.
When we are fooled by psychopaths into putting them into positions of power, we are falling prey to their manipulations, and are putting our organizations and people at the ultimate risk for failure.
One Psychologist calls psychopaths: “people without a conscience”--this is the complete opposite of who we need to seek out as leaders for our organization–to raise them up to higher standards of conduct, performance, and genuine teamwork.
A REAL leader is a caretaker of the mission and people of the organization who strives to see both outperform and thrive–while bottom-feeding is for sharks and psychopaths only!
There is a religious (Jewish) saying that from one good deed comes another–for the organization and it’s people, focus on the demonstration of ethical and caring behavior and results.
When I see a truly great leader, I am am inspired and hopeful again.