Can you identify the office psychopath?

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Lack of realistic life goals

While a clearly negative trait which often leads the psychopath toward a downward spiraling personal life, when couched in the appropriate business language, can be misinterpreted as strategic thinking or ‘visioning,’ a rare and highly valued executive talent. Even those traits that reflect a severe lack of human feelings or emotional poverty (lack of remorse, guilt, empathy) can be put into service by corporate psychopaths, where being ‘tough’ or ‘strong’ (making hard, unpopular decisions) or ‘cool under fire’ (not displaying emotions in the face of unpleasant circumstances) can work in their favor. In sum, the very skills that make the psychopath so unpleasant (and sometimes abusive) in society can facilitate a career in business even in the face of negative performance ratings.

Identifying the dangerous ones

The group that tested high in psychopathy shared several traits that distinguished them from their colleagues, and these trends could all be seen in their performance reviews and in their evaluations by their employees. In general:

•    Psychopaths had very high ratings on communication, strategic thinking, and creative abilities; and

•    At the same time, they had been dinged for poor management style, failing to act as team players, and even had poor performance reviews. Despite performance reviews, they still managed to get selected as ‘high potential’ performers. The researchers suggest this is testament to their superior communications skills and their ability to manipulate decision makers.

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