Corporate Psychopaths And The Implications They Can Bring On The Organization


The chosen topic of this review and synthesis is to look at one of the members of the ‘dark triad’ – psychopaths and how they find their way into the organizations or corporations therefore becoming a “corporate psychopath’’ or an ‘’organizational psychopath’’. It is important to present the implications that Corporate Psychopaths for the organization/s in which they work. Corporate psychopaths have a lack or a total absence of conscience and they are very good at manipulating others. They can and will lie and can bully work colleges in order to gain ‘competitive advantage’. They can assert themselves very well within their organization. Their activities can have an adversely affect employee well-being. This can result in numerous other impact result in counterproductive work behaviours. Corporate Psychopaths are fascinating. They are an interesting topic to analyse particularly as organizations are getting bigger and more global. As a consequence they are increasingly been viewed and perceived by psychopaths as attractive places to fulfill their need for power. The professional experience of the author of this assignment was another reason why this topic has been chosen – who suspects that he has previously worked with Corporate, Organisational Psychopaths. Analysis The first article seeks to address how organizational psychopaths can have serious negative implications for organizations and corporations and how they function. Using the approach that psychopaths exist within the general population, approximately one percent of the population, it stipulates they work and exist in organizations too. Exhibiting the same characteristics as found within the general population, they create a false impression of how potentially attractive they can appear to any future organization and therefore can easily access their target company and organisation. Boddy (2006) notes: “Without the inhibiting effect of a conscience they are then able to ruthlessly charm, lie, cajole and manipulate their way up an organisational hierarchy in pursuit of their main aims of power, wealth and status and at the expense of anyone who gets in their way.” Getting into and working within an organization appears very attractive to an organisational psychopath. The bigger the organization, the more powerful they can become. The resources available can be used for gaining wealth, prestige and power. How do psychopaths get into the corporation or organization in the first place? Hare argues that these psychopaths can look and dress just like any other business people.

In addition, they can be very pervasive, they can do well in the interviews. If the person interviewing the potential candidate has no prior experience or knowledge of the subject matter, they would have no clue that they might be dealing in potential corporate psychopath. The person would generally come across as charming, funny and smart. After all, how many interviewers would angle their interview to expose or to stem a potential psychopath from getting into the organization. Subsequently when they succeed during interview and get into the organization or corporation they can work, remain there for a long time. Again Hare says that at the same time they will be working hard to establish themselves by methodically planning their rise to the top. Boddy (2006) suggests that organisational psychopaths maybe responsible for larger share of organizational misconduct for example: workplace bullying, exploiting the workforce or having no sense of corporate and social responsibility. This stipulates that corporate psychopaths can have a very destructive impact upon the operation and performance of workplace in question. Boddy hypothesises and lists the number of various effects that might exist within the organization or corporation as a direct result of the presence of organizational psychopaths. The list is extensive and portrays a very worrying view of what psychopaths can potentially inflict on the companies. They can get involved in fraudulent activities or exploit the organisations workforce. High staff turnover and workplace bullying can also be seen as the results of their presence within work environment. Another interesting point Boddy makes in the article, is the suggestion that corporations can be psychopathic. This is very provocative idea, but if we consider that organization like psychopaths have no conscience, this become rather logical conclusion. Boddy (2006) says ‘’If corporations themselves display psychopathic characteristics then the effect must be amplified or even multiplied when some or all of the managers running those corporations are organisational psychopaths as well’’. This can be again related to professional experience mentioned in the introduction paragraph. Boddy (2006) concludes that he is just beginning to explore the effects that organizational psychopaths can have on the organization, that is this also the issue itself requires further research. Boddy (2006) also says ‘’In the meantime organisations that are concerned that they may be employing organisational psychopaths can employ consultancies like John Clarke’s or Robert Hare’s to help them identify organisational psychopaths and manage their behaviour’’. The second article clarifies the meaning of Corporate Psychopaths and provides an inside into some techniques that can be used by Corporate Psychopaths within the organization in creating counterproductive work behaviours among the workforce. Boddy (2014) says that Corporate Psychopaths were initial recognition in Cleckley’s book ‘’The Mask of Sanity’’. This recognition was later developed into theory that sub-clinical psychopaths can use normal people to their advantage. Subsequently there was a realization that psychopaths might be working and functioning in any type of industry or business therefore according to Boddy corporate psychopath can be described as psychopaths working in any corporate sector.

Power, prestige and financial gains seems very attractive to these people. Boddy also offers the theory that when Corporate Psychopaths are present within an organization, the rate of conflict and bullying will be higher. This directly affects employees’ well-being and can cause increase in counterproductive work behaviour. An interpersonal conflict and differences always exist between the workers, workers or managers, managers themselves within the organization. Usually these conflicts are resolved one way or the other. Boddy hypothesises that among things like job insecurity or workload - the frequency of conflict is more often related to workplace bullying. He claims that higher workload and the frequency of conflict can all been related to the presence of Corporate Psychopaths. Furthermore, he points out that bullying, as form of conflict present in the work environment, can be attributed to a destructive culture within the organization and the existence of a Corporate Psychopath. For that reason both the organizations and employees concerned are negatively impacted. The negative impact on the workplace is known as counterproductive work behaviour. It is a deliberate action to destabilize the outcomes of work environment and its normal functioning. The outcomes of the work environment and its normal functioning are linked directly with efficiency and productivity. Employees are also negatively impacted, which relates to their affective, emotional well-being. Boddy (2014) notes that ‘’Affective, emotional or psychological well-being is a state where a person is content and happy with their life and with the balance of their work, home, emotional and spiritual lives.’’ Such a balanced state of mental and physical health is very important for a person to function properly in their personal life. Furthermore, it equally impacts functioning in the workspace too. Boddy implies that keeping this state balanced supports the stability, and the effective and functional work environment. Another way to put it, is that if employees are not happy, there will be negative consequences for the organization. This can for example take the form of increased staff turnover, absenteeism and loss of productivity. Finally, the article suggests when Corporate Psychopaths are present in the organization, they will increase the degree of destructive conflict and workplace bullying. The degree of conflict and bulling will impact directly employee well-being resulting in an increase in counterproductive workplace behaviour. Boddy backs up his finding based on research conducted in Great Britain in 2011 and presents seven different hypotheses. The research was done as survey of management behaviour and it was confidential to avoid biased answers. An online self-completion survey was completed by 304 senior employees in Britain in 2011 – these employees were white collar and mainly managerial. After the survey was completed and the data analysed, the following hypotheses were found to be supported: one, two, four.

First hypothesis presented in the article states that conflict and bullying are significantly linked with counterproductive work behaviour, where the second hypothesis says that conflict is higher in the presence of managers who are Corporate Psychopaths. The fourth supported hypothesis relates to employee affective-well-being and says that employee well-being is lower in the presence of a manager who is a Corporate Psychopath. Boddy concludes that existing research into toxic leadership, which Corporate Psychopaths represent, and associated counterproductive work behaviours is currently limited. The study described in the article contributes greatly into the existing literature. Another important point is that there should be screening of Corporate Psychopaths in senior positions. Boddy advises that organizations and corporations should minimize the employment of Corporate Psychopaths by very carefully monitoring and managing their behaviour. The last article provides an insight into research conducted by the authors in England in 2013. The research focused on interviewing numbers of directors and senior managers who apparently worked with Corporate Psychopaths, using a management psychopathy measure. The directors and senior managers were asked questions in one-hour long interviews on how psychopathic managers behaved and how other people reacted. The first of the crucial findings from these interviews, is fact, that investigated Corporate Psychopaths had created extreme and dysfunctional work environments. Boddy et. al. (2015) notes ‘’The HR director involved in managing the psychopathic manager identified in interview two described the workplace as being extreme; first, in terms of staff withdrawal behaviour’’. The article reports on extreme work environments – high turnover was reported by the same interviewee as the result of extreme work environment. The same person also stated that there was a lack of long-term planning and there was no encouragement for the employees to engage in the business. Other things reported includes relapsing work practices and abusive management. Another crucial finding the interviews provided, was a fact of very low level of cooperation between the department managed by the Corporate Psychopath and other department especially with the finance department and human resources department. This fact would suggest that the psychopaths was using a control technique to hide unethical conduct - in this case a likelihood of some fraudulent activities that the Corporate Psychopath was involved in.

While portraying themselves as shining stars within the organization, they have projected an extreme behaviour towards anyone working below them at the same time. This was the next crucial finding the interviews provided. This behaviour included bullying, intimidation and coercion. Boddy et. al. (2015) notes that ‘’The department was managed via a culture of fear, involving the bullying and intimidation of junior staff and the coerced resignations of those unwilling to unquestioningly obey the psychopathic manager’’. The fourth and the final finding from the interview relates to fact that there was a very high level of senior management support for the Corporate Psychopath. It was caused by the fact that the individual was seen as great manager who ran his department very efficiently. In reality the individual was using another manager’s experience to claim good work which is thought to be typical behaviour of corporate psychopaths. The interviews conducted research in the last article provided very interesting accounts of personnel that was directly interacting with Corporate Psychopaths. Bullying, intimidation, extreme forms of control by limiting communication between the members of the organization is a classic method used by the Corporate Psychopaths. What does stand out from this article is the last finding. The fact that psychopaths can use other people’s work and portrays themselves as model employees is very disturbing. On the other hand we can see that this sort of behaviour can go unnoticed by senior management. It makes this fact even more disturbing. The reality is that almost every working professional experienced a similar work situation where somebody else took credit for their job. While it might not signify the existence of a Corporate Psychopath operating inside the organisation, it definitely should not go unnoticed. If senior management do nothing to address the issue this ca be very demotivating for the workers.

Importantly, if these instances are not addressed and go unnoticed by the senior management and there is a Corporate Psychopaths within, this will give the person concerned a long time to operate undetected. Conclusion There is absolutely no doubt that Corporate Psychopath do exist within work environments. They will do very well during the interview presenting themselves as very attractive, potential employees. In an ideal world they should be stopped before they get into the organization, but this is not possible. However, this risk can be mitigated by adopting a certain approach during the interview by proper and thorough screening of potential candidates. This approach should also be adapted by individuals applying or trying to get the position within the organization. Employees should also have an equal chance for possibly identifying potential organizations that might be harbouring Corporate Psychopaths working within their ranks. At the same time organizations should consider that there might be a possibility that Corporate Psychopaths are already working inside the organisation. If there is a visible sign of higher staff turnover or there is an ongoing conflict between different groups of people, the organizations should closely monitor the work environment for the presence of such. As mentioned in the introduction this issue is very fascinating for the author of this review from the professional experience, but it also turned to be gloomy it as the accounts described in the interviews in the last article were very similar to what the author of this assignment experienced in the past. However further research and study of the topic is planned to gain more understating into the functioning of Corporate Psychopaths within organizations and what can be done to minimalize their toxic influence within the work environment.


  1. Boddy, C. (2014), 'Corporate Psychopaths, Conflict, Employees Affective Well- Being and Counterproductive Work Behaviour', Journal of Business Ethics, Vol.121(1), pp. 107-121. Boddy, C. (2006), 'The dark side of management decisions: organisational psychopaths', Management Decision, Vol. 44(10), pp. 1461-1475. doi: 10.1108/00251740610715759
  2. Boddy, C., Miles, D., Sanyal, C., & Hartog, M. (2015). Extreme managers, extreme workplaces: Capitalism, organizations and corporate psychopaths. Organization, 22(4), 530–551. doi: 10.1177/1350508415572508
  3. Cleckley, H. (1941/1988). The mask of sanity (5th ed.), Private Printing for Educational Use by Emily Cleckley 1988 (Formerly first published by C.V. Mosley 1941). Augusta: Georgia.
  4. Dunlop, P. D., & Lee, K. (2004). Workplace deviance, organizational citizenship behaviour, and business unit performance: The bad apples do spoil the whole barrel. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 25(1), 67–80.
01 February 2021
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