The Benefits of Psychopathy for Business and Capitalism
Psychopaths are drawn to business because of the "opportunity to make a lot of money, to gain status and power" (Hare & Babiak 2006). They are predominantly found in positions of high authority such as CEOs and executives; and they aid the capitalist venture for finance and consumption, even if they must exploit the proletariat to achieve this. Cut-throat psychopaths are a profitable tool for capitalists to obtain financial gain as their ability to manipulate and their entrepreneurial skills are imperative for success.
Characteristics such as manipulativeness can be particularly useful for salesmen who can easily persuade customers to buy their products; similarly, lawyers may benefit from a lack of empathy when questioning (and potentially psychologically harming) witnesses in court. Dutton (2012) interviewed a lawyer who said that they "have absolutely no problem at all reducing an alleged rape victim to tears on the stands". Although the interviewee is not a confirmed psychopath, having this lack of empathy helps them to successfully fulfill the roles expected of them for their career. These are all characteristics that psychopaths are apparently born with. This makes them naturals in certain fields of work. Hare and Babiak support this; they explain that "psychopaths do naturally what some politicians, salesman, and promoters have to work hard to achieve: impress listeners with how they say something".
Hare and Babiak developed a questionnaire called the Business Scan (2006), it consists of four topics: personal style, emotional style, organisational effectiveness and social responsibility. This model was constructed based on corporate settings rather than criminal (unlike the PCL-R and the PCL:SV) so provides more insightful knowledge into the white-collar psychopaths that aren't found behind bars. The table below demonstrates the fine line between leadership skills and psychopathic traits:
Ability to influence
Fabrication of intricate stories
Ability to take risks
Ability to make hard decisions
This table shows how similar psychopathic and leadership traits are, and if a psychopath is born with these characteristics, does this mean they are natural born CEOs? Of course, there is a difference between 'ability to take risks' and 'impulsivity', with the first being regarded as entrepreneurial whereas the second, irresponsible. Yet if a psychopath's score for impulsivity is not too high, nor too low but at an optimum level (like in Ray's diagram of life success- see this article) perhaps they are perfect for fulfilling a leadership role within a corporate setting.
The Great British Psychopath Survey (as cited in The Wisdom of Psychopaths 2012) questioned volunteers on their psychopathy levels and their employment details. The results showed that those who scored higher on the psychopathy scale tended to go into certain careers more than others (see table 2). Careers that have high levels of psychopathy include journalists and salespeople whereas low scorers tended to be care workers or charity workers.
High Psychopathy Levels
Low Psychopathy Levels
This research further implies that psychopathic characteristics allow for natural-born salespeople and CEOs. Many of these jobs require the persuasive charm that is a skill psychopaths have from birth which allows them to thrive in certain corporate settings.
Despite this, there can be some damaging symptoms of a psychopathic presence in the workplace. For instance, other workers in an office would have to interact with the psychopath, which could be an unpleasant experience when dealing with manipulation and pathological lying.
Hare and Babiak (2006) estimate that roughly 1% of the human population are psychopaths yet 3.5% of executives fit the psychopathy profile. This suggests that although there are very few of them, many are drawn to positions of power within a corporate setting. Although this may be damaging to some groups of people, it can also be beneficial for business and for capitalism whose aim is to earn as much money as possible, which may be an easier goal when working with someone who has innate entrepreneurial skills.
Babiak, P. , Hare, R. (2007). Snakes in suits: when psychopaths go to work. Published New York, Regan Books.
Dutton, K.. (2012). The wisdom of psychopaths: lessons in life from Saints, spies and serial killers. Published London, William Heinemann.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Angel Harper