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Businesses The Almighty Buck Science

Could Testing Block Psychopaths From Senior Management? 422

Freshly Exhumed writes "Dr. Clive Boddy believes that increasingly fluid corporate career paths have helped psychopaths conceal their disruptive workplace behavior and ascend to previously unattainable levels of authority. Boddy points out psychopaths are primarily attracted to money, status and power, currently found in unparalleled abundance in the global banking sector. As if to prove the point, many of the world's money traders self identify as the "masters of the universe." Solution? Screening with psychological tests. Who would pay for it? The insurance industry." The tech world has plenty of company heads who've been called psychopaths, too — but would you want to actually change that?
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Could Testing Block Psychopaths From Senior Management?

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  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:22PM (#42068529) Journal
    it should probably pick less karma-whore targets for it. First of all, investment banks and insurance companies are indistinguishable. They are essentially in the same business. But to answer the actual question, why wouldn't you want a banker to be attracted to money? Not everyone should be socially conscious as a job requirement. Only if it is in fact part of the job. I mean I wouldn't want a nurse or doctor who were sociopaths. But a banker? Why not? If it makes them better bankers, then more power to them.
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@NOsPam.hackish.org> on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:26PM (#42068559)

    As a European, it's hilarious that Americans think their center-right government is made up of "crazy radicals".

  • by Zironic ( 1112127 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:28PM (#42068577)

    The point is that it doesn't make them better bankers. Specifically a psychopathic banker will instead of help you make more money, help your money get into his pocket.

    The problem isn't their attraction to money, it's their medical inability to give a shit about anyone else.

  • by anon mouse-cow-aard ( 443646 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @05:30PM (#42068591) Journal
    As a Canadian, It's terrifying that Americans think their center-right government is made up of "crazy radicals".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:04PM (#42068799)

    [citation needed]

    Or, if you want another way of putting it.


    To be a Doctor or surgeon requires years of dedicated study and work. That's not a feature of psychopathy - quite the opposite. Psychopaths are pathetic individuals who thrive only in the most superficial quick win environments where chancers and spivs can make it big by spinning the wheel.

    So many people seem to think emotional control = psychopath. Quite the contrary... psychopaths have very poor emotional control as well as concentration... they are also have extremely poor impulse control. In any environment where you have to deal with people over long periods... they fail horribly by getting caught out eventually. They only succeed when they can wreck their havoc and then vanish up/out leaving others to clean up.

    Go speak to a real psychopath sometime.

  • by CFTM ( 513264 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:10PM (#42068821)

    I don't disagree with your assessment but it's not nearly as easy as you make it out to be; otherwise no organization would have incentives that rewarded behavior that was not desired.

    To your point though, you get what you reward...building the right system is not easy.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @06:17PM (#42068861)

    Seriously folks, their behaviour is classed as antisocial for a reason, read the words - ANTI SOCIAL.


    That is NOT the defintion of antisocial. It is not necessarily bad for society. There was an article [economist.com] in the Economist that describes a study that found that people with cold emotional detachment are exactly who should be running things.

    This is especially apparent in military leaders. In the American Civil war, leaders like McClellan and Meade were known for their compassion and concern for the welfare of their troops. But hundreds of thousands died unnecessarily because they failed to push for a decisive victory early in the war. More emotionally detached generals like Grant and Stonewall Jackson were far more effective.

    How many allied troops died in Normandy due to Monty's dithering? Meanwhile "blood and guts" Patton was encircling 40,000 Nazi troops at Falaise.

  • Worked with one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Thursday November 22, 2012 @10:13PM (#42070347)
    I worked with a genuine psychopath; no hyperbole; a true psychopath. This guy could charm the pants off anyone. If you met him you loved him; that simple. But after around 6 months you wanted him dead. After a while I learned some key skills to working with him. One was to nail everything down in an email and I mean everything. If you didn't have everything nailed down he would change the past. If you said you could have something done by the 30th and didn't put it in an email then around the 20th he would announce at a meeting that you were going to be late with your promise to have it done by the 25th like he told the client and put in the contract, a contract he would swear on a stack of bibles that you had looked over. The key here was that you probably did look over a contract that said the 30th and he had an email from you saying that it looked fine. So as I said, everything must go in an email so the trick was if he handed you some paper you scanned it and attached it to the email replying that you had read the contract.

    Most people were unwilling to go to such lengths and thus would be screwed over and over until they quit. The key to understanding this guy was that he simply had zero empathy. Not little but zero. So if he hurt you for some tiny gain of his own so be it. But this is different from someone who is say mean as in a bully, for them being mean is the goal. For my psychopathic co-worker you had to understand that he had his own desires and that was it. He didn't weigh pro and cons in any normal fashion. If you quit then you could be replaced with a fool who might be easier to screw.

    I long ago left working with him but in the years since I have encountered really nice person after person who clench their fists and say horrible things about this guy. They all say the exact same basic thing; wow charisma coming out his ass until he sets you on fire to warm his hands.

    On a superficial basis a company might justify that having someone like this around is useful for the moment that you need to charm some upset client. This might work in theory but what you forget is that the moment it is advantageous for this type of person to screw you they will screw you. Your company might say, "they wouldn't do something so stupid as this industry is too small" but keep in mind that there are two incomprehensible factors at play. This is a person who does not give the tiniest of craps what anyone really thinks as long as they can't actually do anything. The other factor is that they will be able to charm themselves out of almost any situation. So if you say that they will never work in this industry again you are wrong. You will make a solid case to other people you know really well who also respect you and your opinion but the psychopath will meet them and turn their opinion 180 degrees and land on their feet.

    This might seem a bit long winded but after dealing with a true psychopath it is hard to believably explain the functioning of someone who simply is incapable of sympathy and has 100% confidence that normal consequences don't apply to them. Take any situation where a normal person might say ooh this might blow up in my face, or I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy and remember that a psychopath will do it and would do it to their mother if there was even a tiny chance of them somehow benefiting.

    So when I see the whole banking crisis and people are suggesting that these guys inadvertently destroyed trillions of dollars of the wealth in the US along with their own companies and I just remember my psychopath and think that if he was getting low on gas and could push a button that refilled his tank but destroyed a company all he would think is "cool Free gas" while the rest of us would frown about what kind of dick would even create such a button.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:02AM (#42071993) Homepage Journal

    If that's your goal, then you have to get rid of the psychopaths in government, because without them the private industry cannot do any of the stuff that you are complaining about.

    Maybe it's not impossible, but it surely isn't likely for private banks to construct a scheme where they all lend money to people who they know cannot pay the money back, but they lend to them anyway because the government guarantees the loans and passes laws that push banks towards making those types of loans (setting quotas on how many loans must be made in subprime market and guaranteeing those loans with 'free', sorry, public money. Doing all this while the Federal reserve gives out free credit to the banks and destroys the interest rates in the process, pushing bankers to search for yield not in normal business but with extremely risky stuff).

    What would you do as a banker if you couldn't find yield no matter where you looked, because the gov't manipulated the money supply and interest rates?

    What would you do if the government provided you with enough rope (fake insurance) to hang yourself and your customers in the process? The system is rigged by government to inflate and implode.

    You don't need to be a psychopath to do what the bankers did actually, you just have to be desperate for yield in an economy that no longer provided any legitimate economic activity and the only activity that was provided was by the Federal reserve creating and giving you fake money and by government pushing you into specific sectors like stock market and housing (and now government debt, treasuries).

    Bernanke came out couple of days ago, telling the government to absolutely not reduce government spending and not to raise taxes (to avoid the so called nonsensical 'fiscal cliff', going over which would actually be a tiny step towards solving the problem of deficit and debt), so he advised the government to create more debt, which he promised to monetise.

    He said all that while yapping about 'making sure that the world knows that USA is serious about solving its debt problem'. Ok.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Friday November 23, 2012 @05:14AM (#42072035)

    Or take Obamacare. On one hand, it gives access to healthcare to people who couldn't afford it. On the other hand, it charges *everyone else* through the nose to pay for the former group.

    Actually, the idea is that socialised health care costs so much less (and demonstrably so) that the rich don't pay more (often less in fact), and the poor get health care. Win win.

    The reason we are amazed that you think plans like obamacare are crazy, radical plans is because they're still pretty damn right wing. Obama care is much less socialised than most health care in europe. There's nothing "radical left wing" about being more right wing than the majority of the world.

If you want to put yourself on the map, publish your own map.