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Psychopathic CEOs Are Rife In Silicon Valley, Experts Say ( 274

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: There is a high proportion of psychopathic CEOs in Silicon Valley, enabled by protective investors and weak human resources departments, according to a panel of experts at SXSW festival. Although the term "psychopath" typically has negative connotations, some of the attributes associated with the disorder can be advantageous in a business setting. "A true psychopath is someone that has a blend of emotional, interpersonal, lifestyle and behavioral deficits but an uncanny ability to mask them. They come across as very charming, very gregarious. But underneath there's a profound lack of remorse, callousness and a lack of empathy," said forensic and clinical psychologist Michael Woodworth, who has worked with psychopathic murderers in high security prisons, on Tuesday. According to recent studies there's a high prevalence of psychopathy among high-level executives in a corporate environment: 4-8% compared with 1% in the general population. This makes sense, according to Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bryan Stolle because "it's an irrational act to start a company." "You have to have a tremendous amount of ego [and] self-deception to embark on that journey," he said. "You have to make sacrifices and give up things, including sometimes a marriage, family and friends. And you have to convince other people. So they are mostly very charismatic, charming and make you suspend the disbelief that something can't be done." However, the positive attributes are accompanied by manipulation. "One of the main things that makes them extremely difficult to organizations is their willingness to manipulate through deception," said Jeff Hancock, a Stanford social scientist who studies psychopathy. "Psychopaths will handpick people they can use as lackeys or supporters, such as someone in HR they can have in their wheelhouse," said Woodworth.
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Psychopathic CEOs Are Rife In Silicon Valley, Experts Say

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  • Business (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:42AM (#54050363) Journal

    Although the term "psychopath" typically has negative connotations, some of the attributes associated with the disorder can be advantageous in a business setting.

    What does this tell us about our economic system?

    • Although the term "psychopath" typically has negative connotations, some of the attributes associated with the disorder can be advantageous in a business setting.

      What does this tell us about our economic system?

      Well, it's not like the US has a monopoly on psychos. We got's us some darn good ones though.

    • Re:Business (Score:4, Insightful)

      by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @10:12AM (#54050571) Journal

      What does this tell us about our economic system?

      That it's a damn good idea to keep government and economics as separate as possible. If you put the government in charge of the economy, then the same psychopaths have control of both government and industry. Right now we at least have the possibility of competition between the economic psychos and the government psychos, so we can get them fighting each other instead of us.

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )

        If you put the government in charge of the economy...

        The vice-versa doesn't seem too great, either.

        Right now we at least have the possibility of competition between the economic psychos and the government psychos

        That seems to be less and less true each passing day, though!

        • If you put the government in charge of the economy...

          The vice-versa doesn't seem too great, either.

          Do you prefer the psychopaths with dysfunctional boardrooms or the psychopaths with large arsenals of weaponry?

          Apportion power appropriately to your risk analysis.

    • It doesn't mean anything. Having a certain number of people with Psychopathy in the general population is overall advantageous to the human race. I know it's hard to believe that but it's true.
    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Psychopathic CEOs Are Rife, Experts Say

      There. Fixed the headline for you.

      In other words, why should Silicon Valley be any different?

      • From

        The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.

        These 10 Careers Tend To Have The Most Psychopaths

        Media (TV/Radio)
        Police Officer
        Civil Servant

    • Duh! Corporations are chartered for greed so it automatically eliminates anyone with compassion from running it. The real problem is that most people don't want to admit that we are all part of the problem. The people that work for the corporations, buy from the corporations or invest in the corporations covers a wide swath of the general public. Where we work and how we spend our money either reinforces or reduces the problem. If people just throw up their hands and say "I don't have a choice" then thing
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      It tells us that it is a "scum swims to the top"-system. These fail long-term and make a lot of people miserable short-term without any real need or gain. It also tells us that the human race has still not figured out how to build societies well, except for small communities (which have their own issues).

  • Wow, I'm shocked. CEOs in Silicon Valley have similar characteristics to CEOs in NYC, Washington DC, and beyond. Where's the news here? Did many people really think that the most valuable companies in Silicon Valley are actually still being led by the people responsible for their initial invention(s)?
    • Just what I was going to say. Well DUH...
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @11:34AM (#54051175) Homepage Journal

      Well, there's always Warren Buffett, who is pretty much what the rest of them pretend to be. He started his first business in middle school, filed his first income tax return at 14 years old, made his first sale of a business at age 16, for the equivalent of $16,240 in modern dollars. Today he runs a 140 billion dollar company whose headquarters has twenty employees and no conference rooms.

      Buffett is by all reports amazing to work for. Being a manager in a company acquired by him has been compared to hitting the lottery. Once he decides you know what you're doing he just lets you do your thing. When the CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad called Buffett to report that flooding was going to cost the company a half billion dollars, Buffett reportedly responded, "You're not a publicly traded company, so why are you calling me?"

      Buffett may be a genius, but part of his success surely is that his genius is unhindered by personal drama. There is immense power to that combination of intellectual spark, ambition, and ... agreeableness.

  • Psychopathic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one who has had more issues with power tripping HR departments than CEOs?

  • How odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willoughby ( 1367773 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:51AM (#54050411)

    Why are the words "in Silicon Valley" in the title?

    • Why are the words "in Silicon Valley" in the title?

      To get the ragged, tattered remains of Slashdot's technical folk to click on the link.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:54AM (#54050439)

    Politics is just another form of business; so it's very apt to manipulations of a sociopath. and the people that voted in cheeto is fell for it... HARD. Now they have too much pride to admit they got conned.

  • by puddingebola ( 2036796 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:56AM (#54050441) Journal
    It is a well known fact that Steve Jobs had a secret button on his desk that released a trap door leading directly to his shark pool. Then, on a secret large screen television hidden in the wall of his office, he could watch the victim's last screams as they were torn apart by Great White sharks. Bill Gates preferred piranhas.
  • Canary (Score:5, Informative)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:57AM (#54050461) Journal

    Silicon Valley is just the canary. This is more than a Silicon Valley issue, and frankly more than a USA issue too.

    Have a look at what's happening in Canadian banks recently.

    • Indeed. The monetary system we have, quantitative easing and easy money perpetuates it. These people can be exceptionally rich without having any actual skills or any redeeming features whatsoever to show for it.

      People like David Icke reckons these people are lizards. In a manner of speaking they are. Their brains are certainly wired very differently to any normal person with empathy.
  • Why the surprise? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MTEK ( 2826397 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @09:58AM (#54050465)

    The Top 10 Jobs That Attract Psychopaths...

    10. Civil servant
    9. Chef
    8. Clergy person
    7. Police officer
    6. Journalist
    5. Surgeon
    4. Salesperson
    3. Media (Television/Radio)
    2. Lawyer
    1. CEO

  • Caution! (Score:5, Funny)

    by RumGunner ( 457733 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @10:04AM (#54050505) Homepage

    If allowed to continue unencumbered, one of these business psychopaths may even attempt to run for president one day!

    • Don't be silly, who'd vote for someone like that?

      I mean, imagine just how insanely awful the alternative has to be to make people vote for something like that!

  • I don't see it yet, but doesn't this remind you of a 'business leader' an CEO who recently was elected?
    I wonder how many other presidents of the United states might fit that category. Theodore Roosevelt might be a candidate.
    I'm not trolling however, I actually voted for the man. I suspected at the time and still suspect both he is a sociopath or psychopath of some kind.
    I considered him a horrible option for president. Simply the other choice was worse.

    Hey , whatever happened to 'embracing diversity'? Aren

  • It's actually supposed to be Psychic CEOs are rife in Silicon Valley experts say. Like all psychics, they are great at talking rich people out of their money.
  • start a real company with a real idea for creating value. But helps to be one if you're just a SV grifter looking to enter and exit with someone else's investment.
  • Here's what the deal should be: companies can do genetic testing all they want as long as it's always strictly against the law to employ psychopaths according to the genetic test.

    • what other categories should they genetically test for?
      Is there a test for likely depression?
      Is there a test for 'needs strong stimulus motivation'? aka lazy.
      how about a test for 'likely to deviate from sexual norm'?

      What other physical characteristics should we allow to be used to make people unemployable? Skin and Hair color used to be favorites, other then being somewhat arbitrary what is wrong with that?

      • You completely missed my point. Tying the genetic testing to psychopathy means that companies would never be able to hire the CEOs they want. These companies and the breed of psychopathic CEOs would complain so loudly the law would never get passed. But if they're going to force genetic testing on us*, then we might as well make it worth our while and publicly humiliate these monsters.

        *You do remember that story from a week ago, right? []

  • You do better at business if you step on people along the way. You have to be a psychopath to step on people the most. It's that simple.
    • Agreed, in any organization of sufficient size there is going to be back stabbing and stuffs.
      If you can't be an asshole, you are going to get back stabbed a LOT.
      I worked at a smallish company (as a lowly peon, thank god) but they gave REALLY good bonuses, the amount of back stabbing going on in middle to upper management was astounding.
  • I never would have guessed. If these individuals actually had to work for a living they'd die.
  • Every time you may ask yourself "is that morally justifiable", the psychopath has already done it. And he doesn't even understand what to contemplate about.

    Our system reinforces that behaviour. You're better off as a psychopath in such a position. Corporations are intelligence without conscience. The closer you are to this yourself, the better you function in such a system.

  • and talking with them? A lot of so-called experts diagnosed Trump (from his public statements and behavior) as having malignant narcissism, but look where it got him!

  • SV CEOs aren't hired to shoot SJW rainbows out of their assholes and hit everyone in the feels, or even to be nice people. They're hired first and foremost to MAXIMIZE SHAREHOLDER VALUE as quickly and efficiently as possible, and secondarily to achieve various strategic objectives (e.g., dominate their market) which are generally set by the shareholders and usually directly related to the achievement of MAXIMIZING SHAREHOLDER VALUE. Everything else in their worldview is generally irrelevant. Look back th
  • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

    4-8%, or to put it another way, 1 out of between 12 and 25, doesn't bring the word "rife" to mind.

    All this is telling me is that there's a much higher percentage of risk takers in business than in the general population...shocking.

  • And, of course, we *know* where the biggest, sorry, HUUUUGGGEEESST one of all is....

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @12:29PM (#54051643) Homepage Journal

    We have a class of people who:

    1) Are law-abiding (even if they make use of every loophole in the book)

    2) Widely recognized as leaders is a hyper-competitive environment

    3) Not only survive, but thrive in that environment, and inspire others to excel as well

    And the "experts" describe these people as having a disorder of some sort. They literally define business success as a mental illness.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If "Business Success" means selling defective products, lying to customers, stealing from Shareholders, yes, Business "Success" is mental illness.
      Witness the "success" in the White House for examples.
      Raise healthcare costs beyond reach for the old to give more tax cuts to the rich?
      purest psychopathy possible.
    • Lol, experts who are holding the next evolution of man from obtaining true greatness I'm sure.
    • The american psychological establishment is a highly biased and liberal leaning institution and very little of what the recommend has anything to do with what engineers refer to as 'hard science'. If you take pschy courses, which are really interesting I'd recommend at least a couple. You will find.
      1) that psychology considers itself a 'social science' not unlike say history, or anthropology.
      2) they do not hold themselves to the same kind of evidence based standard as what they term a 'hard science'.


    • Isn't that an almost verbatim description of evolution?
  • If you define psychopathic as "only caring about me, me, me", I worked there. What they did do was drive away talent. I saw the best engineers leaving, one after another. I'm not so talented, but decided to follow their example.
  • Do remember that Faux "news" paid a fortune to settle harrassment AND was being investigated for criminal witness intimidation (until the Friday Night Massacre last week).
    Psychopathy in the boardroom is a DESIRED trait by shareholders
    Nothing but profits matters, anyone who has moral qualms has to go.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @04:45PM (#54053353)
    I would have used the term "sociopath", not "psychopath", but many people don't see any difference between the two.
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @05:04AM (#54056777) Journal

    I have had the misfortune of encountering two psychopaths in my life. One rented a room from me and I worked with an occupational psychopath which is exactly what we are talking about here. It took me a long time to work out what they were.

    This is because the tactics of manipulation they use is beguiling and confusing. You are never certain if it is you or what is going on. If they meet your friends they will manipulate them and turn them against you with lies of 'MrKaos said this or that'. They will turn all of your peer group against you until you are dependent on them and completely at their mercy. And there will be no mercy. You will be manipulated until you either have a nervous breakdown, which I nearly did, or you kill yourself.

    For me the first psychopath was eventually exposed and responded by threatened me with a meat knife, twice, and other physical threats of violence. Now I am no push over. I was in my late 20s at the time and had about a decade of martial arts training to draw on. I knew as soon as that knife moved, my life as I knew it would be over. Instead of acting threatened I acted un-threatened, thinking that I would take that knife and use it against him, because that is what would have to happen. Psychopaths admire power. If you are powerful you can beguile them enough to escape, even temporarily.

    After several attempts at physical confrontations he eventually tried to ambush me. As I avoided his pathetic attempt to hurt me I sidestepped his assault, hit him under the neck and, with immense satisfaction, drove his head directly into the concrete upon which he was standing, ensuring there was no bounce and he would receive the full damage of my defense. I told him that if he ever came near me again - well you can guess what I said. He didn't stop and it took several years of being harassed and subsequent court cases to get this motherfucker out of my life.

    Several years later my second encounter was an OP when I worked for a large corporation you have heard of. I was gradually exposed, like boiling a frog, to familiar patterns of manipulation and confusing scenarios. Instead of being able to concentrate on my work I had to devote energy to defusing his tedious machinations, power plays and other things. Eventually he destroyed the career of my boss, who I was friends with before he came along and almost stressed a pregnant woman into a miscarriage. Psychopaths don't have to kill to get their supply of making people suffer.

    I concluded this person was an OP when he described to me, back in 2004, how he used to torture small animals like cats and rabbits for fun. This disgusted me and horrified me at the same time because as he told me I realized, from previous experiences, he was doing this to gauge my reaction. He was using this story to attempt to brutalize and intimidate me.

    I responded casually, despite my insides screaming 'get the fuck away from this guy', with a description of how my father taught me to hunt and maintain firearms. That he never let me hunt animals until I was a good shot and that when I did hunt, to aim for the heart or head and try to take the animal down with a single shot. I looked at him right in the face and said 'sometimes I would see a sick animal and realize the most merciful thing I could do was to shoot them right in the head', looked at the time, said it was an interesting conversation but it was time for me to go home. I was shaking when I got to my car.

    When the OP could not destroy my work, he instead tried to destroy me, unlike the previous psychopath I could not get away easily. Eventually I escaped when I snapped an achillies tendon and was no longer able to perform the role. Despite the pain, surgery and two years to learn how to walk again all I could think of was how grateful I was to have escaped the OP's final destructive plans for me. Whatever they were, they were bad. Ten years later, he was still trying. My other colleagues, who I am still in contact with, also look back with fear and horror of wh

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.