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The Psychopaths in the Office

Posted on Jan 4, 2012
Thomas Hawk (CC-BY)

Former Nottingham Trent University business professor Clive R. Boddy is hot on the trail of one of the crucial social questions of our time: Are the people at the helm of our financial institutions “corporate psychopaths” who lack a “conscience, have few emotions and display an inability to have any feelings, sympathy or empathy for other people”?

Unfortunately, Boddy’s short essay, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, is inconclusive. But the evidence promises a fascinating debate for those who take it up, one that could lead to a radical reworking of the way we organize and run all of our major institutions. —ARK

San Francisco Chronicle:

Boddy doesn’t name names, but the type of personality he describes is recognizable to all from the financial crisis.

He says the unnamed “they” seem “to be unaffected” by the corporate collapses they cause. These psychopaths “present themselves as glibly unbothered by the chaos around them, unconcerned about those who have lost their jobs, savings and investments, and as lacking any regrets about what they have done. They cheerfully lie about their involvement in events, are very convincing in blaming others for what has happened and have no doubts about their own worth and value. They are happy to walk away from the economic disaster that they have managed to bring about, with huge payoffs and with new roles advising governments how to prevent such economic disasters.”

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, March 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

“I believe not all of them are like that, and some do try to maintain some level of integrity when going on their business.”  Kathy Blackmore, March 19 at 7:23 pm

Yes.
And very saddening.
That their numbers are so small, they have no worthwhile effect on banking policy, that when they try to exercise influence they are suppressed, threatened when they do not promptly shut up, and have to do as Greg did, quit their position and become a whistle blower in order to be heard.  Which, forever removes any possibility of returning to the scene of crime, sometimes even earning a living.  None of which has an effect on the continuing, banking, crime-scene.

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By Kathy Blackmore, March 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

A lot of the nation is angry at those people in financial institutions and banks, and the majority of wall street has been labelled in the same breath as evil doers. I believe not all of them are like that, and some do try to maintain some level of integrity when going on their business.

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By diman, January 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

“These psychopaths “present themselves as glibly unbothered by the chaos around them, unconcerned about those who have lost their jobs, savings and investments, and as lacking any regrets about what they have done”

It is because they know the secret of the corporate world, which is that even in the face of a crisis a wealth doesn’t just disappear it just changes form ( words of a banker by the way), so in any case we loose and they win.

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By miklwald, January 6, 2012 at 12:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The purpose of the corporation is to make money for
the shareholders. The people who work in these
corporations are “merely following orders.” If they
didn’t, they would be breaking the law. The Supreme
Court has formally asserted that, it is the law of
the land that the most powerful “people” in the
country are the corporations. “Human” people can only
serve the corporations, in much the same way as
robots or even raw materials. If, to maximize profit,
the cheapest labor comes from Mexico and the cheapest
steel comes from China, the people making the
decisions for the corporation have to get them there.
If you feel sorry for the people who get hurt, don’t
run a corporation. The shareholders will sue you.
I checked the psychiatric diagnostic manual and the
best fit for the rules corporations have to live by
is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Come to think
of it, the concept of America as a special country
satisfies all the criteria for Narcissistic
personality disorder. These folks usually don’t seek
treatment or even recognize that they have a
psychiatric disorder.

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By stand to reason, January 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

From day 1 when columbus waded ashore, it was psychopathic
then as it is now. Read Howard Zinn’s ‘The People’s History of
the United States’.
Money and wealth are the motivators. And with the psychopathic
club in the lead, the philanthropist or benevolent benefactor is
far and few inbetween. Such is the draw of riches for those
without a conscience.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, January 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

@question

Are you describing the upward mobility qualifications of corporate executives, or the current qualifications for CIA operatives and FBI agents?

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By question, January 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with the other posters who point out that it is the system.  In a corp environment, emotions are a significant abomination.  Cool, rationality (or appearance thereof) are worshiped. Ability to play hardball, scratch backs, threaten directly or by implication…there’s no upward mobility for caring humans, with reasonable ethics who want to spend time with their families & be good corporate citizens.

Rather the entire ladder of success is like a graduate exam to SELECT sociopaths, & refine their skills on every rung.

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By rumblingspire, January 5, 2012 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Creme Soda - Numero Uno
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP4s3xayp6o

“i got my own problems to face
and i don’t need yours.

i close my eyes,
i plug my ears,
to those whose lives i fill with tears.
since i got mine
i have no fear
AND I DON"T CARE.”

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By TheEnd, January 5, 2012 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

Start naming names and this might become useful.  I thought the documentary “The Corporation” covered this topic nicely years ago.

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By felicity, January 5, 2012 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

I would argue that the ‘psychopaths/sociopaths’ who
rise to high positions in government or the financial
sector do so by way of a trajectory they are on from
birth - prep school, ivy-league education, employment
merely an end result of the trajectory they enjoyed
by simply being born into a station of life inhabited
by people who were born on to the same trajectory.

George Bush is a living example of such an
individual.  Reading his resume it’s clear that he
was never required to atone for, to pay for, to take
responsibility for his long-list of screw-ups. 
Somebody, from his class, was always there to bail
him out. 

Fore instance, did it ever occur to George that his
admittance into military flight school, from the
(undeserved) top of a long list of others waiting to
be admitted, going through the training, it was
expected that he would follow through and be an air
force jet pilot?  No.  He refused to take the
required physical before getting his ‘wings’ so his
‘training’ (and huge expense to the rest of us) was
merely a lark, a pastime, something fun to do.  He
bore no responsibility.  He was somehow exempt from
honoring the commitment he had originally made.

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By balkas, January 5, 2012 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

gerard, with respect,
charity, to me, appears, vitiating, controlling, patronizing, sychophantic.
it is a mere illusion/delusion!
it shld forever dissappear.
it’s not empathy or lack of it that we need be concerned about—the
mere fact that a person has become richer [and i do not give a hoot how]
is an extreme evil.
giving money to charities means there is more money available to build
tanks, ‘better’ arms, yachts, jets, cruisers, cars; wage more wars, etc.

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By A. Benway, January 5, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

People with ethical and moral compass find corporate work, particularly “leadership” work, very troubling. People without these qualities have no such troubling feelings. The net effect is to encourage nuts and discourage decent people. So the problem is not the nuts, it’s the corporate system.

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By balkas, January 5, 2012 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

one more observation about people who can adapt to any way of living.
can some people adapt to a way life that is limitlesly evil or even much
worse than now?
will it get worse, tho? yes, and much worse for the 99% of world pop. tnx

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By balkas, January 5, 2012 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

bears, repeating, it’s the system that is evil; thus, generating also evil
people.
some of us humans can can adapt to any system. those that can [i
cannot] i call “more sanely insane”; i.e, they can murder innocent people
by the bushelfull, lie, cheat, steal, delude, etc.,  and sleep like a baby.
sorry, folks, but what i said is factual.
and yes, we can do s’mthing about it. OWS is already doing s’mthing
about it. tnx

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By PCM1956, January 5, 2012 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

The solution seems quite simple.
Approach it from a mental health issue not a legal problem.

If corporations insist they are “people” or have “person hood”. Have a qualified psychiatrist evaluate their behavior and if they are found to be psychotic, then for their safety and ours, they should be institutionalized. (ie, dissolve the corporation or lock up their lawyers, either one works for me) This is what happens in the real world to real people.

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By SarcastiCanuck, January 5, 2012 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe America should institute Sharia law just for bankers and corporate executives.Can you just imagine how many people you’d see walking down Wall St. with just one arm….Taxi,doh..

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Eric L. Prentis's avatar

By Eric L. Prentis, January 5, 2012 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

Architects and Engineers saying 9/11 did not happen the way the politicians say it happened.

http://architects-engineers.org/ 

Finding the truth about 9/11 will go a long way to forcing the psychopaths out of power.

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race_to_the_bottom's avatar

By race_to_the_bottom, January 5, 2012 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

It is a given that those who rise to the top of a system which values nothing but enriching the few at the expense of the many above everything good that civilization has created are going to be sociopaths. How could it be otherwise?

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By JJW, January 5, 2012 at 5:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It wasn’t pathological when the landowners had slaves, were committing genocide against Native Americans and people of color in other nations?

War is Peace - Barack Obama

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nestingwave's avatar

By nestingwave, January 5, 2012 at 5:20 am Link to this comment

I contend that the entire system is psychopathic and—-it is nothing new.  Ask the Native Americans or black people for example.  Slavery, brutality, minimizing the value of other human beings and the disdain and abuse of basic human rights have long been institutionalized amidst an environment of superstitious zenophobia. 

It cannot be minimized by pointing the finger and blaming something external whether it is the Oligarchs or haywire chemical processes in the brain. 

This is just a poor excuse for not facing the real problem.

The entire paradigm of get get buy buy spend spend CHARGE is unreal, inhuman and—-as we are now finally discovering—-totally unsustainable.  We are being consumed by our own consumption. 

Hello?  It is now wake-up time.

Answer:  Let wise parenting become respected as the highest of all possible endeavors—-love our children, sing and speak life to them and teach them the wisdom and importance of BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS for ALL—-and do it FROM THE MOMENT A ZYGOT FIRST TAKES ROOT IN THE WOMB AND BEGINS TO UNFOLD. 

It is now becoming known that our DNA encoding is what gives rise to all human language.  The structure of DNA produces the structure of our language—-so—-the words we speak find resonance at the cellular level even long before they are understood cognitively.  And—-the two most powerful and important things any human being can ever speak are 1) “I LOVE YOU” and 2) “THANK YOU.”

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By chris ml, January 5, 2012 at 3:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.
Henry Ford   (Henry ford received a medal from Hitler)

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By Dr Bones, January 5, 2012 at 1:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Native Americans would continue to be killed if they had anything of value.  One group of people killing another group of people over resources and wealth. This is the human experience.

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By bragladish, January 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

there are psychopaths and there are sociopaths and there is a difference between the two. A psychopath has no conscience and is prone to violence, having been conditioned to a sadistic penchant early in their development. A sociopath is someone who has no conscience but does not get off on hurting others physically, but gets off on hurting others psychologically, monetarily, etc. There are an estimated 14 million (1% psychopaths + 3 to 4 % sociopaths) in America. There is also an estimated 100 serial killers, at large, at any given moment. If you start to see the massive potential of this group you will also start to recognize how a pathocracy can and has been permitted to occur in our society. And you will clearly see how the financial markets have been destroyed.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, January 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

Our political leaders are no different…. prove me wrong….. allow Inda to extradite
Warren Anderson, the CEO who removed the safety controls off the chemical plant in
Bhopal India that resulted in the death of 20,000 people….. he’s still hanging out at the
country club playing gold,  un perturbed by what he did, because he knows that the
political process of this country will protect him…...

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Psychobabbler's avatar

By Psychobabbler, January 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

The only way that they could possibly absolve themselves of the symptoms would be to claim ignorance (yeah right). You don’t get to where they are with honesty. At this point it’s probably best to ease into it, like having their mom teach them some manners for example.

If it’s best for the rest of us then it’s best for them.

They may have figured out at some point though that the following sentence was not true which is where the whole thing goes over my head and now I am feeling threatened again.

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By gerard, January 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Way too simple!.  A trap for people looking for an easy answer. Lacking in empathy, by the way, is a very large net, if you consider everybody everywhere. 
  1. Not all extremely wealthy totally or even partially lack “empathy.”  Otherwise they would not give money away, or direct the designation of their charities.
  3. Every extremely wealthy person would be “psychopathic” or become so.  And if so, at what level of wealth would they “turn.”  And then maybe “turn back” during old age with regrets?
  4. Does the psychotic aspect turn up after they get rich, or is it exaggerated by getting rich?
  5. Many people who lack empathy do not become wealthy? Are they cruel and heartless in other ways?
  6. Why doesn’t Big Pharma invent an empathy pill to control avarice?  And while they are at it, an anti-aggression pill to stop wars?
  7. To what degree is choice involved?Consciously, or unconsciously? Has anybody ever switched choices?  If so, why. If not, why not. Etc

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By faith, January 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment

“the unnamed “they” seem “to be unaffected” by the corporate collapses they
cause.”..as evidenced by the cavalier way that they took the tax dollars meant to
bail out the ineptitude of these corporations/wall street and put main street back
into a working mode.  Instead, they gave their CEOs and leadership billions of
those tax dollars in bonuses and retirements.  Unbelievable.  So.  Mr. Cavlan RN, I
see the psychopaths as the greedy who took those billions in bonuses and
pyramid schemes, and…....

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By Michael Cavlan RN, January 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

Oh Sorry. I thought this was about the psychopath in the office of the White House. President Obama. Should have realized that that kind of truth would never appear in any article “allowed” ink at TruthDig.

Can ya dig it? As in TruthDig it?

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