The Psychopath at Work, Home and Play

By Nic Smith

Joseph Newman, the head of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimates that up to 1 percent of the general population in the United States can be described as psychopathic. This means that there are among us, roughly 3 million psychopaths. In the media, psychopaths are usually portrayed as heartless serial killers, but by the best estimates, there are only 100 to 500 serial killers in the United States. So even if we deduct 500 serial killers from the psychopaths, we are still left with an upward number of 2,999,500 psychopaths in the United States. (This number does NOT include inmates in our correctional facilities where it is thought that between 15% of the prison population is psychopathic.)

So, who are these psychopaths who don't generally kill people and are not in jail? Surprisingly, many psychopaths lead perfectly conventional lives as professionals -- doctors, scientists, lawyers, accountants -- or businesspeople - bankers, company CEO's -- or employees in many other places in the workplace. They frequently have spouses and children. Dr. Robert Hare, the preeminent authority on psychopaths, has called this subspecies of seemingly normal individuals sub-criminal psychopaths.

How do you know if you are working with, married to or planning a long road trip with one of these folks? Dr. Hare developed an assessment instrument that is widely used to diagnose these sub-criminal types in the business world. A shorter version of that checklist looks at these aspects of the individual: 1) Superficiality 2) Grandiosity 3) Manipulative 4) Lacking remorse 5) Lacking empathy 6) Does not accept responsibility 7) Impulsive behavior 8) Poor behavior control 9) Lacking goals 10) Irresponsibility 11) Adolescent anti-social behavior 12) Adult anti-social behavior. These aspects are rated on a 0-2 scale and scores over a certain number are considered to be definitive evidence of psychopathy.

That's all well and good, but most people reading this aren't clinicians who can administer tests to those around them. How can you check someone out who may have some or all of these characteristics, prior to hiring, investing in a business venture or otherwise entangling your life with theirs? One way to protect yourself from psychopaths is to hire a highly skilled investigator to examine the past of individuals you are considering getting involved with, because the characteristics described above produce certain behaviors that usually show up in the past histories (as well as the present conduct).

For example, grandiosity, which is a highly inflated sense of self without evidence to back it up, can be discovered in conversations with the individual, with neighbors or past co-workers and with business associates. Neighbors and co-workers frequently will report that the individual will talk about abilities they don't possess or accomplishments that are wildly inflated beyond the facts and will claim relationships that don't exist with high profile individuals.

Impulsive behavior can show up as an inability to control spending or as taking unnecessary risks. Examples are spending money both personally and in business with no budget constraints, traffic tickets for extremely excessive speed, investments in businesses that hold no hope of turning a profit, using vendors because the psychopath "likes" them (usually it's because they identify someone they feel they can manipulate).

Adult anti-social behavior frequently shows up in violence, law breaking, viewing the world as "fair game." Examples are frequent fights, raging, gossiping about a co-worker in order to make them look bad and make the psychopath look like a savior.

Irresponsibility can be failure to pay bills, frequent lawsuits over failure to honor contracts or promising to do something with no intention of honoring that promise. Failure to take responsibility can also manifest in poor planning of events, such as business projects, and when these projects fail, shifting the responsibility or blame for the failure to another individual.

The above are only a few of the ways psychopathic behavior can manifest. The best defense against these kinds of predators among us is to thoroughly examine their backgrounds, especially when they are being considered for management or executive positions within a company. Failure to do so can result in hiring someone who looks good on paper, but is a time-bomb that will explode and damage, sometimes permanently, an otherwise thriving business enterprise.

If you or someone you know is at risk of being harmed or has been harmed by someone who displays psychopathic behavior, please contact us at Parrent Smith Investigations and Research, right away. We have the education, resources and experience to help you chart your course away from the damage these people can perpetrate. Call us today at 800-516-2448.

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