1 in 25 work bosses is a psychopath

Evil business leadersA new study claims one in every 25 business leaders is probably a psychopath. That sounds a rather low figure, actually.

But New York psychologist Paul Babiak claims his 111-point questionnaire - publicised in a BBC Horizon program - yielded accurate feedback. And psychopaths are hard to identify, he warns.

Psycho bosses on the loose

Their natural tendency is to be charming, he says. "Take that charm and couch it in the right business language and it sounds like charismatic leadership." You could even be living with or married to one for 20 years or more and not know that person is psychopathic he says.

Charismatic, psychopathic business leaders are often pretty rubbish middle managers, but their charm and manipulation usually is their weapon to cover up their weaknesses.

But what's increasingly apparent is that bosses are far more likely to be psychopaths than the general population (where the ratio is more likely one in every hundred).

"These were all individuals who were at the top of an organisation - vice-presidents, directors, CEOs - so it was actually quite a shock," says Babiak, speaking about his research.

Charm and danger

More disturbing is that such individuals were often thrill-seekers, easily bored. What better place for a psychopath than a work environment that's constantly changing, suggests Babiak.

Part of their charm-danger mix though can make other people think they're indispensable; they're often bullies. But what's the difference between a common garden bully and a psychopath? The BBC Horizon program will hopefully make that clear.

If you work for someone you suspect is psychopathic, it's often better to quit than attempt to waste your energy attempting to change them. Probably too many employers look the other way too.

Let us know your experiences and ideas.

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