Is Your Boss a Psychopath? Here’s How to Tell!

boss day 2015While it may seem somewhat perverse to be talking about psycho bosses on this happiest of all holidays, the sad truth is that not all bosses are as wonderful as yours. And even bosses that are not wonderful may be just, well, wacky and not truly psychotic. But there is significant research that the corporate world – even globally – attracts its fair share of psychotics, and often at the very highest levels of the organization.

Fast Company first summarized the research being conducted in an article in July, 2005. Robert Hare, a criminal psychologist who usually worked with law enforcement, developed a Psychopathy Checklist and then revised it to make it easier to identify what he categorized as “subcriminal or corporate psychopaths. He has broken down the 20 personality characteristics into two subsets, or “factors.” Corporate psychopaths score high on Factor 1, the “selfish, callous, and remorseless use of others” category. It includes eight traits: glibness and superficial charm; grandiose sense of self-worth; pathological lying; conning and manipulativeness; lack of remorse or guilt; shallow affect (i.e., a coldness covered up by dramatic emotional displays that are actually playacting); callousness and lack of empathy; and the failure to accept responsibility for one’s own actions.” On the other hand, “corporate psychopaths score only low to moderate on Factor 2, which pinpoints “chronically unstable, antisocial, and socially deviant lifestyle,” the hallmarks of people who wind up in jail for rougher crimes than creative accounting.”

In fact, to help you separate the psycho from the merely weird boss, Fast Company developed a quiz (replicated in part here):

For each question, score two points for “yes,” one point for “somewhat” or “maybe,” and zero points for “no.”

  1. Is he or she glib and superficially charming? ____ Points
  2. Does he or she have a grandiose sense of self-worth? ____ Points
  3. Is he or she a pathological liar? ____Points
  4. Is he or she a con artist or master manipulator? ____ Points
  5. When he or she harms other people, does he or she feel a lack of remorse or guilt? ____ Points
  6. Does he or she have a shallow affect? (Are they cold and detached?) ____ Points
  7. Is he or she callous and lacking in empathy, not caring about other’s feelings? ____ Points
  8. Does he or she fail to accept responsibility for their own actions? ____ Points

Now, add up your boss’s total points. So, how does your boss rate? According to Fast Company, if your boss scores:

1 – 4 points – You should be frustrated.

5 to 7 points – You should be cautious.

8 to 12 points – You should be afraid.

13 to 14 points – You should be very afraid

Now, the good news is that the vast majority of bosses are not psychopaths. In fact, only 1% of the general population scores in the 13 to 14 point range on this quiz. And while today’s corporate environment seems ready-made to nurture psycho leaders, the percentage remains low. The odds are very good that you are not working for a psychopath, and that you have one of the many, many strong managers and good leaders that abound in Corporate America.

So go ahead, have a Happy Boss’s Day in 2015 (October 16th). Because, eventually, you may run up against a Psycho Boss!

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