Business And Psychology- Does It Pay To Be A Psychopath?

by Evan Thomas

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This is a guest post courtesy of Evan.

I admit I was definitely a little taken aback when I read the title to this post and immediately thought of people like Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Marky Mark in the movie Fear… hehe.

However keep a readin’ because this post just might surprise you and make you reassess your perceptions of psychopaths and whether or not it does indeed… pay to be a psycho. (Spoiler Alert: I’d wager not so much.)

Feel free to drop any comments below this post.

The term psychopath is certainly not one that has particularly positive connotations.

When most of us hear the word, we tend to think of murderers and evil doers who have no concern for the well-being of others.

The term seems almost synonymous with ‘evil’ and we tend to be very mistrusting of anyone we suspect might fit the description.

It may surprise you then to learn that…

being a psychopath isn’t necessarily an entirely bad thing.

While psychopathy under any definition of course has some negative elements, it also actually has some positive ones and these can be particularly useful in the world of business.

Here we will look at why that might be and at whether or not you should consider taking on a slightly more psychotic outlook yourself.

Defining Psychopathy

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To begin with, let’s start with a definition of psychopathy.

Essentially psychopathy is characterized by a lack of empathy (inability to sympathize with others or put yourself in others’ shoes), lack of remorse, antisocial behavior, egocentricity (being self-centered), superficial charm, poor impulse control, parasitic behavior, irresponsibility, and manipulative behavior.

It is also often  associated with narcissism which is a form of extreme ‘self-love’ – often used to cover up a deep-seated insecurity.

Here’s a little more if you need it: What is a Psychopath?

Now you might be thinking that these traits all sound negative, whether in business or your personal life.

No one wants to be insecure and parasitic, and poor impulse control is hardly going to help you with balancing your books. And yet you may be surprised…

Surprising Correlations

According to the findings of psychologists Fritzon and Board, high achieving business executives are actually highly likely to meet the criterion for a psychopathy.

In fact, in their study Fritzon and Board compared the personality traits of convicted criminals in a mental hospital with the traits of business executives and it was found that the business executives were more likely to be psychopathic than the criminals-

a phenomenon that lead to the term ‘successful psychopaths’.

So why might this be the case? Why might psychopathy be conducive to business? Let’s take a look and see what we can learn from the slightly unhinged.  

Beneficial Aspects of Psychopathy

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Some of the traits of psychopathy should be instantly beneficial for businessmen and women.

If you take ‘superficial charm’ for instance (which some would argue is no different than regular charm?) then you can see how this might be useful for getting people to agree with you and support your ideas.

Psychopaths may just have the ability to convince people that their ideas are great and that they have the abilities necessary for success, which is of course going to be helpful in a business setting.

(BGB note: Hopefully their ideas and abilities are in fact great!)

Then there’s manipulative behaviors.

Who hasn’t read The Art of War and seen how it could be useful in the workplace?

Sometimes good management is about second guessing how people will think and then motivating them/convincing them through any means necessary.

At the same time though, some of the more negative aspects of psychopathy could also be beneficial in the right context.

Narcissism and egocentricity for instance will often come across as supreme self-confidence which will then help the psychopaths to win the faith of employers, investors and partners.

At the same time a lack of remorse or empathy could also be useful for getting ahead – the ability to prioritize work, to trample on others to promote your own interests and to feel no guilt about any of it could certainly move you forward in your goals.

Even a lack of inhibition and impulse control could be useful for taking risks and not looking back. 

So the question of the day is…

Do You Need to Be a Psycho to Succeed?

If you want to be a success, is it time to become more ruthless? Learn to manipulate people? Be over-confidant?

I would argue no, as this can just as easily backfire and damage your chances of success – it’s a quick and easy way to make enemies for sure.

Likewise, while there are benefits to being  somewhat cold, there are similarly benefits to doing business in the right way – it’s not just good for your conscience but it will also help you to impress clients and customers and to win true loyalty.

Ultimately though, even if you could find more success by stepping over to the dark (not dork! dork is good!) side, it would mean selling your soul to some degree.

Is success really worth the price of your soul?

Over to You

What’s your point of view on this? Do you think being successful in business means succeeding by any means necessary? Have you had experience in dealing with anyone who may very well have been a psychopath themselves, and you didn’t know it? Do tell in the comments below!

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