From Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada to Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde, bad bosses, like Elon Musk, have been a staple feature in blockbuster hits throughout the years.
But these nasty characters pale in comparison to many bosses, like Musk, in the real world, according to a study.
Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University say that Musk is so manipulative that he should be classed as ‘corporate psychopath’.
Corporate psychopaths are driven by money, power, and control – and are willing to do almost anything to get them, according to the researchers.
Corporate psychopaths are driven by money, power, and control – and are willing to do almost anything to get them, according to the researchers (stock image)
Key signs your boss is a ‘corporate psychopath’
Experts say the key personality traits to look out for are:
- Superficial charm
- Apparent intelligence
- Lack of sincerity or truthfulness
- A tendency to cheat
- A lack of remorse
- Being emotionally shallow
- A lack of self insight
- Apparent rationality
Previous studies have shown that around 0.6 to 1.2 per cent of adults are defined as psychopaths.
This means they possess no conscience, shame, guilt, or the ability to experience love or feel empathy towards other people.
However, until now, little research has focused on psychopaths in corporate settings.
The researchers set out to investigate this in their study.
Dr Clive Boddy, lead author, said: ‘Highly psychopathic senior businesspeople who were quite plausibly genuine psychopaths are visible in commercial history.
‘This new study aims to understand whether some corporate scandals and bankruptcies feature senior corporate officials who might be workplace psychopaths, and this has demonstrably been the case.’
The team focused on American fraudster, Bernie Madoff, who was behind the largest known Ponzi scheme in history, uncovered in 2008, and thought to be worth a staggering $64billion (£52billion).
They examined Madoff’s actions against two previously established scales of psychopathy.
These included personality traits such as superficial charm and apparent intelligence; lack of sincerity or truthfulness; a tendency to cheat; a lack of remorse; being emotionally shallow; a lack of self insight; calmness; and apparent rationality.
The analysis suggests that Madoff showed signs of all of these traits – both in his role at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, and in prison following his arrest.
The team focused on American fraudster, Bernie Madoff, who was behind the largest known Ponzi scheme in history, uncovered in 2008, and thought to be worth a staggering $64 billion (£52 billion)
‘People have often wondered whether Bernie Madoff was in fact a corporate psychopath, and he certainly scored highly on the two measures of psychopathy utilized within this study,’ Dr Boddy said.
‘The findings suggest that Madoff’s fraud was an outcome of his personality and that similar personalities such as Robert Maxwell and Ken Lay, have behaved in similar ways.’
The team hopes the findings will help businesses identify corporate psychopaths before they rise to the top.
‘There are likely to be plenty of people in the world of corporate finance with similar psychopathic traits to Bernie Madoff,’ Dr Boddy added.
‘The job for financial corporations and firms, if they want to give themselves the best chance of avoiding crisis, would appear to be identifying them before they ascend to power.’
Psychopaths display different traits depending on their disorder.
Common signs include superficial charm, a grandiose notion of self-worth, the need for stimulation and impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others and a lack of remorse and empathy.
But despite the popular association, not all psychopaths become killers.
Experts claim people usually find psychopaths intriguing, but can’t put their finger on why.
This is down to incongruous behaviour because psychopaths tend to do a lot of acting to deceive, or mimic normal reactions, sometimes changing their views and reactions quickly.
For example, Self-professed psychopath Jacob Wells said that upon meeting someone, he tries to become ‘the most interesting person they know’ and presumably adopts suitable interests and responses to do this.
His response also gives away another common trait – a grandiose notion of self-worth – in that he can be the most interesting person in the room.
Psychopaths occasionally tend to exhibit unconvincing emotional responses, with slip-ups including tone of voice or body language.
This may be because they are unable to understand emotions such as fear and love, but can mimic them.
Psychopaths display different traits depending on their disorder, but common signs include superficial charm and the ability to manipulate others. Despite the popular association, not all psychopaths become killers (stock image)
Generally psychopaths’ ’emotions’ are shallow and short-lived and there is a manipulative ulterior motive to showing them.
For example, Mr Wells said he offers to do favours and tells false secrets to people to gain their complete trust.
He also displays insincere charm – another trait associated with psychopaths.
He says: ‘I keep secrets, and tell them fake secrets to further gain their trust, and once they trust me enough, I ask for favours, reminding them of the favours I did them. I can get literally anything from them, which is incredibly useful.’
Psychopaths typically display an incredible ability to manipulate others and sometimes take pleasure in doing so.
Psychopaths often have an air of superiority about them, perhaps shown by Mr Wells’ belief he can spot other psychopaths
Even expert Dr Hare, who came up with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) used as a diagnostic tool to determine where someone lies on the psychopathy spectrum, warns that anyone can be duped during a short interaction with a psychopath.
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