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Why Psychopaths Love Abusive Bosses


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There is one type of person who might thrive under an abusive boss. A study, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, said it is the psychopath, Gizmodo reported.

Researchers from the Mendoza College of Business of Notre Dame recruited volunteers and asked them how they would react to a hypothetical boss who is either abusive or constructive. They conducted two separate studies, and in one of the studies, the volunteers rated their managers and were asked how they felt about them.

Level of psychopathy

The volunteers also took a test that measured their level of psychopathy for both studies. Although the most consistent feature of psychopathy is a high level of antisocial behavior, people could be primary psychopaths or secondary psychopaths.

The primary psychopath is one who is more unfeeling and less fearful. The secondary psychopath is more prone to anger and impulsive behavior. Those who got higher scores on the measure of primary psychopathy in the first study were more likely to approve the behavior of their abusive boss.

In the first study of the 419 working adults, the researchers said there were no differences in anger between high and low primary psychopathy volunteers. However, the participants who were high in primary psychopathy said they felt happier after they imagined themselves working for a manager who is abusive.

In the second study, the people who were classified as primary psychopaths said they enjoyed working with their real-life abusive managers. Charlice Hurst, an assistant professor of management at the Mendoza College of Business, said that under abusive supervisors, primary psychopaths benefit. She noted that such type of employees feel less anger and have more engagement and positive emotions under abusive bosses.

For the second study, the participants were asked about behaviors considered abusive such as rudeness, gossiping about workers, not giving proper credit for work, invasion of privacy, and breaking promises. There was less anger among the high in primary psychopathy.

Bad workplace

Hurst said that psychopaths prefer bad bosses because they are better suited for high-stress and demanding environments such as leadership positions. But they may not flourish in such workplaces long-term. The situation suggests a bad workplace is hard to sustain because of a vicious cycle.

Such a corporate environment may reward and retain exactly the kind of people likely to perpetuate abusive cultures. Hurst added that psychopaths will thrive under abusive bosses would be better positioned to be promoted ahead of their officemates.

Although companies use engagement as a measure of organizational health, the study showed that delving deeper is important. Hurst cited the case of Wells Fargo where the former workers complained of managers who used tactics that were designed to create fear and shame to meet unrealistic sales goals.

The upper-level managers were not aware of the situation or opted not to act on the complaint, Brinkwire noted. They may have noticed higher levels of engagement because of turnover of workers low in primary psychopathy, while those high in primary psychopathy were retained. But Hurst pointed out that at the extreme, Wells Fargo could end up with a highly engaged workforce made up of psychopaths.

Spotting a psychopath

According to Daily Mail, to spot a psychopath, the common signs include superficial charms, a great notion of self-worth, the need to stimulate, impulsiveness, pathological lying, the ability to manipulate others, and a lack of empathy and remorse.

However, the newspaper clarified that not all psychopaths become killers, contrary to the popular association or what is often portrayed in the movies or TV.

Experts said that many psychopaths are intriguing but they cannot explain why. It could, perhaps, have to do with the lot of acting that psychopaths do to deceive or to mimic normal reactions.

Jacob Wells, a self-professed psychopath, shared that when he meets someone, he attempts to be the most interesting person and would often adopt suitable interests and responses in a bid to convince the new acquaintance that he is the most interesting person in the room.

Because they could not understand emotions such as love and fear – but they can mimic these emotions – they occasionally tend to show unconvincing emotional responses except in a slip-up. It would show in the tone of their voice or body language.

Ulterior motive

Since their emotions are generally shallow and short-lived, experts said that there is a manipulative ulterior motive in showing these emotions. Wells admitted to offering to do favors and spreading false secrets to people to gain their complete trust. Once he has gained their trust, he asked them for favors and reminded them of past favors he did for them which allows Wells to get literally anything from them.

The experts added that psychopaths often show an incredible ability to manipulate others and oftentimes, take pleasure in doing so. They also have an air of superiority, which was shown by Wells when he said he can spot other psychopaths.

[메디컬리포트=​Vittorio Hernandez 기자]


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