How to Spot a Successful Psychopath
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Research and Personality titled “The Search of the Successful Psychopath” examined what separates psychopaths who become criminals from psychopaths who succeed in business.
Researchers concluded that successful psychopaths share the same core features as other psychopaths. They’re arrogant, dishonest, and callous. They experience little remorse, minimize self-blame, exploit people, and exhibit shallow affect.
What made successful psychopaths different was their level of conscientiousness. Psychopaths who become criminals rank low in this personality trait. Successful psychopaths, however, rank higher in conscientiousness.
Ranking higher in conscientiousness means that successful psychopaths are less impulsive, negligent, and irresponsible than the psychopaths who live a life of crime. That doesn’t mean successful psychopaths are always law-abiding citizens, however. They just might be smart enough not to get caught.
Psychopaths are most often male. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never encounter a female psychopath. Although they’re not as common, they do exist and they can be just as harmful as male psychopaths.
Why Psychopaths Sometimes Succeed in the Workplace
Psychologists estimate 1 percent of the population meets the criteria for psychopathy. Yet about 3 percent of business leaders may be psychopaths. By comparison, an estimated 15 percent of prison inmates are estimated to be psychopaths.
So why would a disproportionate number of business leaders be psychopaths? Researchers suspect their characteristics and behavior may give them some competitive advantages in the workplace.
For example, they’re quite charming. That can come in quite handy when someone is looking to network with powerful people.
They also have a grandiose sense of self. When they say they can skyrocket the company to new heights, they believe it. And they often convince others that they’re capable and competent too.
They’re also good at manipulating people. They know how to use guilt and flattery to get what they want.
How to Deal With a Psychopath
Whether you’re convinced your boss is a psychopath or you’re concerned your colleague is a psychopath, there’s a good chance that you’ve encountered at least one psychopath in the workplace.
Switching teams, changing departments, or finding a new job altogether may not feel like an option. But it’s best to avoid psychopaths whenever possible because working alongside a toxic person will take a toll on your psychological well-being.
If you must deal with a psychopath, try these five strategies:
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
No matter how frustrated or upset you feel, keep your emotions in check. Losing your cool gives a psychopath more power over you, as he’ll see that he can manipulate your emotions. Present a calm demeanor at all times.
2. Don’t Show That You’re Intimidated
Psychopaths often use intimidation to control others. A psychopath may make subtle threats, stand over you while you’re talking, or use aggressive language to get you to back down. Stand your ground in an assertive manner, and report incidents of bullying or harassment to human resources.
3. Don’t Buy Into Their Stories
Psychopaths often use long-winded tales to paint themselves as victims. They often blame other people and refuse to take any responsibility for their wrongdoing. Showing sympathy for them plays into their hand, so keep discussions centered on facts only.
4. Turn the Conversation Back on Them
Pointing out a psychopath’s flaws can be the best way to disarm them. So when a psychopath blames someone else, turn the conversation back on them. Say something like, “Are you doing OK today? I saw how you responded in the meeting today and I wonder if you might be stressed out.”
5. Opt for Online Communication Whenever You Can
A 2016 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that psychopaths excel at negotiating when they’re communicating face-to-face. Online conversations make it difficult–if not impossible–for them to charm their way into a better deal. So consider requesting all communication occur via email if you can.
Build Your Mental Strength
If you can’t escape daily interaction with a psychopath, it’s especially important to work on building your mental muscles. Get proactive about taking care of yourself and managing your stress.
If you’re struggling, consider talking to a mental health professional. It’s difficult to stay mentally strong when you’re working alongside a toxic person. PUBLISHED ON: APR 17, 2018The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.More from Inc.3 Ways to Make Sure Your Business Outperforms Its CompetitorsWhy You Need More Silence in Your MeetingsHow to Actually Stick to This Year’s ResolutionsWhy Generosity is Smart For Making Profits (and the Right Thing to Do)FEATURED VIDEO4 Things Every Founder Must Do Before Choosing an InvestorWhen you decide to sign up and take capital from someone,Volume 0%
Entrepreneurs Should Consider Doing These 3 Things Before Building a Company With an Exit Strategy
Here’s an alternate path to the Silicon Valley way.
Almost all startups founded in Silicon Valley are operating under the same imperative: in five to seven years, the company must undergo a liquidity event that returns capital to the original founders, investors, and other stakeholders.
This exit-focused approach to entrepreneurship is showcased in our leading universities and media (think Shark Tank), but not without a cost.
While companies with billion-dollar valuations pop up like weeds, so do stories of criminally inflated numbers — i.e. WeWork — or disappointing IPOs. The result is an exit that enriches a few but leaves a fading company to be acquired by one of the tech giants or dismantled for parts by a private equity firm.
Building a company with an exit strategy in mind can feel like the only option for entrepreneurs — but it isn’t. Richard Seaman, chairman of the Seaman Corporation and author of A Vibrant Vision, says that the exit-focused rhetoric and unicorns that dominate our headlines are not what powers our economy.
In fact, in the United States, privately owned, family-run businesses account for 64 percent of our country’s GDP, or $5.9 trillion, according to research.
So how do you go about building a company that will outlast you? Seaman shared three insights with me.
1. Make a conscious choice to focus on the long-term.
Avoiding the Silicon Valley exit strategy starts with a conscious choice: What kind of business are you building? Are you going to spend the next five to seven years focused on turning your idea into gold — and then getting out? Or are you in this for the long haul? Seaman says how you answer this question will have a waterfall effect, coloring every choice you make from here on out.
2. Focus on building all parts of the business, not just hyping a product.
If you are building a business to sell, you will most likely focus on the finance component of your business, shepherding your startup through the “Valley of Death,” which can hinder the long-term profitability of a company. However, creating a multigenerational business requires you to focus on the sustainability of the business from the start — investing in all parts of the business, such as innovation, marketing and sales, products and services, human capital, operational excellence, and finance. “Remember to focus on creating perennial growth, not just launching one initiative,” states Seaman.
3. Assess your liquidity needs and seek out sources of funding that match your objectives.
Many entrepreneurs balk at the idea of creating a business that survives them because they do not personally have the capital to get their idea off the ground. However, there are many methods of funding aside from angel investment or venture capital that do not involve giving away ownership in your business early on. Every business’s capital needs will be different at various stages, but it is important to develop a working relationship with your local banker early on.
While we might glorify the serial entrepreneur, thousands of multimillion-dollar, multigenerational businesses exist that are more innovative, more desirable to work for, and preferred by consumers to the boom-or-bust Silicon Valley startup. This model of entrepreneurship requires serious commitment, but it results in a business that creates and sustains deep and lasting value far beyond the money going into shareholders’ pockets.