Keeping it real
“Some of the personal stories we hear most likely are descriptions of true psychopaths, but, of course, many are not. What is clear is that a large number of people believe that they do work for a boss… from hell. We estimate that about 1 percent of the population has a dose of psychopathic features heavy enough to warrant a designation of psychopathy. Perhaps 10 percent or so fall into the gray zone, with sufficient psychopathic features to be of concern to others. Most people have very few or no psychopathic characteristics. What about the business world? …There can be no simple answer to this question, for the philosophy and practices of organizations range from ethical and altruistic to callous and grasping, perhaps even ‘psychopathic.’
Presumably, the former would have fewer resident psychopaths than would the latter, Although no doubt there are exceptions. For example, a religious or charitable organization – by its nature trusting and lacking in street smarts-might provide a comfortable niche for a smooth-talking, charismatic psychopath…
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of scientific evidence concerning the number of psychopaths in business, for several reasons. First, few organizations will provide the sort of access to their staff and files required to do proper assessments… Second, psychopaths have a talent for hiding their true selves, so one could expect many to go unnoticed and uncounted, leading to an under-reporting of psychopathy in business. It may be only the patsies (former pawns) who see behind the masks of particularly successful psychopaths. Third, psychopathic-like traits and behaviors are also exhibited by some individuals who are not truly psychopathic, which could lead to over-reporting… Nonetheless, based on many anecdotal reports and on our own observations, it is likely that psychopathic individuals make up much more than 1 percent of business managers and executives…
However, we should be careful not to confuse the presence of a few psychopathic-like traits with the disorder itself… Judging oneself or others because of one or two traits or behaviors that appear to resemble those of psychopaths (but typically are much less severe) is common but not wise. Only a relatively few individuals, true psychopaths demonstrate most of the expected traits and characteristics in a consistent manner across all aspects of their personal, professional, and social lives….
Boss from hell?
Your boss is cold, hard-driving, and ruthless. Before concluding that he is a psychopath, you should carefully consider the possibilities that your judgment is at fault and that his behavior is more a reflection of a personal leadership style than of a psychopathic personality. Because management style is rooted in training and experience, there are as many styles of management as there are managers. It is not surprising, then, that the match between employee expectations of how a boss should act and the supervisory style actually exhibited by the boss is not often perfect, leading to disappointment, conflict, and misinterpretation.
One of the earliest investigations into the styles of supervisors took place from 1946-1956, but the finding still has relevance today.” They can help people look at their manager’s behavior a little more objectively, taking it a little less personally. In this study, “Employees described their leaders’ behaviors on the job, leaders, in turn, described their own behaviors and attitudes…” The results of these Ohio State studies showed that there are two large groups of behaviors… Consideration and Initiating Structure.
Consideration refers to behaviors and attitudes that deal with interpersonal interactions between employee and boss. Highly considerate bosses treat people with respect, consider the egos and self-esteem of others in their decisions, and build working relationships on mutual trust. Staff perceives bosses low on consideration as uncaring and inconsiderate of the feelings of employees; they seem to be distant and cold.” It is easy to see that reports of bosses berating employees in front of others, ignoring them when common courtesy demands otherwise, and failing to build relationships based on mutual trust and respect might actually reflect a boss low on consideration, rather than a true psychopath.” ‘Berating employees in front of others is bullying but not necessarily psychopathic bullying!
Initiating structure, the second supervisory factor, means that a leader should decide on the work goal and tasks to be completed, flesh out the roles of the team members, and delineate the standards of performance or key success measures – in essence, ‘lead.’ Bosses high in this factor take an active part in determining what needs to be done and how to do it. Traditional boss roles, such as planning. Organizing, communicating, setting expectations, and defining the ‘big picture,’ fit in the high end of this factor. A boss who dominates or who issues orders every step of the way may just be too high on initiating structure and not a true psychopath.” Micromanaging – is a form of bullying but not necessarily psychopathic bullying. “Conversely, if the boss is rarely involved or even interested in the work you do, she may be very low in this factor – ‘laissez-faire leader’ – or may not be a leader at all.
Most people want a boss who is considerate and trusting and who builds rapport.”
From 14 years of casework, I’ve found that the most ‘popular’ respected bosses are those who are firm but fair – that means everyone knows the rules and what will happen if you break them. Bosses who make big promises about their reports’ future careers do not stay popular as the reality often stops these bosses from delivering on their promises; their departments can lack direction and discipline. Workers tend to prefer clarity and direction as opposed to friendly woolliness.
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