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Snakes In Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work

The text covers the nature of psychopaths in the context of employment and purports to explain how psychopaths manipulate their way into work and get promoted, the effects of their presence on colleagues and corporations, and the superficial similarities (and fundamental differences) between leadership skills and psychopathic traits. The work is interlaced with fictional narratives illustrating how the factual content applies to real-life situations. Characteristics of manipulators are described as shifting to meet stereotypical gender expectations: a female psychopath might make full use of the passive, warm, nurturing, and dependent gender role stereotype in order to get what she wants out of others and a male psychopath might use a macho image, intimidation, and aggression to achieve satisfaction of his desires. The authors posit that around 1% of senior positions in business are occupied by psychopaths.

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work

In Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, industrial psychologist Paul Babiak and criminal psychologist Robert D. Hare, describe the typical psychopaths at work, their personality characteristics, and strategies for dealing with the psychopaths.

On the surface, psychopaths generally come across in public as being at the top of their game, wearing the suit of success. However, they are actually playing out a parasitic lifestyle. They prefer living off the work of others rather than their own efforts, so actually being a drifter, moocher, or wastrel is a common lifestyle choice despite a façade to the contrary.

Paul Babiak, Ph.D. is a New York-based industrial and organizational psychologist, and president of HRBackOffice, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in helping executives deal with possible psychopaths hiding within their organizations. He and his collaborators have conducted some of the most influential original research on corporate psychopaths. His work has been featured in newspapers, business magazines, and documentaries and he has been a guest on many radio and television talk shows. His clients have included executives in business, academia, law enforcement, government, insurance, medicine, marketing, finance and intelligence and he speaks about the corporate psychopath at professional conferences and business meetings. Paul is vice president of the Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation, a non-profit organization providing information and support for victims of psychopathy.

Once psychopaths have entered an organization, they start assessing the utility of everyone there. This is made easier by the fact that new employees are actually expected to actively seek out and meet everyone in the company in their first months. Psychopaths can thus easily assess the utility of coworkers, bosses and support staff, and then charm the relevant ones.

When meeting their new colleagues, a psychopaths is primarily interested in identifying and bonding with pawns that can provide him with useful resources: money, information, expertise, influence, and so forth. A corporate psychopath can, for example, deliberately build a bond with technically proficient coworkers with the goal of manipulating them to do his own work.

Now that you know that corporate psychopaths exist, you may well want to know what you can do when you meet one at work? Besides the tips presented in the previous book summary, the work environment presents a few additional considerations.

First, as always, relationships and reputation are important, but especially so when dealing with a psychopathic boss or coworker. You should also try to build a reputation as a high performer. By always doing your best, you build a solid reputation against any rumors the psychopath may spread about you, and also stop him from using any poor performance against you.

Researchers Paul Babiak and Robert Hare have long studied psychopaths. Hare, the author of Without Conscience, is a world-renowned expert on psychopathy, and Babiak is an industrial-organizational psychologist. Recently the two came together to study how psychopaths operate in corporations, and the results were surprising. They found that it's exactly the modern, open, more flexible corporate world, in which high risks can equal high profits, that attracts psychopaths. They may enter as rising stars and corporate saviors, but all too soon they're abusing the trust of colleagues, manipulating supervisors, and leaving the workplace in shambles.

Snakes in Suits is a compelling, frightening, and scientifically sound look at exactly how psychopaths work in the corporate environment: what kind of companies attract them, how they negotiate the hiring process, and how they function day by day. You'll learn how they apply their "instinctive" manipulation techniques -- assessing potential targets, controlling influential victims, and abandoning those no longer useful -- to business processes such as hiring, political command and control, and executive succession, all while hiding within the corporate culture. It's a must read for anyone in the business world, because whatever level you're at, you'll learn the subtle warning signs of psychopathic behavior and be able to protect yourself and your company -- before it's too late.

In addition to the problems their abusive behaviors cause to spouses, friends, and family members, individuals with a heavy dose of psychopathic traits are potentially harmful to professional relationships. For example, their grandiosity, sense of entitlement, and lack of personal insight lead to conflict and rivalry with bosses and coworkers, and their impulsivity and live in the moment philosophy lead them to keep repeating these and other dysfunctional, antisocial behaviors, despite performance appraisals and training programs. Many experts believed that these traits alone make it difficult for psychopaths to have successful long-term careers in industry. At least that was the conventional wisdom until we did our research.

Fourth, psychopathic individuals, known for ignoring rules and regulations, coupled with a talent for conning and manipulation, found these new, more flexible organization structures inviting. The temptation for someone with a psychopathic personality to join a new, fast-paced, competitive, and highly effective transitional organization, especially one with few constraints or rules, is too great, and the personal rewards too significant, to be ignored. The effect of these things is that psychopaths are more attracted to work for businesses that offer fast-paced, high-risk, high-profit environments.

The premise of this book is that psychopaths do work in modern organizations; they often are successful by most standard measures of career success; and their destructive personality characteristics are invisible to most of the people with whom they interact. They are able to circumvent and sometimes hijack succession planning and performance management systems in order to give legitimacy to their behaviors. They take advantage of communication weaknesses, organizational systems and processes, interpersonal conflicts, and general stressors that plague all companies. They abuse coworkers and, by lowering morale and stirring up conflict, the company itself. Some may even steal and defraud.

There\u2019s also a well-founded assumption that people go to work for an exchange of their goal-oriented efforts for fair pay (the amount of both varies, but that\u2019s the logic nonetheless); psychopaths are focused on getting the highest reward for the minimum amount of work or poor performance, as well as on maintaining a favourable appearance.

Psychopaths create their networks of \u201Cpawns\u201D \u2013 people within the organisation possessing access to information, resources, contacts, etc. \u2013 for further calling on services. These \u201Cpawns\u201D are charmed by them to an extent that any negative information about psychopaths is treated as \u201Cjealousy\u201D. Pawns do change over time, but psychopaths find it easy to charm the new ones.

First, they assess the value of individuals to their needs, and identify their psychological strengths and weaknesses. Second, they manipulate the individuals (now potential victims) by feeding them carefully crafted messages, while constantly using feedback from them to build and maintain control. Not only is this an effective approach to take with most people, it also allows psychopaths to talk their way around and out of any difficulty quickly and effectively if confronted or challenged. Third, they leave the drained and bewildered victims when they are bored or otherwise through with them.

Snakes in Suits - An excellent book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, by Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and Robert Hare, Ph.D., published in 2006, is the foundational work on the subject and offers a comprehensive look at how psychopaths operate effectively in the workplace. To quote a few portions: 041b061a72


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