top of page
Standing in the Rain

Psychopathic Personality

In the past two decades, major corporate and economic disasters have been paramount. Some of these events have included the decline of energy conglomerate Enron, the bankruptcy of Sunbeam, the failure of ‘big five’ accountancy firm Arthur Andersen, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the bankruptcy of investment firm Lehman Brothers, the Bernie Madoff multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the ‘prostitute scandal’ involving New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, the imprisonment of Computer Associates International Inc. CEO Sanjay Kumar for a billion dollar fraud,  the incarceration WorldCom co-founder and CEO Bernard Ebbers for conspiracy and fraud offences, the conviction of Roger Stone and Paul Manafort in relation to Russia’s interference with the 2016 American election, the disaster of health technology company Theranos, the conviction of high profile lawyer Michael Cohen for tax fraud and perjury, the sex crimes of leading movie produced Hervey Weinstein, and the indictment of American Financer Jeffrey Epstein on child sex trafficking.

These events have served as a catalyst for numerous internal and external investigations and there have been many examples of highly public cases of corporate crime. This widespread unethical and counterproductive workplace behaviour has placed the spotlight on many of the leaders and key personnel who have been tasked with making decision about the direction of a given company.  

Psychopathic Personality 

At the same time as these widespread conduct issue, there has been a growing body of research and evidence demonstrating the presence of psychopathic personality traits among those working in the business and corporate sector. These traits have been identified within high levels of the corporate sector including among those working in positions such Chairman, Director, Chief Executive Officer, and Manager.

Psychopathic personality is characterized by a callousness or tendency towards being mean, coupled with recklessness and general proneness to disinhibition. Alongside this, psychopaths are commonly bold and dominant, treating life as a game and something to be won. In breaking down the traits and features, many of the key aspects associated with the personality include: 

  • Charming and charismatic

  • Fearlessness and calmness under pressure

  • Limited or minimal anxiety

  • Shallow and superficial emotional experiences

  • Ruthlessness and cruelty

  • Interpersonally exploitative

  • A lack of empathy and callous disregard for others

  • Deceitfulness and manipulation

  • Pervasive lying

  • Sexual promiscuity and excitement seeking

  • Grandiosity and boldness

  • Proneness to blame and a denial of responsibility

  • Impulsiveness and recklessness

  • Absence of moral concern and lack of loyalty

  • Pursuit of dominance and desire for control

Corporate Psychopathy

Psychopathy, along with other problematic personalities in the workplace have been associated with unethical behavior, bullying, destructive leadership, large-scale Ponzi schemes, insider trading, mortgage fraud, internet fraud, embezzlement, and intimidation and violence. Estimates suggest the prevalence of psychopathy is between 3-12% within some business and executive populations. 

Corporate psychopathy is problematic for organisations, impacting the wellbeing of staff and jeopardising the reputation of a business. Psychopathic personality is associated with poorer work performance and leads to a toxic and disordered work environment, through bullying, deceit, or even fraud. 


Businesses have a duty of care to their staff and this begins with appropriate steps in employee recruitment. A failure to implement screening and assessment at the recruitment stage can have enormous implications for an organisation and this can expose a business to being negligent. There is a need for psychological assessment instruments during recruitment to support the hiring and interview process. In addition to recruitment, it is essential that organisations have appropriate management policies in place for conduct issues, as a failure to detect issues and support staff can result in reduced profits and employee turnover. Organisations are regularly faced with risk and threats from internal and external parties, with personality an essential aspect that should be integrated into threat screening and issue management. 

bottom of page