17 October 2012

Clive Boddy: Two Papers on the Destructiveness of Psychopathy in Business and Government

"The schools would fail through their silence, the Church through its forgiveness, and the home through the denial and silence of the parents. The new generation has to hear what the older generation refuses to tell it...For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing."

Simon Wiesenthal
While there are always a certain small portion of the population who have the sorts of destructive bent as described here, normally society acts to restrain them and their more vile impulses.

However, from time to time, the small percentage can gain enough power through ruthlessness and deception to foster an atmosphere that not only tolerates their excesses, but actually holds them up as an example for the young as well.

I think some of this is the winner's curse. A society that enjoys a long period of prosperity begins to think of itself as exceptional. They become so enchanted with who they think they are, that they just simply forget their own past, and begin to believe in myths and illusions. And human memory and education being what they are, they fall victim to the frauds and deceptions and darker impulses that have plagued them in the past.

Conversely, a society that has been through a series of terrible ordeals can often become simply desperate, almost bestial. They make take a similar path but much more cynically. It is not that they are deluded, they simply do not care.

When the power of greed in business finds a suitable match in the lust for power in the political arena, that partnership can seem almost unstoppable for quite some time. It becomes increasingly difficult to effect reform from within because so many of the more effective elements of society become corrupted and cynical to the point of apathy.

In a word, the governance of society becomes an organized hypocrisy engaged in systematic destruction, of not only others but also of society itself, especially as the others either resist more effectively or collapse from sheer exhaustion.

As I have mentioned before, in discussing this with some older fellows who have a bit of a broader personal perspective, and in reading deeply in history and its cycles, it seems as though the West entered into such a cycle, in the 1980's. It is merely reaching its full flower today.

The consequences on society as a whole, if history is any guide, will be profound, even moreso than we have seen so far.

The Implications of Corporate Psychopaths for Business And
Society: An Initial Examination And A Call To Arms

By Clive Boddy

Corporate Psychopaths are managers with no conscience who are willing to lie and are able to present a charming façade in order to gain managerial promotion via a ruthlessly opportunistic and manipulative approach to career advancement.

What the implications of their presence in business organisations are is an area that is relatively new to the area of business and behavioural research. However the presence of Corporate Psychopaths has several implications for work in business research. This paper reviews the concept of Corporate Psychopaths, describes how they may theoretically be present in organisations at senior managerial levels in much larger numbers than their approximately 1% incidence in the general population would suggest and discusses the implications of this for business and society.

The paper defines Corporate Psychopaths as those people working in corporations who are self-serving, opportunistic, ego-centric, ruthless and shameless but who can be charming, manipulative and ambitious.
It reviews the recent series of papers and news articles on Corporate Psychopaths and discusses how and why Corporate Psychopaths are drawn to corporations as sources of power, prestige and money. The paper suggests that Corporate Psychopaths are a threat to business performance and longevity because they put their own interests before those of the firm. It also discusses how they are a threat to the development of a sense of corporate social responsibility because they have no sense of guilt, shame or remorse about the consequences of their decisions...

Read the entire paper

Journal of Business Ethics
The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis
By Clive Boddy

An understanding of Corporate Psychopaths as expressed in a recent series of papers in this journal and in others, and based on empirical research, has helped to answer the question of how organizations end up with impostors as leaders and how those
organizations are then destroyed from within (Boddy, 2005, 2010a, Boddy et al., 2010a, b).

The event of the Global Financial Crisis has hastened an already changing climate in business research. Commentators are no longer willing to assume that all managers are working selflessly and entirely for the benefit of the organization that employees them, and the study of dark, dysfunctional, or bad leadership has emerged as a theme in
management research (Allio, 2007; Batra, 2007; Boddy, 2006; Clements and Washbrush, 1999).

The onset of the Global Financial Crisis has thus led management researchers to be increasingly interested in researching various aspects of dark leadership in an
attempt to explain the current financial and organizational turmoil around the world. Numerous papers on dark leadership have, for example, been recently reviewed by this author for this journal and it is evident that there are commentators with a deep
knowledge of individual types of dark and dysfunctional leadership and with views on how these people have contributed to the current crisis.

Corporate Psychopaths are one such type of dark manager, and this paper investigates their possible influence on the companies involved in the Global Financial Crisis. This is important because when large financial corporations are destroyed by the
actions of their senior directors, employees lose their jobs and sometimes their livelihoods, shareholders lose their investments and sometimes their
life savings and societies lose key parts of their economic infrastructure. Capitalism also loses some of its credibility.

These corporate collapses have gathered pace in recent years, especially in the western world, and have culminated in the Global Financial Crisis that we are now in. In watching these events unfold it often appears that the senior directors involved walk away with a clean conscience and huge amounts of money.

Further, they seem to be unaffected by the corporate collapses they have created. They present themselves as glibly unbothered by the chaos around them, unconcerned about those who have lost their jobs, savings, and investments, and as lacking any regrets about what they have done.

They cheerfully lie about their involvement in events are very persuasive in blaming others for what has happened and have no doubts about their own continued worth and value. They are happy to walk away from the economic disaster that they have managed to bring about, with huge payoffs and with new roles advising governments how to prevent such economic disasters.

Many of these people display several of the characteristics of psychopaths and some of them are undoubtedly true psychopaths. Psychopaths are the 1% of people who have no conscience or empathy and who do not care for anyone other than themselves.

Some psychopaths are violent and end up in jail, others forge careers in corporations. The latter group who forge successful corporate careers is called Corporate Psychopaths. Who psychopaths are and who Corporate Psychopaths are, is discussed further below...

Read the entire paper

Evil does exist, and its power ebbs and flows. Or rather, evil exists, but as the absence of something else, the deficiency of goodness and humanity. So it can remain resilient through long droughts because it has no substance of its own to sustain, but awaits only for the weakness or indolent apathy of society to rise again.

One can see this clearly in history, although the skeptic will be quick to point out that all seems dismal, since nothing human is ever perfect.

Still, there are degrees in all things, and the weight of goodness often restrains the impulse of evil, although evil seems to remain ever resilient, never conquered, only sleeping to take a turn another day.   Consider the instances of genocide and widespread impoverishment in the last century alone for example, if you will like to see the corridors in which true darkness dwells and the madness is unleashed upon the world.  And then tell us of the natural goodness of men and their works.

Goodness is not a constant state, or even an end in this world, but a way to an end. It is not an objective to be reached, but a way of life that requires continual attention and remembering.
"...Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones, who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison!

Do you think he is so unskillful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform.

This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination, he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them.

He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."

J.H.Newman, The Times of Antichrist