Expert warns of dangers of the corporate psychopath
Call for screening to prevent scandals

Michael MacDonald
The Canadian Press

Thursday, August 29, 2002

ST. JOHN’S – Corporate executives should be screened for psychopathic behaviour disorders, just as teachers and police are, a leading Canadian researcher says.

“Why wouldn’t we want to screen for them?” Robert Hare said yesterday after a speech to 150 members of the Canadian Police Association. “We screen … police, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle hundreds of billions of dollars?”

Dr. Hare, a world-renowned expert on psychopaths, made his remarks at the conclusion of a sobering presentation littered with photos of Mafia hit men and sex offenders.

He then turned his attention to a little-known subset of psychopaths: the corporate kind.

He suggested some of the recent blue-chip accounting scandals could have been prevented if all chief executives were screened for psychopathic behaviour.

The problem, he said, is corporate headhunters rely on rÈsumÈs and standard face-to-face interviews, which reveal little about a candidate’s psychological profile.

“The average psychopath has no trouble moving through that process,” Dr. Hare, who teaches at the University of British Columbia, said. “That’s not even a hurdle.”

Dr. Hare estimates that about 1% of the population — about 300,000 people in Canada — are clinical psychopaths.

He is working on a survey he calls a B-Scan, a rough checklist to help recruiters spot psychopathic character traits among potential employees.

It is loosely based on a 90-item checklist called a P-Scan, which Dr. Hare developed for police, prosecutors, corrections personnel and hostage negotiators.

Through his research, he has found psychopaths share a cluster of personality traits, which are reflected in their relationships, emotions and way of life.

As well as having no hint of a conscience, psychopaths have a barren emotional life marked by few close relationships, impulsive behaviour and an inflated sense of self. They are deceitful, short-tempered and display early behavioural problems that later become anti-social.

“They also crave excitement and are irresponsible.

“They are the central star in their universe,” Dr. Hare told the crowd as photos of well-known business executives flashed on the big screen behind him.

Most of the pictures were taken from recent newspaper articles related to the collapse of energy trader Enron Corp. and telecom giant WorldCom Inc.

The deceptive accounting practices and fraudulent dealings of these and other companies in the United States and Canada have led to huge losses on the stock market, massive layoffs and a string of court cases.

“These are callous, cold-blooded individuals. They don’t care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt and remorse.”

But the arrogant, manipulative behaviour of psychopaths often makes them prime candidates for promotion within large corporations built on ruthless competition. As well, psychopaths have been known to excel as politicians and lawyers, Dr. Hare said, drawing loud laughter from the crowd.

“They have to make decisions very quickly, and they can’t worry too much about the potential impact on individuals,” he said.

More important, their utter lack of empathy makes them perfect for carrying out budget cuts and layoffs.

“That’s when the psychopath moves in: rightsizing, downsizing, upsizing. When there’s chaos, when the rules no longer apply — enter, stage right, the psychopath. A psychopath flourishes in that atmosphere.”

© Copyright 2002 National Post…

Yes… Canadians are funny, but this a great idea.