2011.10.19 The psycho next door

Written by David Green.

The psycho next door

 

By DAVID GREEN

I’m gazing out the window, looking down North Street toward the stoplight, mentally going store by store along Main Street. I’m trying to spot the psychopath.

At least one of us business owners is a psychopath, possibly two. Maybe even more; perhaps we defy the odds.

It’s the odds we’re working with here because, on the average, one in 25 business leaders is a psychopath.

Do you quickly have the answer? Does someone immediately pop into your mind as our representative to this illustrious club?

Psychologist Paul Babiak is the person responsible for this 1-in-25 figure. He says many people are able to disguise their condition by playing up their charm and by manipulating others. It’s also easier for them to hide behind their high status.

Thank goodness your local psychopath had a happy childhood. This background helps him function in the workplace instead of torturing cats or committing an occasional murder.

Earlier research has preceded Babiak’s studies. Several years ago professor Robert Hare wrote about sub-criminal psychopaths—self-serving, narcissistic schemers with “a stunning lack of empathy,” but fortunately without criminal intent.

They bully, they’re arrogant and impatient, they’re quick to blame someone else for a mistake, but they aren’t going to burn down your house. They might delight in firing you, but at least you’ll leave physically uninjured.

“Psychopaths aren’t really the kind of person you think they are,” Babiak says.

He believes about one percent of Americans are psychopathic. So Morenci has about 22; Fayette comes through with about 16. They’re everywhere.

But back to Main Street...OK, and maybe North Street. Psychopaths are found four times as often in the business district than in the neighborhood. Babiak and Hare got together with a third researcher and dug deeper into the business psychopath.

They were aware of the ample studies about psychopaths via the criminal justice system, but they knew there wasn’t much from the corporate world, largely because of the “difficulty in obtaining the active cooperation of business organizations.” 

They finally found their way in. A couple hundred professionals were selected for a management development program and the scientists were invited to attend. They got out the psychopathy checklists and went to work.

Superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, manipulative, lack of empathy, need for stimulation/proneness to boredom, impulsivity, irresponsibility, parasitic lifestyle—quite a list of traits that we in the business community may have to offer.

It works out so well for us, Babiak says, because it plays to our strengths. It’s the business community, after all, where greed is good and profit-making is highly valued. That’s where a social psychopath can flourish.

A review of the issue in the Guardian newspaper mentioned this: “The survey suggests psychopaths are actually poor managerial performers but are adept at climbing the corporate ladder because they can cover up their weaknesses by subtly charming superiors and subordinates. This makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a genuinely talented team leader and a psychopath, Babiak said.”

Doesn’t that sound familiar? We’ve all wondered how so-and-so made it into that position when there were better people who were left out.

Journalist Jon Ronson wrote a book about psychopathy that he subtitled “A journey through the madness industry” and he found business leaders who took traits off the psycho checklists and redefined them as positives for business. Psychopathic traits make the world go round.

Ronson says he turned into a psychopath hunter, always on the lookout for madness. It about drove him crazy.

For me, I’ll never again go to a Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce meeting with the same unknowing attitude. I’ll be looking around the table with a discerning eye, maybe taking a few notes to study later. It’s sure to drive me crazy.

Hey, get that mirror out of my face!

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016