Recognising the Corporate Psychopath (Part II)

Last Updated May 21, 2009 10:43 PM EDT

What really piqued my interest in the corporate psychopath was a seminar I attended last year run by Dr John Clarke, a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sydney, consultant to the NSW Police Force, and widely regarded as Australia's expert on corporate psychopaths. I can highly recommend his book Working with Monsters: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath.
Dr Clarke said that prospective employers should look for two things on a potential employee's resume: frequent job changes and something suspicious about the person's educational qualifications. Corporate psychopaths, or Low-Normal Hustlers (Hustlers who are low on the Normal scale, as they are known in the Humm scheme), can create a very good initial impression but often their peers soon become intolerant of their workplace habits. In particular, people dislike the taking of credit for the ideas of others, and the blaming of others (typically an underling) for mistakes. Corporate psychopaths are very good at sensing this antipathy, and so change jobs frequently; often leveraging themselves into a higher position.

Another useful clue, according to Dr Clarke, is what the person puts down about his or her education. Schools and universities ultimately judge their students on their academic results, which for most of us means work. Psychopaths are often inherently lazy, and their charm and people skills are of little help in the examination room. People witih nothing to hide will elaborate on their education, specifying dates, subjects done, awards and extracurricular activities. The education section of a resume, after all, is something that is very easy for an employer to verify. If there have been issues, and with psychopaths there generally are, the education entry will often be pitifully short and devoid of detail.

Until recently a prospective employee had little information about his or her boss (or a manager about a prospective hire), and working with a psychopath can be a terrible experience. However with the growing popularity of Linkedin all this has changed --- you now can easily check the profile of a prospective boss or employee. Warning signs are frequent company changes and little commentary about education. And if a Linkedin profile is not available you might even ask yourself, why not?