Successful psychopaths at work

If you suspect your boss is a psychopath, you may be onto something.

Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon of the University of Surrey compared personality traits of successful business managers and patients at Broadmoor Hospital, one of Britain’s highest security psychiatric hospitals.

The researchers found that the business managers scored, on average, more highly on measures of histrionic, narcissistic and compulsive personality than samples of former and current patients. These personality traits are thought to reflect characteristics such as superficial charm, lack of empathy and perfectionism. All of which could be potentially useful in the cut-throat business world.

However, unlike the Broadmoor patients, the business managers scored lower on antisocial, borderline and paranoid personality traits, reflecting lower levels of aggression, impulsivity and mistrust. Exactly the sort of personality traits that are likely to cause problems with senior managers and the law.

The authors of the study suggest that the business managers may be examples of ‘successful psychopaths’ – “people with personality disorder patterns, but without the characteristic history of arrest and incarceration”.

Link to study summary (via BPS research digest).


  1. Posted January 17, 2005 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Bosses are “successful psychopaths”

    Yeah! Just what we always suspected! Management types score high in many of the descriptors for psychopathy, but are low in the parts that will really get them thrown in…

  2. Posted January 18, 2005 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Your boss is nuts!

    According to this post, your boss may actually be a psycopath. Just a well-behaved one…

  3. Posted January 18, 2005 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Sounds accurate to me!

  4. Posted January 18, 2005 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    successful psychos… er – businessmen

    Mind Hacks: Successful psychopaths at work

  5. Posted January 27, 2005 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    what makes a good manager?

    What makes a good manager? Eric Nehrlich says it a good information carnivore. Researchers at the University of Surrey say it is a successful psychopath….

  6. Posted January 28, 2005 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Mind Hacks: Successful psychopaths at work

    Great Article to reassure the long-suffering underlings that no, you really could be right about your boss:
    Mind Hacks: Successful psychopaths at work

  7. Posted May 17, 2005 at 11:17 am | Permalink


    Haven’t done an update with many of the current news stories in a while…

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