What comes to mind when you picture a psychopath? A crazy ax-murderer? Psychopaths don’t always fit that mold. The clinical diagnoses is a person who has shallow emotions or lacks empathy. Sounds like corporate America is loaded with them!
Kevin Dutton, a research psychologist at the University of Oxford, has dedicated much of his life to studying the brains of psychopaths and he’s been able to piece together a list of the most likely professions psychopaths end up in. Is your career on the list?
Corporate America is loaded with brutal metaphors. When you succeed, it’s because you were cutthroat and ended up making a killing, and now you’re known as a shark. Doesn’t that just sound like a wonderful place for a psychopath? I’m sure plenty of CEOs are great people… but several studies suggest that 4% of CEOs qualify as psychopaths. That’s 4x as many people as in the general population.
There are lots of heartless lawyer jokes, but there may be some credence to them. Many lawyers exhibit signs of psychopathy, which makes lying, cheating, and obsessing with profit nothing to bat an eye at. As one lawyer he interviewed said:
“Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere. But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.”
Makes sense right? Obviously, not everyone in the media industry scores high on the psychopath meter, but if you think of some of the most prominent psychopathic personalities in our world right now, it all seems to make sense.
In Working With Monsters: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath, John Clarke says that having a psychopath on your team can be a really good thing. “The psychopath is very likely to be a good salesperson, if they are intelligent as well as glib and superficial,” Clarke writes. “In fact, a study done in 2001 by Marc Hamer found that superior sales performance was associated with higher levels of narcissism (egocentric and grandiose), sociopathy and cognitive empathy.”
The drawback there is that you’re bound to run into their self-centered attitude. They’re also more likely to exploit the system in which they work.
This one really surprised me. Doctors and nurses landed on the list of careers with the fewest psychopaths, but surgeons are one of the most psychopathic around. In a 2014 piece in Pacific Standard, Wen Shen states “the trouble with surgeons [is]…[m]any are abrasive, abusive, and wildly self-centered—so much so that observers have speculated that they suffer from psychiatric disorders.”
She thinks this can be traced back to when surgery was performed without anesthesia. Being a surgeon meant you had to operate to “a soundtrack of screams” and keeping it cool. There’s an active push for kinder surgeons today.
Jeff Cash, a freelance writer, once wrote that, “a hint of psychopathy is actually a prerequisite for public purpose journalism.”
“Psychopathy can creep in all too easily in the world of journalism, as any reporter who’s had an after-hours fight with some obnoxious public relations officer can attest to. (That’s pretty much all of them, by the way). Seeing your name in a national newspaper on a daily basis is enough to turn even the most humble being into a fountain of narcissism. And if you think that’s bad, just imagine how much appearing on national television would contribute to one’s superiority complex.”
I can see that being the case.
Most disturbingly, the people charged with keeping the peace may be the most likely ones to shatter it. According to Police Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Victims, “women suffer domestic abuse in at least 40 percent of police officer families.”
Additionally, “police families are two to four times more likely than the general population to experience domestic violence.”
This one is pretty amusing to me. The clergy is supposed to promote the gospel and make the world better, but as we saw with the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandals, psychopathy was at play. First in the act of molesting these children, then in the church’s desire to cover it all up.
Psychopaths may be attracted to the clergy because of easy access to victims. Many televangelists and preachers have been accused of megalomaniacal behavior, like Ted Haggard, Bill Gothard, Creflo Dollar, and Geronimo Aguilar.
Chef Gordon Ramsay once told Vanity Fair that “Chefs are nutters. They’re all self-obsessed, delicate, dainty, insecure little souls and absolute psychopaths. Every last one of them.” It seems like such a strange profession for that kind of behavior, but Anthony Bourdain perhaps correctly chocked it up to a combination of working with assholes and being a perfectionist.
“Some chefs borrow money, they do everything they can, they kill themselves, it’s the culmination of a career working 100 hours a week or more. They finally open a place and within eight minutes of opening, some asshole has posted on Yelp, ‘Worst meal ever.’ You can understand why they go insane, and do everything they can to ameliorate that.”
It certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility that a DMV worker might be kind of a psychopath. There’s power in the roles of civil servants, and psychopaths often single-mindedly crave power.
Dennis Rader, who was the self-dubbed BTK killer, was a census field operations supervisor in Kansas. He was later a dogcatcher. From wikipedia: “neighbors recalled him as being sometimes overzealous and extremely strict; one neighbor complained that he euthanized her dog for no reason.”
But this probably doesn’t come as a shock, right?