Do you think you know your boss? They could be a corporate psychopath, and here’s how to spot the traits.
You just want to create great customer experiences and marketing programs. You likely don’t want to have to deal with a micro-managing boss who rises to the equivalent of a corporate psychopath — especially one who can “disguise their ruthlessness and anti-social behavior under the guise of personal charm.”
CMSWire Contributor Liraz Margalit noted this in her CMSWire piece on corporate psychopaths. It’s a common workplace problem. And leaders are continually able to thrive despite the abusive approach to management, according to Margalit. “This is because many of the traits of psychopaths are rewarded when they are manifested in organizations,” she wrote.
Hopefully, your CX and marketing teams are under the leadership of supportive, open managers who empower employees to do their best work and provide thoughtful motivation when needed.
We caught up with Margalit for a Q&A on the topic:
Editor’s note: This transcription has been edited for clarity.
Dom Nicastro: All right, Dominic Nicastro here, managing editor of CMSWire here and with our latest CMSWire contributor, Liraz Margalit, digital psychologist and writer of the book, “Designing Your Mind.” How are you doing?
Liraz Margalit: I’m very well, thank you for inviting me.
Nicastro: Well, thank you for coming on here today with us to talk about your latest article, you’ve been a contributor for many, many years. We appreciate it so much. This is a fascinating topic. I read this piece and edited this piece with such interest. Corporate psychopaths. Let’s just start there. Tell us just about, how do you define that? How do you define a corporate psychopath?
Margalit: OK, so we’re talking about set of traits. And this is not the regular psychopaths, you know from the movies.
Nicastro: So let’s start with the organizational psychopath or corporate psychopath. They are often highly intelligent, they are manipulative and charming. And these set of traits actually characterize the new kinds of psychopaths. So this is not the psychopaths who is well known to us. But we are talking about people who have a type of actually of personality disorder, which includes some of the characteristics of those (movie) characters.
Like psychopaths often know how to tell people exactly what they want to hear. And in order to move them and mobilize them for their own benefits, and they are aware of their abilities to use them to manipulate, meaning that they are aware of their manipulation. They are also characterized by grandiose self worth and over-estimating themselves and also their abilities.
Also, one more thing: it’s important to note that corporate psychopaths, they’re not violent, and they actually operate within the law. So their way of gaining strength is to climb the organizational ladder, meaning they like to gain recognition, they feel good, they need the status, they need the recognition. And actually, there is one more thing that is very important about corporate psychopaths: they can tell you one thing, they can be charming to you, and the next day, they won’t even tell you hello.
Related Article: Is Your Boss a Corporate Psychopath?
Psychopaths Use Co-Workers for Own Benefit
Nicastro: And that’s the thing you write about in the article. Another one of my questions is that personal charm. They can really, in the workplace present upfront as this charming person, helpful, thoughtful. But you like you said, flip and just like that, they’re all of a sudden they’re ruthless. So what do they kind of like butter you up in a sense? And like, “Hey, I’m this great person, but no, I’m really not.”
Margalit: Exactly. So they look to you, they look at people actually as an object. An object that they can manipulate for their own good for their own benefits. So another thing in that context that they like chaos, they like to operate in chaos. So let me give you an example.
So they like to take risky decisions and let other people clean their mess. And they like to say one thing and the next day come up with another amazing and great idea. And all the company should say, “Amen,” and do exactly as they say and operate by their idea.
So they do this not because they’re bad. It’s not like they enjoy doing this. If we’re talking for a minute about the difference between psychopaths and a sociopaths … sociopaths, they like to harm people for their own benefit. This is what makes them feel good. But when you’re talking about psychopaths, they feel good when they benefit. And if they think that they can benefit from you, they will use you, and then they don’t need you anymore. They will throw you away.
Related Article: Reimagine Your Organizational Culture for Remote and Hybrid Teams
Do Corporate Psychopaths Thrive in Remote Work Setting?
Nicastro: You know, one thing I was thinking of, is the era of remote work, right? So we’ve been in this remote setting. I mean, a lot of us have been it been in the remote way before COVID. But most of the workforce went into remote setting, of course, starting in like February, March 2020. What did that do for for corporate psychopaths? I mean, I would think remote is less of a platform to actually you know, make gains. These selfless these ruthless gains in a remote work setting. Like I see psychopaths, corporate psychopaths thriving more in an in person setting, what do you think?
Margalit: So this is a very interesting question. And actually they felt bad in this type of environment, because in order to act up and actually to manipulate people, they need to see people, they need this personal interaction. Because they have high, extremely high emotional intelligence. And in a way, when we are talking via Zoom or other video platform, they lose some of their charm. And they feel like they are losing their power.
Nicastro: Yeah, I could see that. And I thought that remote work kind of wiped out that all the phoniness, all the phoniness of the workplace, because you if you’re a phony person, you’re just trying to get ahead by smooth talking, or coming up with things people like to hear, you can do that you can get away with that in person. The people that thrive in the workplace in a remote setting are the people who do the work and get it done. And that’s what people notice.
Margalit: So not only that. There is one more personality trait that we call extrovert. Extrovert versus introvert. So for extroverted people, they had a really hard time during the COVID. Because they need people, they need interaction. They are interactional or people-oriented. And it was extremely hard for them. And these are also the type of people who like the networking and who likes the politics. So um, they actually really suffered in this period.