Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work is a book by industrial psychologist Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and psychopathy expert Dr Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., published in 2006.

It covers the nature of psychopaths in the context of employment and explains:

  • how psychopaths manipulate their way into work and get promoted,
  • the effects of their presence on colleagues and corporations, and
  • the superficial similarities (and fundamental differences) between leadership skills and psychopathic traits.

The work is interlaced with fictional narratives illustrating how the factual content applies to real-life situations.

A short summary from the reading:

Hare describes what he refers to as the "successful psychopath." These individuals generally do not engage in criminal behavior but they carry the psychopathic traits. Although overall there is a general lack of consensus regarding the definitions of true psychopathy, the book gives us an interesting peek into a world that most of us don't know exists. Hare distinguishes true leadership from those who are master manipulators that can maximize personal gain from any situation. Psychopaths tend to want more of everything, more power, more prestige, and more money. For them it appears to be a way of keeping score and they wish to keep themselves as the number one priority.

The question is where do these psychopaths work? Where do they go to school? Where do they live? If they are not criminals, are they bad for society? Do psychopaths make good corporate CEO's and corporate lawyers? Hare attempts to answer these questions in the reading.

Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, both researchers studying psychopathic behavior, collaborated to study how psychopaths operate in the corporate world. Their results will surprise you and may explain a lot about the various financial crisis and scandals of our time. They found that psychopaths are attracted to the high risk, high reward, and flexible corporate world. They appear to start out well but it's what happens later in their careers that is the problem.

There are subtle warning signs of psychopathic behavior that are apparent and the reader will be able to protect themselves and their company if they can detect these subtle signs.

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