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Analogy between corporate and psychopathic behavior

Corporations as breeding ground for psychopaths

News Books Classification of Corporate Psychopaths Recommended Links Recommended Papers The psychopath in the corner office
Office Stockholm Syndrome Corporate Psychopath Trait Enumeration Learned helplessness High Demand Cults Leaders Practices as a Model of Corporate Psychopath Behavior The Fiefdom Syndrome Abusive, Authority Based Relationships
Anger trap Manipulator Bosses Toxically Incompetent Managers Paranoid Managers Narcissistic Managers Workspace Bullies
Understanding micromanagers Fighting control freaks Documenting Micromanager Behavior Surviving a Bad Performance Review Groupthink Nikolai Bezroukov's Short Introduction to Lysenkoism
Communication with corporate psychopaths Coping with the toxic stress in IT environment Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Quiz Humor Etc

A la guerre, comme a la guerre

French proverb


"The main lesson I have learnt is that when dealing with a sociopath, the normal rules of etiquette do not apply. You are dealing with someone who has no empathy, no conscience, no remorse, and no guilt...It is a completely different mindset. Words like 'predator' and 'evil' are often used."


Hare estimates that psychopaths account for only about 1% of the general population. But he says there might be a higher proportion in such areas as positions of authority in business, politics, law enforcement agencies, law firms, religious organizations and, yes, the media. He noted that "They have a predatory quality to them and the prey is always around certain areas". 

I suspect that in IT environment the percentage can be an order of magnitude higher and may well exceed 10% mark.  Large IT organizations are a perfect place for corporate psychopath to flourish as political skills not the competence are key for the path to the top. IT environment is also a perfect setting for a corporate psychopath as most IT professionals lack social skills and as such are a pretty easy prey.

According to a recent (and very good) Fast Company article Is Your Boss a Psychopath by Alan Deutschman  psychopaths – defined as those unburdened by conscience who selfishly use people “callously and remorselessly for their own ends” –- don’t merely exist in corporate America, but are now more than ever harbored in the business environment. In his study involving a half-dozen companies, renowned industrial psychologist Paul Babiak found that the rapid changes the economy has recently undergone have fed corporate psychopaths, who thrive on the thrills of fast transformations. - The corporate psychopath exposed - Nov 24, 2004


LONDON, England (CNN) -- You can guess how Joel Bakan feels about modern companies from the title of his book: "The Corporation: The pathological pursuit of profit and power".

For Bakan, a Canadian law professor, his eponymous subject is a self-interested, manipulative, amoral and irresponsible character which, were it a person, would be diagnosed as clinically insane.

Bakan's polemical portrait, also adapted into a two-and-a-half hour documentary, is a tale of Enron-esque corruption, the erosion of workers' rights, the unethical exploitation of the developing world and an unhealthy involvement in political process.

"The problem with corporate capitalism is that selfishness and greed have become these unmodified values," Bakan told CNN.

"If you are in business then your moral imperative is to create wealth for your shareholders.

"What you have is a legally created person who is legally required always to act in its own self interest and the idea is that if a human person was only able to act in its own self interests we'd generally diagnose that person as a psychopath.

"We can go through the characteristics that define this particular disorder, one by one, and see how they might apply to corporations."

At the heart of Bakan's argument is the idea that, since its legal personification during the mid-1800s, the corporation has risen relentlessly to become the dominant institution in western society -- the equivalent of the church, the monarchy or the Communist Party during other historical eras.

Initially created as instruments of government policy, as illustrated by the great trading companies of the 17th and 18th centuries, Bakan argues that companies now exist purely to pursue profits with no interest or obligation to the societies in which they exist.

"Corporations have become so powerful that we've deregulated many of their activities, we've handed over many of our social services to them through privatization and we've loosened up merger and acquisition requirements to let them get as big as they want."

But can a corporation really have a personality? Bakan argues that the essentially anti-social nature of a company will predominate even if those in charge have good intentions. As for Corporate Social Responsibility, Bakan describes the concept as an "oxymoron."

"You might as well ask a great white shark to be nice to fish or a fox to go vegetarian," he argues in the film.

But John Micklethwait, the author of "The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea" and U.S. editor of "The Economist", disagrees.

"The corporation is legally a person, but the real question is whether it's ultimately fair to compare them to people," he says.

"The best way to think of the company is as a technology and, like all other forms of technologies, it can be used for good or evil. It doesn't have a mind of its own. The mind is driven by the people who run it. What the company is is a devastating piece of technology."

Micklethwait also believes Bakan has under-estimated the historical significance of companies and over-stated the influence of their modern successors.

"When people talk about companies now being more powerful than ever before, that is straightforwardly wrong," he says.

"Microsoft makes a huge amount of money but it doesn't actually run a country in the same way the East India Company did. Wal-Mart is roughly the same size as a country like Colombia, which may be dysfunctional but it can send you to prison, it can put you in the army and it can do a whole host of things a company can't do."

For Micklethwait the main issue is less the flawed corporate world than the absence of a credible alternative.

"When people question corporations they have to ask, 'What else?' Corporations have got defects but look at the countries that have not got corporations. The number of companies a country has is not a bad indicator of how free it is."

And while Bakan while criticize the way big business operates, he accepts society is at a crossroads in terms of alternative visions.

"We accept that the corporation is a self-interested mechanism and we accept that it's a very efficient tool for creating wealth, he says. "But we need to balance the creation of profit and the creation of wealth against the destruction of other values."

-- CNN's Paula Sailes contributed to this report.

So it is interesting that the term psychopathic is applicable to companies as well as to personalities. Companies like people can be psychopathic. The key feature of such companies is  that do not treat employees as humans, they treat them as animals to be culled when appropriate. 

"The psychopathic company has no allegiance to the employees within, just to top management,"....
 "A psychopathic company is always playing a short-term parasitic game."

In 1980, Hare created a list of static traits, which, revised five years later, became known as the PCL-R. Popularly called "the Hare," the PCL-R measures psychopathic personality on a forty-point scale. Despite obvious shortcomings and severe limitations typical for any traits-based classification, once it emerged, it helped to make the meaning of the term more uniform.  This is covered in more detail  at Classification of Corporate Psychopaths

While the executive with sociopathic traits is pretty common most such individuals don't typically wind up in prison. They are called socialized psychopaths or sociopaths.  In fact, many are promotes explicitly due to callousness and ruthlessness  they demonstrate and wind up in the cushioned leather chairs of the executive office(Chain Saw Al):

In 2005, the business magazine Fast Company included Dunlap in the article 'Is Your Boss a Psychopath', noting he "might score impressively on the Corporate Psychopathy checklist." The magazine's editor. John A. Byrne, noted: "In all my years of reporting, I had never come across an executive as manipulative, ruthless, and destructive as Al Dunlap. Until the Securities and Exchange Commission barred him from ever serving as an officer of a public corporation, Dunlap sucked the very life and soul out of companies and people. He stole dignity, purpose, and sense out of organizations and replaced those ideals with fear and intimidation."

According to Westen and Shedler (1999), sociopaths:

The same qualities is applicable to many modern companies.

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Old News ;-)

[Jan 26, 2013] The Corporation As Psychopath By Michael Jessen

"The chairman of the board may sincerely believe that his every waking moment is dedicated to serving human needs. Were he to act on these delusions instead of pursuing profit and market share, he would no longer be chairman of the board." (Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, Pluto Press, 1991, p.19)

The dominant institution in our society is the corporation. It determines what we eat, what we wear, where we work, what we read, what we listen to, what we watch, and what we do.

There's just one problem with the corporation as Noam Chomsky points out in the above quotation – its legally defined mandate is to pursue its self-interest regardless of who or what suffers as a result of its actions.

That callous approach means the corporation – already considered in law as a "person" – can be defined as a psychopath says Joel Bakan, a University of BC law professor and author of the Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (Viking Canada, 2004, 228 pages, $37.00)

Using the World Health Organization's checklist for personality types and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Bakan concludes the corporation is a psychopathic personality. A corporation has a callous unconcern for the feelings of others; an incapacity to maintain enduring relationships; a reckless disregard for the safety of others; a pattern of deceitfulness; an incapacity to experience guilt; failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviour. This is the institution that we allow to govern all aspects of our lives.

"Throughout the western world there are two fundamental principles in corporate law: one is the idea that the corporations are to be treated as persons in the sense that they have the same rights as individuals do in terms of owning property, trading property, suing, being sued," Bakan told The Tyee ( in a January interview.

"In the United States and Canada corporations also have human rights. So for example, a tobacco company can go to court and allege that restrictions on tobacco advertising are violations of its free speech, which RJR MacDonald successfully did in the Canadian Supreme court a few years ago. So that's one leg of it.

"And the other is what is often referred to as the best interest principle. It says that directors and managers of corporations always have to make decisions that are in the best interest of the corporation. The courts have generally understood that to mean: in the best interest of the shareholders. So to that extent, it's illegal for corporations to make decisions for the benefit of others.

"A corporate executive could say: 'I'm going to make this decision to preserve a river by spending more money on anti-pollution devices. Even though that's going to cost my shareholders, I'm doing it because I think it's good for the environment.' That would be illegal. A corporate executive who did that could be sued by his or her shareholders successfully," said Bakan, an internationally recognized legal expert and former Rhodes Scholar who has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard.

Bakan teamed with Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott to produce a film ( of the book and it is coming soon to a theatre near you. The movie is part of Moving Pictures '04 ( and will be featured April 3rd at the Kootenay Moving Pictures Film Festival ( in Nelson.

It is a 145-minute documentary that Russell Mokiber and Robert Weissman ( say "grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go."

Film reviewer Kelly McCarthy ( writes: "What emerges from this film is an apocalyptic warning against a commercially ordered society, illustrating how corporations plunder without conscience, steal natural resources, exploit humans, animals and the earth in the pursuit of profit. Taking pointed shots at capitalism, the film uses wit and guarded humour to point out flaws in our economic model."

The film has garnered People's Choice Awards at the Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver International Film Festivals; the NFB Best Canadian Documentary Award at the Calgary International Film Festival; the Joris Ivens Special Jury Award at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam; and the 2004 World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

(Achbar is best known for Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, which he co-directed and co-produced with Peter Wintonick. The film was honoured with 22 awards and distinctions, screened theatrically in 300 cities and aired on 30 national TV networks. The 2 hour-45 minute epic is the top-grossing feature documentary in Canadian history. Abbott produced, directed & edited A Cow at My Table, a feature documentary about the agribusiness vs. animal rights controversy and the battle for the consumer's mind.)

The book and the film chronicle the history of the corporate institution from its humble beginnings to its present, unrestricted influence. There are a multitude of interviews with chief executive officers from some of the world's largest corporations, including Shell, Pfizer, IBM, Goodyear and Burson Marsteller. There are also the words of critical thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Peter Drucker, Naomi Klein, Mark Kingwell and Michael Moore.

Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast." Milton Friedman, a Nobel laureate and one of the world's eminent economists tells Bakan that corporations are good for society and that they should make as much money as possible for their shareholders.

Friedman recoils at the idea that corporations should try to do good for society. "A corporation is the property of its stockholders," he tells Bakan. "Its interests are the interests of its stockholders. Now, beyond that should it spend the stockholders' money for purposes which it regards as socially responsible but which it cannot connect to its bottom line? The answer I would say is no."

The Fraser Institute's Michael Walker tells Bakan that hungry people in the developing world are better off when a sweatshop pays them 10 cents an hour to make brand name goods that sell for hundreds of dollars.

The book and the film also feature Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, the world's largest carpet manufacturer ( who calls the corporation a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize."

Anderson had a late-career epiphany and since 1994 has been striving to make Interface the world's first sustainable corporation that actually gives back to the planet instead of taking from it. Anderson tells Bakan that he believes "the notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, and waste and waste, without consequences is driving the biosphere to destruction."

Film director and producer Mark Achbar says: "If a product cannot be made sustainable, it simply should not be made. We will, as a species, simply have to survive without these things."

The corporate world should be filled with Ray Andersons. Recently we have watched corporate heads roll at firms like Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia Communication, Global Crossing, Arthur Anderson, Tyco International, and Martha Stewart. Many more have yet to be caught. If enough people read The Corporation or see the film, they will be exposed.

Bakan is heartened by anti-globalization protests and the efforts of people to organize to take control of their lives. He advocates a variety of electoral reforms and reforms to the regulatory system to regain democratic control of corporations. These reforms are needed now, not next year or in the next decade.

"It's overly optimistic to say globalization is dead," says Bakan. "There's a backlash, certainly, but we shouldn't think we're there yet - or even close."

But, Bakan points out, globalization did not sweep in and defeat national governments; it was actually fostered by those institutions, which threw their weight behind capital and corporations, and willingly pulled back from measures that protect the public interest.

As safeguards vanished, people felt betrayed and vulnerable. Neither jobs, nor social programs, nor the environment were secure. Many - including anti-globalization activists - stopped lobbying governments for change because they believed politicians were impotent against monolithic multinational forces. Widespread cynicism surfaced in low voter turnouts. "A lot of work needs to be done before we can re-engage citizens in democratic society to protect the public interest," warns Bakan.

John McMurtry, a University of Guelph philosophy professor, and specialist in global issues, also believes that corporations have run roughshod over the public interest. And, he says, the damage done by "corporate globalization" is profound and unlikely to be reversed overnight.

"We have blanket, overriding corporate rights," he says. "There are no protections for citizens. Zero for labour, for social programs and for the environment. Trade agreements are like fiats. It's one endless litany of so-called investor rights."

But McMurtry, author of Value Wars: The Global Market vs The Life Economy, says that the dominance of transnational corporations over quality of life has finally turned the tide against the supporters of globalization.

"Globalization isn't dead but its credibility is," he says. "There's been a huge awakening to the fact that people don't have democratic control over their lives. The spell has been broken."

Our economic system will eventually change. As currently structured, the system is unsustainable for both people and the planet. Our economic system will change quicker if a lot of people go to see The Corporation and/or read the book. You will look at the power dynamic in the world in a different way and you may discover your role in helping change it.

"We are basically organisms of feeling, of empathy," says scientist and activist Dr. Mae-Wan Ho. "When other people suffer, we suffer. We want a safe, equitable, just, and compassionate world because it is a matter of life and death."

If corporations are to continue to exist, it is time the corporation's tenets reflect human values. Jennifer Abbott, The Corporation's co-director and editor, says simply "The corporation is a legal construct, a social construct. We created it so we can recreate it." Bakan adds, "Corporations have no lives, no powers, and no capacities beyond what we, through our governments, give them."

"We created the corporation, and the only legitimate and justifiable reason for government or the state to create an institution is to serve the public good," Bakan told The Tyee interviewer David Beers. "So this idea that somehow we need to bow down to corporations is ridiculous."

RESOURCES - Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press;

Harry Glasbeek is a professor of criminal law at York University in Toronto. He has studied corporate crime and written a book about it called Wealth By Stealth: Corporate Crime, Corporate Law, and the Perversion of Democracy.

11th Annual Kootenay Moving Pictures Film Festival Nelson Civic Theatre 719 Vernon Street Info: (250) 354-0544 [email protected]

Michael Jessen is a writer and consultant on sustainability issues. He can be reached by telephone at 250-229-5632 or by e-mail at [email protected]. His business, Zero Waste Solutions has an award-winning web site at

[Jan 26, 2013] Corporation as Psychopath by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

February 18, 2004 |

People ask -- Rob, Russell, the world is going to hell in a handbasket. What can we do about it?

We say -- read one book, see one movie.

Unfortunately, the movie and the book are available now only in Canada.

But wait -- before you head north of the border -- they will be available here in a month or so.

And believe us, it is worth the wait. (Full disclosure -- our work -- the Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s -- is featured in the movie.)

The book is titled: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. It is by Joel Bakan (Free Press, 2004).

The movie is called: The Corporation. It is by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan.

We've seen an advance copy of the movie.

We're read an advance copy of the book.

And here's our review:

Scrap the civics curricula in your schools, if they exist.

Cancel your cable TV subscriptions.

Call your friends, your enemies and your family.

Get your hands on a copy of this movie and a copy of this book.

Read the book. Discuss it. Dissect it. Rip it apart.

Watch the movie. Show it to your children. Show it to your right-wing relatives. Show it to everyone. Organize a party around it. Then organize another.

For years, we've been reporting on critics of corporate power -- Robert Monks, Richard Grossman, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Sam Epstein, Charles Kernaghan, Michael Moore, Jeremy Rifkin.

For years, we've reported on the defenders of the corporate status quo like Milton Friedman, Peter Drucker and William Niskanen.

But Bakan, a professor of law at British Columbia Law School, and Achbar and Abbott have pulled these leading lights together in a 145-minute documentary that grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let go.

The movie is selling out major theaters across Canada. And if it detonates here -- which in our view is still a long shot -- the U.S. after all is not Canada -- it could have a profound impact on politics.

The filmmakers juxtapose well-shot interviews of defenders and critics with the reality on the ground -- Charles Kernaghan in Central America showing how, for example, big apparel manufacturers pay workers pennies for products that sell for hundreds of dollars in the United States -- with defenders of the regime -- Milton Friedman looking frumpy as he says with as straight a face as he can -- the only moral imperative for a corporate executive is to make as much money for the corporate owners as he or she can.

Others agree with Friedman. Management guru Peter Drucker tells Bakan: "If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast." And William Niskanen, chair of the libertarian Cato Institute, says that he would not invest in a company that pioneered in corporate responsibility.

Of course, state corporation laws actually impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make money for shareholders. Engage in social responsibility -- pay more money to workers, stop legal pollution, lower the price to customers -- and you'll likely be sued by your shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, puts it this way: "The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine (shark seeking young woman swimming on the screen). There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed."

Business insiders like Monks and Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface Corporation, the world's largest commercial carpet manufacturer, lend needed balance to a movie that otherwise would have been dominated by outside critics like Chomsky, Moore, Grossman and Rifkin. Anderson calls the corporation a "present day instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion to "externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it externalize."

"The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction," Anderson says, as pictures of biological and chemical wastes pouring into the atmosphere roll across the screen.

Like Republican Kevin Phillips is doing as he criss-crosses the nation, pummeling Bush from the right, Anderson and Monks are opening a new front against corporate power from inside the belly of the beast. They are stars of this movie and book.

The movie and the book drive home one fundamental point -- the corporation is a psychopath.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare runs down a checklist of psychopathic traits and there is a close match.

Read the book.

Watch the movie (

Organize for resistance.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world's largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way.

The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

... ... ...

What are three quick ways to become a leader?

a) Execute on the firm's "axes," which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit.

b) "Hunt Elephants." In English: get your clients - some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren't - to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them.

c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.

Christopher Delogu, Lyon France (NYT Pick)

John from Philadelphia praises you as a "brave man," ok maybe, but I can't help thinking of Olympia Snowe's recent decision to leave the Senate for similar reasons of conscience and disgust with the dominate culture and thinking that her and your departures from your organizations leave a hole that is likely to be filled by someone who is more extreme and has more conformist instincts and less conscience than you. You have become such a big cheese at GS and yet feel that you, you of all people in the organization -- not exactly the junior cog -- would rather quit 'em since you claim to not be able to beat 'em, is that it? This is a sad confirmation of Tocqueville's fears about the omnipotence of the majority and the tendency of whistleblowers to be either drowned out or, as in your case, to drown themselves (Democracy in America, vol 1, part 2, chapter 7). I hope some of your GS associates who share your views stay on the job, otherwise it's just more tyranny of the majority and group polarization full speed ahead. Yikes!


I believe the change in culture you've seen at Goldman Sachs is just a reflection of the change that has taken place in our national culture over the last few decades. When I was growing up, no one considered a person's wealth to be an absolute measure of his or her worth to society. Now, for a large part of our culture, that has changed; the acquisition of wealth is seen as good, no matter how it is achieved.

Money-grubbing behavior is rewarded, and victims of such behavior are considered fair game, not just at Goldman Sachs, but everywhere. My cable company charges huge fees out of proportion to what it delivers, but fails to adequately staff customer service to field complaints. My bank has added ridiculous fees for just about everything except were expressly prohibited by law. I am put on hold for large swaths of time to get just about anything fixed. There is a fervor for ever more tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for on the backs of the middle class.

Our whole attitude about what is important has changed, and in my opinion, not for the better.

TH, MN (NYT Pick)

I don't think things have changed that much at GS in the last 12 years. He must have joined right after the internet bubble collapsed, which GS was a big part of, hyping companies that had no real business plan. And then they moved right on to double-dealing toxic mortgage products. So the only thing that might have changed in the last 12 years isn't GS' culture but Mr. Smith's assessment of that culture.

The thing that really changed GS is the change from a partnership to a public company in 1999, just before Mr. Smith joined. Suddenly, the risks are off-loaded from leadership to shareholders, quarterly earnings become the focus, and management is free to wheel & deal any way they want to with little consequence to them. That has created a huge moral hazard and nothing is being done to control that.


It seems to me that before GS removed its computers from their preferential physical presence within the exchanges where they apparently had an advanced view of all trades and were able to use the information through computerized flash trading, and were they were able to make ungodly amount of money based on the information that everything was happy and peaceful there.

Once they had to compete on a level plane 2 years ago they found that making money was very much harder, and the infighting among the parasites got nasty. Several heads of the computerized trading department have been forced to leave, and the derivative desk was obviously impacted. As long as they were making very easy money everybody was friendly, but now the knives are out.

Ralph, Norwich, NY

Unfortunately, with the decline of pensions in America, most workers are forced to invest in 401(k) and 403(b) structures that abuse the customer. Most of the funds that are available to workers within these 401 and 403 plans are high cost, low performing mutual funds. One of the plans that we were in, did not even list all of the companies in their mutual funds. They called it "proprietary information". How is that for arrogance and distain for the customer?

My wife and I were in different pre-tax pension plans for decades and none of the funds provided account statements that made it easy to calculate capital gains. It would have been easy for them to do, but they didn't want us to know the numbers. Most of our growth in equity was from our contributions, rather than from capital gain.

When we finally changed to IRAs in order to gain control of our investments, the mutual funds fought our efforts to move money from their funds. They set up roadblocks and threatened us with tax consequences. It takes a lot of work, discipline and research to manage one's investments. Mr. Smith confirms some reasons why retail investors have left the stock market.

Psychological manipulation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simon[2] identified the following manipulative techniques:

[Oct 08, 2012] Good Boss, Bad Boss--There's Not Much Difference - Good Boss, Bad Boss--There's Not Much Difference

What Bill Jobs a psychopath?

CNBC/ Yahoo! Finance

The following CNBC guest blog is from Gautam Mukunda, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School and the author of "Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter."

Would you want your CEO to be someone who lied constantly? Who humiliated his employees?

Whose obsession with the paint colors in a factory had helped produce significant cost overruns on a major project?

No one would want a leader with such a record. He would surely be a disaster.

But the CEO I'm describing, of course, is Steve Jobs, who built Apple (aapl) into the most valuable company in history.

Anyone would want that result. But would you have hired the person who produced it?

This is just an example of a larger phenomenon.

(Read More: Top Performing CEOs of the Dow 30)

The best and worst leaders are often surprisingly similar, and our efforts to block the worst from power may also hinder us from getting the best ones. For both great and awful leaders, if the people charged with choosing a leader had known what he or she was going to do (not the results of his or her decisions, but the decisions themselves) in advance, they would likely have picked someone else. Abraham Lincoln was nominated by the Republican Party in 1860 because he was seen as the most conservative (that is, the least anti-slavery) major Republican. He was thought to be more acceptable to moderates than the supposedly more radical William Henry Seward, a far more accomplished politician who was Lincoln's main rival for the Republican nomination.

But when the crisis came, rather than let the South secede in peace, it was Lincoln - not Seward - who was willing to plunge the country into war. And though the circumstances were drastically different, by comparison, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he replaced most of its board of directors and eliminated 70 percent of its products - a change in strategy so radical even his handpicked board never voted to support it. We know how those stories worked out, of course, and we remember Lincoln and Jobs as geniuses. But their stories didn't have to go that way.

(Read More: Portfolio's Best American CEOs of All Time)

Think about it like this; when a leader takes a brave and iconoclastic stand, defies the opinion of the experts, and takes her company (or country) to incredible success, we say she must have incredible insight. She knew the right thing to do when no one else did. But most of the time, if all the experts disagree with someone - they're right. That's why they're experts. And there's no consistent way to tell, in advance, when the experts are right and when they're wrong. How could there be? If there were, everyone (including those same experts) would use it! So the best leaders do things that no one else would do, and the successes when they're right take them to glory. And the worst leaders do things that no one else would do, and the failures when they're wrong take them to infamy. That's the first of the two key similarities of the best and worst leaders.

The second is their paths to power. After all, leaders aren't chosen randomly. Lots of people want to lead, so every organization, from a company to a country, has a process it uses to choose among candidates for leadership. A bad leader can be catastrophic, so most organizations put a lot of effort into filtering out people they don't want.

(Read More: First Jobs of Famous CEOs)

Yet somehow, both the best and worst leaders are able to evade those filters, gaining power despite their willingness to do things that the very people who chose them would oppose. Often, that translates into a relatively short career. If we're talking about a president, he or she probably spent little time in senior political offices before entering the White House - like Lincoln, who had only two years in Congress. If it's a CEO, then he or she was probably a founder, hired from outside the company, inherited the job or reached the top in some other way that allowed her to hide what she will do.

So the worst leaders are generally those who were not thoroughly evaluated before they were given power. Sometimes unfiltered leaders are incompetent or otherwise incapable. Sometimes they simply make mistakes that someone else would have avoided. But the best leaders, too, make unique choices and are able to do so because they weren't thoroughly evaluated - it's just that their choices work.

So these two opposite ends on the spectrum of leader success are often two sides of the same coin.

[Jan 30, 2012] With friends like Facebook, who needs sociopaths by John Naughton

Jan 28, 2012 | The Guardian

The truth is that companies such as Facebook are basically the corporate world's equivalent of sociopaths, that is to say individuals who are completely lacking in conscience and respect for others. In her book The Sociopath Next Door, Martha Stout of Harvard medical school tries to convey what goes on in the mind of such an individual. "Imagine," she writes, "not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the wellbeing of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools."

Welcome to the Facebook mindset.

[Jan 30, 2012] Is Facebook run by sociopaths?

A commentator on the Guardian suggests that "companies such as Facebook are the corporate world's equivalent of sociopaths." Might this be true?

While I wouldn't wish to wallow in a definition of sociopathy, I did happen to ask a couple of Facebook's advertising clients how they found dealing with the world's most powerful brain child.

"They breathe their own fumes," one executive told me. And he is someone who gives Facebook rather large sums of money.

It is in this, surely, that Facebook has its power. It tells us all that in tomorrow's world, everything will be social. If you're not riding in the social Ferrari, you will be but a mere cipher in the commerce of life. Worse, you will be a mere individual, someone with absolutely no friends in the playground.

And who would want to be an isolated individual or part of an isolated company? It's tempting, then to view Facebook's world picture as expressing the mindset of a sociopath--or even a con man.

The driving force of both is that their world is the only one that matters. Their own personal joy lies in dragging everyone else into their vortex and watching as everyone stares rapt in an excitement they can't quite define. There's a lot of fun in that.

Is there some ultimate meaning and spiritual uplift in the proceedings? Not so much. Rather, it's the power of the game and the protagonist's power in the game that matter.

The gullible--that would be us--play along because the game seems to offer something that we will enjoy: success or approbation, perhaps.

But, in the end, it's rather hard to believe that every move Facebook makes is the move of a benevolent association or a social revolutionary, instead of a move by an advertising company.

Who might suspect, in their private hearts, that privacy is not something that enjoys too much philosophical debate at Facebook HQ? Rather, it's simply something that stands in the way of selling more adverts. It's an inconvenience that gets in the way of economic progress.

Because economic progress is far more important than any individual's right to keep herself to herself. That's not Facebook's fault, some might say. That's just the world we live in. We've all come to believe that economic progress matters more than anything.

Naturally, this might all change a little should one of the Facebook management run into some sort of personal bother that becomes public. But, until then, let's knock down those privacy walls and make some money.

It is wrong, of course, to suggest that Facebook's management might be isolated in their apparent views. Google, too, would surely prefer it if you gave it more and more information so that it can sell more and more--and, cute phrase this, "better"--adverts.

For Naughton, sociopaths are "individuals who are completely lacking in conscience and respect for others."

I have a feeling that the people who run Facebook and Google aren't sociopaths in their private lives -- should they have them. It's just that when they create one of those social networks we call companies, a strange group-think takes over.

That strange group-think doesn't so much distort reality as try to create a new one.

We are now living in the new reality. It's one in which it all has to start with people. People are products, products are money, and money is power.

Once you have the power, you can even try to tell governments what to do and what to think. And that's so much fun.

[Dec 02, 2011] The Other One Percent: Corporate Psychopaths and the Global Financial Crisis

Anyone who has ever worked in a large corporation has seen the empty suits that seem to inexplicably rise to positions of power. They talk a great game, possessing extraordinary verbal acuity, and often with an amazing ability to rise quickly without significant accomplishments to positions of great personal power, and often using it ruthlessly once it is achieved.

Their ruthless obsession with power and its visible rewards rises above the general level of narcissism and sycophancy that often plagues large organizations, especially those with an established franchise where performance is not as much of an issue as collecting their rents.

And anyone who has been on the inside of the national political process knows this is certainly nothing exclusive to the corporate world.

Dec 02, 2011 | Jesse's Café Américain

Anyone who has ever worked in a large corporation has seen the empty suits that seem to inexplicably rise to positions of power. They talk a great game, possessing extraordinary verbal acuity, and often with an amazing ability to rise quickly without significant accomplishments to positions of great personal power, and often using it ruthlessly once it is achieved.

Their ruthless obsession with power and its visible rewards rises above the general level of narcissism and sycophancy that often plagues large organizations, especially those with an established franchise where performance is not as much of an issue as collecting their rents.

And anyone who has been on the inside of the national political process knows this is certainly nothing exclusive to the corporate world.

Here is a paper recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics that hypothesizes along these lines. It is only a preliminary paper, lacking in full scholarship and a cycle of peer review.

But it raises a very important subject. Organizational theories such as the efficient markets hypothesis that assume rational behavior on the part of market participants tends to fall apart in the presence of the irrational and selfish short term focus of a significant minority of people who seek power, much less the top one percent of the psychologically ruthless.

Indeed, not only was previously unheard of behavior allowed, it became quite fashionable and desired in certain sections of American management where ruthless pursuit of profits at any cost was highly prized and rewarded. And if caught, well, only the little people must pay for their transgressions. The glass ceiling becomes a floor above which the ordinary rules do not apply.

If you wish to determine the character of a generation or a people, look to their heroes, leaders, and role models.
This is nothing new, but a lesson from history that has been unlearned. The entire system of checks and balances, of rule of law, of transparency in government, of accountability and personal honor, is based on the premise that one cannot always count on people to be naturally good and self-effacing. And further, that at times it seems that a relatively small group of corrupt people can rise to power, and harm the very fabric of a society.

'When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.'

Edmund Burke

'And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.'

Lord Acton

These things tend to go in cycles. It will be interesting to see how this line of analysis progresses. I am sure we all have a few candidates we would like to submit for testing. No one is perfect or even perfectly average. But systems that assume as much are more dangerous than standing armies, since like finds like, and dishonesty and fraud can become epidemic in an organization and a corporate culture, finally undermining the very law and principle of stewardship itself.
'Our government...teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.'

Louis D. Brandeis

MF Global, and the reaction to it thus far, is one of the better examples of shocking behaviour that lately seems to be tolerated, ignored, and all too often met with weak excuses and lame promises to do better next time, while continuing on as before.
"These corporate collapses have gathered pace in recent years, especially in the western world, and have culminated in the Global Financial Crisis that we are now in.

In watching these events unfold it often appears that the senior directors involved walk away with a clean conscience and huge amounts of money. Further, they seem to be unaffected by the corporate collapses they have created. They present themselves as glibly unbothered by the chaos around them, unconcerned about those who have lost their jobs, savings, and investments, and as lacking any regrets about what they have done.

They cheerfully lie about their involvement in events are very persuasive in blaming others for what has happened and have no doubts about their own continued worth and value. They are happy to walk away from the economic disaster that they have managed to bring about, with huge payoffs and with new roles advising governments how to prevent such economic disasters.

Many of these people display several of the characteristics of psychopaths and some of them are undoubtedly true psychopaths. Psychopaths are the 1% of people who have no conscience or empathy and who do not care for anyone other than themselves.

Some psychopaths are violent and end up in jail, others forge careers in corporations. The latter group who forge successful corporate careers is called Corporate Psychopaths...

Psychologists have argued that Corporate Psychopaths within organizations may be singled out for rapid promotion because of their polish, charm, and cool decisiveness. Expert commentators on the rise of Corporate Psychopaths within modern corporations have also hypothesized that they are more likely to be found at the top of current organisations than at the bottom.

Further, that if this is the case, then this phenomenon will have dire consequences for the organisations concerned and for the societies in which those organisations are based. Since this prediction of dire consequences was made the Global Financial Crisis has come about.

Research by Babiak and Hare in the USA, Board and Fritzon in the UK and in Australia has shown that psychopaths are indeed to be found at greater levels of incidence at senior levels of organisations than they are at junior levels (Boddy et al., 2010a). There is also some evidence that they may tend to join some types of organisations rather than others and that, for example, large financial organisations may be attractive to them because of the potential rewards on offer in these organizations."

Clive R. Boddy, The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis, Journal of Business Ethics, 2011

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