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[Nov 18, 2010] Stoller A Debtcropper Society

November 18, 2010 | naked capitalism


"We should recognize that what the creditor class wants is what they've always wanted: total dominance of our culture."

Going on from there what we must recognize is that the proper clinical description, or, rather, diagnosis for those who seek total dominance of others is sociopath. There really is no treatment for such a severe condition, and, therefore, the only effective response entails stern measures.



As a shrink with considerable forensic experience, I agree with your statement that there is no treatment for sociopathy. If anything, treatment is highly discouraged, as it only teaches them how to be even better criminals. Sociopaths are not human beings, as they lack a conscience or basic human emotions such as empathy.

As such, the only 2 options we have when dealing with sociopaths:

(1) containment, which means putting them in prison for the rest of their lives with no possibility of release, or

(2) destruction, which can be accomplished via a number of ways, such as public lynching or giving them the death penalty in a speedy, followed by immediate execution.


[Nov 06, 2010] Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley

Borne out of a quest to understand her sister Carolyn's lifelong sinister behavior (which, systems engineer Oakley suggests, may have been compounded by childhood polio), the author sets out on an exploration of evil, or Machiavellian, individuals. Drawing on the advances in brain imaging that have illuminated the relationship of emotions, genetics and the brain (with accompanying imaging scans), Oakley collects detailed case histories of famed evil geniuses such as Slobodan Milosevic and Mao Zedong, interspersed with a memoir of Carolyn's life. Oakley posits that they all had borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, a claim she supports with evidence from scientists' genetic and neurological research.

All the people she considers, Oakley notes, are charming on the surface but capable of deeply malign behavior (traits similar to those found in some personality disorders), and her analysis attributes these traits to narcissism combined with cognitive and emotional disturbances that lead them to believe they are behaving in a genuinely altruistic way. Disturbing, for sure, but with her own personal story informing her study, Oakley offers an accessible account of a group of psychiatric disorders and those affected by them.

Gadget Hound

This is a terrific book on the brain's organization, where genes fit into the picture of psychopathology, and a personal story to knit it all together. Probably the best I've ever found, and it reflects the state-of-the-art in it's subject matter.

This is a technical book written almost as a novel - just a wonderful read for those who would otherwise never bother with a real medical book. If you're interested in any of the above, then this is the book for you. There are also YouTube videos of the author giving talks at book signings, etc., which are very interesting and can serve as an introduction to the book.

In addition, here are some articles, etc., by Barbara Oakley which should be of considerable interest to anyone purchasing this excellent book:

1. "The Killer in the Lecture Hall," Op-Ed for New York Times, April 19th, 2007, republished in The International Herald Tribune and many other papers worldwide.

2. "The Devil Inside," by Barbara Oakley, The Times Higher Education Supplement, pp 18-19, November 30th, 2007. Invited article.

3. "A world afflicted with blind spots," by Barbara Oakley, op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, December 6, 2007.

4. "On Ayn Rand, Objectivism, and Atlas Shrugged," by Barbara Oakley, Normblog, (one of the most popular blogs in England). Invited article. (Discusses Rand's work using neuroscientific findings.)

cassdog (Gainesville, Fl USA): Illuminating look at some sinister characters in all of our lives, (October 10, 2009)

This author does what a good popular science writer should do. She discusses a large amount of cutting edge science in a manner that an educated reader can understand while providing context to the science through discussions of history, politics and even family relations. The result of this recipe is a thoroughly enjoyable and mesmerizing book that teachers the reader something new.

While I found her discussion of the history of Machiavellian research fascinating and the historical examples of Mao, Milosevic, Hitler and Stalin illuminating, the book hit close to home when she discussed the sub-clinical Machiavellian's that we all have to interact with.

Often these people are very successful and quite friendly but underneath the surface there is a more sinister programming going on. This sinister program has stayed in the gene pool, because at low-levels of the population, these social cheaters could have their way without fear of reciprocation.

In our anonymous urban societies, these personalities can flourish much stronger than in our historical evolution, when maintaining the trust of your social group was literally a matter of life and death.

It is in these sections where I could make sense of some people that I have met in my life and prepare for dealing with them in the future. In a sense this is the journey that the author went through. It appears that she had an overpowering urge to understand the source of her sister's troubled behavior. Along the way, she uncovered some very interesting facts and the readers get to enjoy the results.

Craig Hyatt: A+ for Oakley's Evil Genes, (October 8, 2009)

This review is from: Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend (Paperback) I give Evil Genes an A+. First off, forget the whole nature-versus-nurture debate and all the baggage about eugenics and whatnot: that's just not the *point* of this book. Oakley isn't preaching here, she's presenting the reasonable point of view that inheritable faults in brain development can, together with environmental influences, result in personality disorders and other processing problems that may, in turn, lead to inexplicably and gratuitously evil and destructive behavior.

However, I read the book cover to cover, and I never got the impression she was making the case that there's a "schizophrenia gene" or a "rapist gene" or anything like that, and I certainly didn't get the feeling she was arguing that we ought to excuse criminal behavior because "my evil genes made me do it."

What Oakley does is present a well-founded case that genes and combinations of genes can ultimately cause brains to get wired wrong or to develop chemical imbalances that result in faulty processing. Oakley's case seems reasonable to me. If you pick up Gray's Anatomy, you see there are loads of physical variations in the construction of our bodies... an extra bone here... an extra nerve or artery there... and I see no reason why brain construction shouldn't have similar physical and chemical variations resulting in a spectrum of psychological dispositions. Oakley isn't writing a PhD thesis here. What she's doing is mixing a goodish dose of interesting and accessible science with some fascinating inside stuff about public menaces interwoven with Oakley's memories of the trail of destruction left by her own erratic older sister Carolyn. I just couldn't put the book down. Here are a few random sentences on pages I dog eared (some of these are from sources, not Oakley herself):

If my review didn't convince you, sample the front matter and first chapter. You won't be able to put the book down. I promise.

Sacramento Book Review: Vampires are Real, July 19, 2009

By employing the destructive, exploitative life of her own sibling, Dr. Oakley has personalized a "plot" for her exploration of dangerous mentalities. Mao, Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, Mugabe, Papa Doc Duvalier, Castro, Hitler--all self-serving, manipulative, and deceitful minds who slew without conscience, disregarded the suffering of and were obsessed with control over others--all, we learn, were Borderline personalities. In perhaps similarly motivated economically murderous careers are Ken Lay, Bernard Madoff, and their ilk.

Perhaps because she is so thorough in covering the associated psychopathologies and neural malfunctions that create or facilitate Borderlines, this delving into a fearful subject was as entertaining to read as top-flight fiction. Most valuable, perhaps, are the insights and diagnostic tools that may empower the reader to recognize Machiavellian personalities in public and corporate life.

Vampire Alert! Personalities that on a tribal level would be shunned or culled, wield immensely dangerous charm and emotionally detached power to harm in an urban, large corporate, or national political milieu. And one of the symptoms of Borderlines is differential reproduction. They are among us, and their numbers are growing!

Sympathetically written, awesomely erudite, with humour and a wide array of the author's personal adventures and achievements to enrich it, this is a book I will reread many times.

Reviewed by David Lloyd Sutton

[Nov 01, 2010] What Psychopath Means

Scientific American

We have all heard these phrases before. "Violent psychopath" (21,700). "Psychopathic serial killer" (14,700). "Psychopathic murderer" (12,500). "Deranged psychopath" (1,050). The number of Google hits following them in parentheses attests to their currency in popular culture. Yet as we will soon discover, each phrase embodies a widespread misconception regarding psychopathic personality, often called psychopathy (pronounced "sigh-COP-athee") or sociopathy. Indeed, few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality. In this column, we will do our best to set the record straight and dispel popular myths about this condition.

Charming but Callous

First described systematically by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941, psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

Not surprisingly, psychopaths are overrepresented in prisons; studies indicate that about 25 percent of inmates meet diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. Nevertheless, research also suggests that a sizable number are represented in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that "successful psychopaths"-those who attain prominent positions in society-may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.

Most psychopaths are male, although the reasons for this sex difference are unknown. Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition. In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe "a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women-someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment." When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, "Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking."

The best-established measure of psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), developed by University of British Columbia psychologist Robert D. Hare, requires a standardized interview with subjects and an examination of their file records, such as their criminal and educational histories. Analyses of the PCL-R reveal that it comprises at least three overlapping, but separable, constellations of traits:

Three Myths

Despite substantial research over the past several decades, popular misperceptions surrounding psychopathy persist. Here we will consider three of them.

  1. All psychopaths are violent. Research by psychologists such as Randall T. Salekin, now at the University of Alabama, indicates that psychopathy is a risk factor for future physical and sexual violence. Moreover, at least some serial killers-for example, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Rader, the infamous "BTK" (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer-have manifested numerous psychopathic traits, including superficial charm and a profound absence of guilt and empathy.

    Nevertheless, most psychopaths are not violent, and most violent people are not psychopaths. In the days following the horrific Virginia Tech shootings of April 16, 2007, many newspaper commentators described the killer, Seung-Hui Cho, as "psychopathic." Yet Cho exhibited few traits of psychopathy: those who knew him described him as markedly shy, withdrawn and peculiar.

    Regrettably, the current (fourth, revised) edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), published in 2000, only reinforces the confusion between psychopathy and violence. It describes a condition termed antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is characterized by a longstanding history of criminal and often physically aggressive behavior, referring to it as synonymous with psychopathy. Yet research demonstrates that measures of psychopathy and ASPD overlap only moderately.

  2. All psychopaths are psychotic. In contrast to people with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, who often lose contact with reality, psychopaths are almost always rational. They are well aware that their ill-advised or illegal actions are wrong in the eyes of society but shrug off these concerns with startling nonchalance.

    Some notorious serial killers referred to by the media as psychopathic, such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, have displayed pronounced features of psychosis rather than psychopathy. For example, Manson claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and Berkowitz believed he was receiving commands from his neighbor Sam Carr's dog (hence his adopted nickname "Son of Sam"). In contrast, psychopaths are rarely psychotic.

  3. Psychopathy is untreatable. In the popular HBO series The Sopranos, the therapist (Dr. Melfi) terminated psychotherapy with Tony Soprano because her friend and fellow psychologist persuaded her that Tony, whom Dr. Melfi concluded was a classic psychopath, was untreatable. Aside from the fact that Tony exhibited several behaviors that are decidedly nonpsychopathic (such as his loyalty to his family and emotional attachment to a group of ducks that had made his swimming pool their home), Dr. Melfi's pessimism may have been unwarranted. Although psychopaths are often unmotivated to seek treatment, research by psychologist Jennifer Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues suggests that psychopaths may benefit as much as nonpsychopaths from psychological treatment. Even if the core personality traits of psychopaths are exceedingly difficult to change, their criminal behaviors may prove more amenable to treatment.

Psychopathy reminds us that media depictions of mental illness often contain as much fiction as fact. Moreover, widespread misunderstandings of such ailments can produce unfortunate consequences-as Tony Soprano discovered shortly before the television screen went blank.

Selected comments


I applaud your thoughtful consideration of an often misunderstood set of behavioral symptoms. However, there has historically been recognized a clinical differentiation between sociopathy (characterized by superficial charm, narcissism, and a lack of empathy) and the more problematic psychopathy (characterized by the aforementioned symptoms, plus aggressive and predatory behavior). Unfortunately, such a distinction has been ostensibly lost in recent clinical training. This distinction among antisocial presentations is important to acknowledge. Whereas sociopathy may not be recognized in many individuals, psychopathy can be expected to certainly take a larger societal toll.


Dr Kaufman brings up a useful distinction in understanding the causes of such behavior. Poor impulse control combined with inadequate self esteem or lower social standing is enough to create sociopathic behavior. Whereas, the sociopath response is more grounded in reality of their social standing and past history the psychopath creates greater perceived threats through imagination - hence the greater violence.

AnnieUK :

I am the mother of a 20 year old psychopath. Living with this kind of behavior has all but destroyed me and the family bonds are very strained. It is not an easy thing to handle, and I suppose admit to, and the family has taken all of 20 years to listen to me. Now they have all finally woken up and are paying attention. Trying to keep everyone talking while trying to keep him alive because of his total lack of remorse or fear, is a full time job.

Ripon :

I understand, but you as a mother have reached the first level of understanding " Recognition of the Psychopath". What ever has happened in the past can now be viewed thru clear eye's.

Generally, the first degree female family members are a big part of the problem, by choosing not to see the problem, making excuse's and arguing with everyone that recognizes the Psychopath for who and what they are, unfeeling manipulators of everyone they come in contact with in their day to day life. If you have openly addressed the problem with your son, with other family members present, that you have started to really address the problem child or bad seed.

Anything less than a direct approach is a waste of time, and still without resolve by you , there is no good answer. The Psychopath must have a victim at all times, other wise they are not happy, with themselves.

When they are unhappy and not manipulating someone, they will begin to ask or question themselves , and possibly but not likely to seek help. The critical point is to warn off victims before they can totally become victimized.


Dr. Kaufman, narcissistic personality features and lack of empathy in particular are what would facilitate aggressive and predatory behavior. In serial domestic abusers, I have found that with the exception of cases where delusional or psychotic symptoms were seen, at least three of the five following characteristics were almost invariably present:

  1. self-centeredness,
  2. lack of empathy,
  3. exaggerated sense of entitlement,
  4. jealousy,
  5. and an inability to accept responsibility for one's actions.

Those traits facilitate aggression, abuse, exploitation, and deception.

The so-called distinction between sociopathy and psychopathy is ridiculous and based on absolutely nothing of substance. The same could be said of so-called secondary psychopathy because such people are merely products of their environment and do not necessarily suffer from a psychological disorder, whereas psychopaths (real ones) have differences in how their brains process information that could only be hereditary.


I believe my husband is a psychopath. He angers very easily, for the simplest reasons. He has been in numerous relationships. He only can stay committed to a person no longer than eight years, and he then becomes bored. He lies about everything, I can't tell when he is truthful or not. I've constantly found condoms or phone numbers of various women. His reply is that these are his friends. It seems he looks for certain women that will further his social or economical status.

I am a school teacher, and for some reason he targeted me. I believe he assumed that I had more financial security. My previous husband was financial secure, which enabled me to do more with my own money. Everything that we own, I have purchased it in my name. I feel that when the relationship has not reached the financial status he desires, he looks for another one to put him in that status. I am very angry for being used and not loved. I feel that he is a great manipulator! Do you have any advice

[Oct 12, 2010] Inside the Mind of a Psychopath

Psychopaths are likable guys when they want to be.
Scientific American

Neuroscientists are discovering that some of the most cold-blooded killers aren't bad. They suffer from a brain abnormality that sets them adrift in an emotionless world

The word "psychopath" conjures up movie images of brutal, inexplicable violence: Jack Nicholson chasing his family with an ax in The Shining or Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, his face locked into an armored mask to keep him from biting people to death. But real life offers another set of images, that of killers making nice: Ted Bundy as law student and aide to the governor of Washington State, and John Wayne Gacy as the Junior Chamber of Commerce's "Man of the Year." Psychopaths are likable guys when they want to be.

Between the two of us, we have interviewed hundreds of prison inmates to assess their mental health. We are trained in spotting psychopaths, but even so, coming face to face with the real article can be electrifying, if also unsettling. One of the most striking peculiarities of psychopaths is that they lack empathy; they are able to shake off as mere tinsel the most universal social obligations. They lie and manipulate yet feel no compunction or regrets - in fact, they don't feel particularly deeply about anything at all.

[Oct 12, 2010] Cross-check Are war crimes caused by bad apples or bad barrels by John Horgan

Oct 4, 2010
When soldiers commit atrocities, we must ask why. The question is being raised once again by reports that a handful of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan carried out premeditated killings-murders-of Afghan civilians. The soldiers allegedly took photographs of themselves posing with corpses and body parts, including fingers and heads.

The alleged ringleader is Sergeant Calvin Gibbs. In an interrogation video leaked to CNN, Specialist Adam Winfield, a member of Gibbs's platoon, said that Gibbs "likes to kill things. He is pretty much evil incarnate. I mean, I have never met a man who can go from one minute joking around, then mindless killings."

Military officials invariably blame these sorts of atrocities on "bad apples." That was the phrase that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used to describe American guards accused of abusive behavior at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004.

Some evidence supports the bad-apples theory of atrocities. In a previous post, I cited a report by two psychiatrists that after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of World War II infantrymen suffered from psychiatric illness, with some succumbing to a near-catatonic "vegetative phase." But 2 percent of the soldiers, far from being traumatized by intense, prolonged combat, enjoyed it. The psychiatrists diagnosed these soldiers with "aggressive psychopathic personalities."

Dave Grossman, a former professor of psychology at West Point and Army lieutenant colonel, acknowledged in his 1995 book On Killing (Little, Brown, 1995) that a small number of men-whom he called "the two percent who like it"-can "kill without regret or remorse." According to Grossman, these men may be excellent soldiers when competently trained and supervised, but they are also more likely than other men to use excessive force and commit atrocities.

The description above of someone joking one minute and killing the next sounds like textbook psychopathy. In "Inside the Mind of a Psychopath," in the September/October issue of Scientific American MIND, the neuroscientists Kent Kiehl and Joshua Buckholtz stated that psychopaths "are guilty of the most erratic and irresponsible, sometimes destructive and violent behavior," for which they "feel no compunction or regrets." Psychopaths, who comprise as much as 35 percent of U.S. prisoners, seem incorrigible; they may behave worse after treatments such as group psychotherapy, Kiehl and Buckholtz said, because "insights into others' vulnerabilities become opportunities to hone their manipulation skills."

Today, some psychiatrists prefer the terms "sociopathy" or "antisocial personality disorder" to psychopathy. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, antisocial personality disorder is characterized by extreme aggression, lack of empathy for others, lack of remorse for one's actions-and, not surprisingly, a propensity for violent crime. The manual estimates that 3 percent of all males have the disorder, which is suggestively close to the "two percent who like it." The disorder is much less common among women.

A British study of school-age twins published in 2005 [pdf] suggests that psychopathy has a strong genetic component. Teacher surveys revealed psychopathic tendencies (including antisocial behavior and "callous-unemotional traits") in 234 children-all less than 10 years old-out of a total of 3,687 pairs of twins, or roughly 3 percent. If one identical twin was psychopathic, the other was much more likely to be so; the concordance between fraternal twins was smaller.

In Final Solutions (Cornell, 2005), the political scientist Benjamin Valentino asserted that small percentages of men caused much of the slaughter of the 20th century. "The impetus for mass killing usually originates from a relatively small group of powerful leaders and is often carried out without the active support of broader society," Valentino stated. This pattern was true of mass killings in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, the Balkans, Guatemala and elsewhere.

Similarly, the biologist Barbara Oakley argued in Evil Genes (Prometheus, 2007) that Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and other notorious tyrants displayed symptoms of psychopathy. Oakley concluded that they were "born to be bad." But in her 1963 essay on the Nuremberg trials, Hannah Arendt noted that psychiatric evaluations of Nazi mass murderers such as Adolf Eichmann suggested that they were "neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal." Arendt attributed Eichmann's crimes to "circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or feel that he is doing wrong." Arendt was rejecting the bad-apple theory and blaming "circumstances" for the Holocaust.

This conclusion was corroborated by famous experiments carried out in the 1960s by the psychologist Stanley Milgram. The son of Jewish immigrants, Milgram devised his experiments in part as a reaction to the Nuremberg trials, which left him wondering about the motivation of Eichmann and other Nazis. In Milgram's experiments-the details of which are still chilling-subjects were told that they were participating in a test of another person's learning ability. The "learners" were actually actors in cahoots with Milgram.

The subject read pairs of words to the learner-who was in an adjoining room and could be heard but not seen by the subject-and then tested his ability to remember the pairings. Each time the learner failed to remember a pairing, the scientist, who was in the same room as the subject, ordered him to give the learner a stronger electric shock. As the shocks increased, the learner reacted with audible distress, crying out in pain, banging on the wall or even claiming that he was about to have a heart attack. After a certain point, the learner would fall silent.

Of course, the learner was pretending to be shocked. If the subject hesitated to deliver stronger shocks, the scientist insisted that the subject continue, adding that he would not be held responsible for anything that happened to the learner. Only if the subject resisted four successive commands from the scientist was the experiment stopped. Otherwise the experiment continued until the subject had administered a "shock" of 450 volts to the learner.

Before the experiment, Milgram asked several dozen psychiatrists to predict the results; the average guess was that only 1 percent of the subjects, those with sadistic tendencies, would deliver the strongest shock. But in Milgram's initial experiment 26 out of 40 subjects, or almost two-thirds, administered what they believed to be the strongest, life-threatening shock. Only one subject refused to continue the experiment before reaching the 300-volt level. Versions of Milgram's experiment have been repeated in the U.S. and elsewhere with similar results.

In 1974 Milgram spelled out the implications of his research: "The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation. Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

In 1971 the psychologist Philip Zimbardo, Milgram's former classmate at a New York City high school, carried out the so-called Stanford Prison Experiment, which has become almost as renowned as Milgram's work. Zimbardo created a mock prison in which Stanford students played the roles of either prisoners or guards. The "guards" quickly became so abusive-and the "prisoners" so distressed-that Zimbardo had to discontinue the experiment. Some of the guards' abusive acts-which included forcing prisoners to strip and to engage in simulated homosexual intercourse-were strikingly similar to acts perpetrated more than three decades later by American soldiers against Iraqis held in the Abu Ghraib prison.

This research suggests that human aggression and cruelty stem less from the "disposition" of individuals than from their environment, or "situation," Zimbardo argued in The Lucifer Effect (Random House, 2008). Studies of modern suicide bombers, torturers and war criminals, Zimbardo wrote, have revealed that many are, in Arendt's words, "terrifyingly normal." People behave badly not because they are bad apples but because they are in "bad barrels," situations that encourage brutality. War is the ultimate bad barrel. "In all wars, at all times, in every country, wars transform ordinary, even good men into killers," Zimbardo stated.

In War of the World: History's Age of Hatred (Penguin, 2007), the British historian Niall Ferguson described how combatants in World Wars I and II became consumed with hatred for their opponents. As a result, even Americans and British soldiers, the putative good guys, engaged in escalating atrocities, including bombing civilians, torturing and killing prisoners and mutilating the dead. This emotion-fueled descent into brutality is an inevitable consequence of the bad barrel of war.

If genocide, war crimes and other atrocities were all perpetrated by a few bad apples born with bad genes, we could perhaps identify them through genetic testing and sequester them from the rest of us good, decent, peaceful folk. If only things were that easy.

Photograph of 1968 massacre in My Lai, Vietnam, courtesy of Wiki Commons

Mims 11:59 AM 10/4/10Also relevant: the 2001 documentary Japanese Devils.

The film is basically about how conditioning soldiers to believe that their opponents are sub-human encourages them to commit atrocities against their enemies. Some of the accounts (from former soldiers themselves) are truly gruesome.

In the same vein, but involving U.S. soldiers in Vietnam: Winter Soldier

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 2. candide 12:20 PM 10/4/10How about the OBVIOUS: war crimes are caused by .... WAR.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 3. Chrisstephen 02:29 PM 10/4/10Having reported from numerous wars, I think the conclusion is spot on. For some soldiers, killing seems to be a pleasure. The vast majority try to balance following orders with staying alive. In an environment where their job is to kill the enemy and killing is normal, the line between legitimate and illegitimate killing is blurred. The onus is on the supervising commanders to keep all this in check.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 4. WRQ9 03:36 PM 10/4/10I cannot agree with the findings of tests like the Milgram test mentioned because, in my experience, it has been under a perceived threat that people behave this way. Most people will pretend to behave in an acceptable manner no matter how wrong it feels to do so. It is in the presentation of circumstance that bias is introduced. I do not either believe in the 2%-3% figure involving war criminals, as I believe in the prevalence of cover up in these circumstances, and the pragmatism of not being found out in general. The 2%to3% represent to me, a percentage so driven that once they are allowed to commit a murder for example, they are unable to put the genie back in the bottle. The line must be drawn where no possible repercussions are perceived, as when no witness is available or such circumstance to provide a true reflection. Many people are secretly glad to be in a unit with a man like Gibbs because they are allowed to stop pretending and not risk the same level of stigma as the Gibbses. In my informal study of "sociopathy", it seems like about a third of people have a palpable emotional response, a third have a response and suppress it, and fully a third have no response at all. These numbers I don't feel vary as much in males to females as is indicated, but again cultural necessity skews the findings. Although I agree that genetics is a strong predictor of this tendency, other factors can play a significant role in determining the degree of evidence of such leanings. Drug abuse childhood abuses and combinations of other extreme circumstances can inspire differences in scale, either way. I reach these finding by regarding the context and value in circumstance in life to be a constant within the species, and the perception of equality to be assumed. Cheaters oppress, and the willingness to oppress often reflects sociopathic tendencies. In fact, the intended suppression of any faction or individual for any cause save the actual greater good of society, reflects such tendencies. It is the impossibility of proof, given the complexity of human the psyche which leads us time and time again to the same pitfalls. If these people were so alone in culture, they could hardly be considered socially driven in any way. Influence is a form of violence to some, and the relative subtlety doesn't change the paradigm.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 5. JamesDavis 03:42 PM 10/4/10People like Sergeant Calvin Gibbs are needed in wars because it is people like them that brings the war to an end. The more cruel the killings, the faster the war ends or the faster the people give up. You have this in every war because there is a Sergeant Gibbs in every war and Sergeant Gibbs is born with this trait and it comes to light in war. If there is no war, people like Sgt. Gibbs would more than likely become a serial killer or an incredible hunter. In war or not in war, these people have to kill the same way a painter has to paint...they are needed.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 6. TTLG 04:41 PM 10/4/10I am somewhat skeptical of studies like Milgram's which rely on the subjects being fooled by actors. My experience is that most people are much better at detecting this sort of deceit than most actors are are fooling people. For example, just look at how much bad acting there is in Hollywood movies, which have access to the largest pool of actors in the world. If these guys cannot get believable actors, how can psych experimenters? I would not be surprised if a significant amount of people's behavior in these experiments is due to their not entirely believing (either consciously or not) that the situation they are in is real, due to the behavior of the supposed victim or the person giving them orders.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 7. gesimsek 06:20 PM 10/4/10It is an excellent article. Stanford experiment reminds me fraternity entrance tests. Unfortunately, as long as human beings are raised to prove themselves by inflicting damage upon themselves and others, this vicious circle will continue.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 8. imipak 08:20 PM 10/4/10JamesDavis' view that wars end quickly with extreme cruelty is the precise opposite of the view held by Sun Tzu who admonished against excess. It is also contrary to the view of Miyamoto Musashi, who stated that one should never repeat a method, lest it becomes predictable and a weakness.

Since "Art of War" and "Book of Five Rings" are recognized as excellent guides on how to win but no blogger has yet to achieve such repute, I'll side with expert opinion and say Sergeant Gibbs is not the way to win but is actually the way to lose.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 9. tombaxter 09:18 PM 10/4/10I'd like to think I would not have pull the trigger like a handful didn't at My Lai. But even if I didn't shoot, I know I would have never reported it as I didn't report other war crimes I saw. We weren't dealing with people. We were dealing with g**ks and "What is the value of one mere g**k?" It's the same as a Hajji, etc. I hope I will commit suicide before I become a Kapo.

Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this 10. 01:39 AM 10/5/10I have traveled perpetually for 12 years, and visited 88 countries. It is normal for me to live with people who speak a different language than me, this is a more instinctual way of living.

I also observe many tourist and travelers outside the social norms of home.

Yes, for sure 2-3 percent of people feel no guilt.

However, the assumption I feel is wrong, is that we somehow imbue humans with introspection. I do not feel that 50 percent of Humans take the feelings of others into consideration. I believe what we often see as empathy is only a self-serving desire to get reward from the group.

People generally are cows, with an alpha male instructing them what to do, this idea of morality of the individual is truly just fear of social norms being enforced and mass confusion causing mental problems. Overwhelming confusion, incongruence of beliefs to me is mental illness.

People generally do not want to hurt people, but if there is a group desire, or a easy to recognize benefit, with no danger, they will do so without thought.

Andy Graham of in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa 2010

[Aug 20, 2010] At the top, you can only look down by Cardiff Garcia

Aug 20, 2010 |

It's approaching happy hour at Chez FT Alphaville, so we hope you don't mind if we finish the week on a lighter topic (as we sometimes do).

We draw your attention to a recent article about the psychology of power in the pages of our mortal enemy fierce rival formidable competitor the Wall Street Journal, by science writer Jonah Lehrer.

Lehrer explores a concept called the Paradox of Power, which he summarises thus:

The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity.

One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall.

We know that Wall Street has its share of authoritarian bosses. What Lehrer's article suggests is that not all of them were quite so accomplished as bastards while still on the way up.

We suppose that's not really a surprising revelation: power tends to corrupt, etc..

But after discussing the myopia and lack of empathy that overtake people who reach the top of their organisations, Lehrer relates a suggestion from one psychologist for how this problem might be countered.

Given the passage of FinReg, the notion is at least timely:

There is no easy cure for the paradox of power. Mr. Keltner argues that the best treatment is transparency, and that the worst abuses of power can be prevented when people know they're being monitored. This suggests that the mere existence of a regulatory watchdog or an active board of directors can help discourage people from doing bad things.

However, people in power tend to reliably overestimate their moral virtue, which leads them to stifle oversight. They lobby against regulators, and fill corporate boards with their friends. The end result is sometimes power at its most dangerous.

It's interesting to think that even if, say, a newly empowered regulatory body turns out to be ineffectual, its presence might nevertheless cause executives to be marginally more virtuous and considerate.

But we would add another point of skepticism to those made by Lehrer. According to the article, people in power only respect their equals, or other people with similar or higher power. Is it likely that an executive who has succumb to the worst effects of the paradox will come to view regulators this way?

Somehow, we doubt it.

Have a nice weekend.

Related links:
The Power Trip – WSJ
No, Steve, it's not like when Hitler invaded Poland – FT Alphaville
A tragedy of hubris and nemesis – FT
Dick Fuld? Not a bad guy (and other contrarian takes on LEH) – FT Alphaville

[Aug 13, 2010] Identifying Psychopathic Fraudsters These Men Know ' Snakes in Suits' By Dick Carozza

To know about psychopaths is especially important to 401K investors and, especially, to baby boomers. Such types often surface in financial scams that target seniors...
July 2008 |

Interview with Dr. Robert D. Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak

Not all psychopaths become fraudsters, but some fraudsters are psychopaths. A fraud examiner's job is to help deter fraud by discretely noticing those employees who might be exhibiting psychopathic tendencies. Psychologists Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., and Paul Babiak, Ph.D., experts in psychopath studies, explain how these aberrant characters can infect organizations and provide ways to deal with them.

Sam strode into the lobby of Bacme Manufacturing. Impeccably dressed in a tailored suit, carrying a burnished leather briefcase, he smiled at the receptionist. "Hello. I'm Sam Smithson, here to see Mr. Tolliver for my second interview." "Yes, Mr. Smithson. Mr. Tolliver is ready to see you." Eyes turned as Sam walked up the stairs.

"Sam! So good to see you!" "It's great to be here again, Mr. Tolliver!" During the national economic downturn, Bacme was suffering and needed a few "white knights." Sam had the requisite resume, leadership qualities, and enthusiastic spirit the company needed to boost morale and the bottom line as a vice president.

Unfortunately, Mr. Tolliver didn't know that Sam was a textbook psychopath. Behind his smile and relaxed manner, he was dishonest, devious, and manipulative. He pretended to be an empathetic listener, but most of the time he had only one person on his mind.

Within a year, Sam had ingratiated himself to staffers who could benefit him: top executives but also the "informal leaders" - middle managers and administrative assistants who got the real work done. Soon he was controlling vast areas of the company and began embezzling funds. By the time the corporation realized it was missing millions of dollars, smiling Sam, "the white knight," was on to the next corporation.

Not all psychopaths become fraudsters, but some fraudsters are psychopaths. A fraud examiner's job is to help deter fraud by discretely noticing those employees who might be exhibiting psychopathic tendencies.

Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. and Paul Babiak, Ph.D., authors of "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work" (available in the ACFE Bookstore), have been studying psychopaths and their effects for years. Babiak is an industrial and organizational psychologist and president of HRBackOffice, an executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in management development and succession planning ( Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy and author of "Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among us," is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and president of Darkstone Research Group, a forensic research and consulting firm (

"Psychopaths invest energy in creating and maintaining a facade that facilitates their careers," said Hare. "During the hiring process they convince decision makers of their unique talents and abilities - albeit based upon lies and distortion.

"Executives are always looking for the best and brightest ... but there are not that many from which to choose," Hare said. "As times goes on, the psychopath will continue to manage this positive reputation for as long as it is useful to him or her. ... Executives view themselves as good judges of people, and few want to be told that they were wrong about something as basic as honesty and integrity. This aspect of human nature works in favor of the psychopath."

Hare will be a keynote speaker at the 19th Annual ACFE Fraud Conference & Exhibition in Boston in July. He spoke to Fraud Magazine from his home in Vancouver, B.C., and Babiak from his home in Dutchess County, N.Y.

Do you believe that most fraudsters are psychopaths or do they just exhibit anti-social behavior?

Hare: There are many reasons why people engage in fraudulent behavior, some related to economic necessity, cultural, social, and peer pressures, special circumstances, opportunities, and so forth. Many of these people are small-time criminals just "doing their job," and their victims are relatively few in number. Much more problematic are fraudsters whose activities reflect a virulent mix of personality traits and behaviors including grandiosity; sense of entitlement; a propensity to lie, deceive, cheat, and manipulate; a lack of empathy and remorse; an inability to develop deep emotional and social connections with others; and the view that others are merely resources to be exploited - callously and without regret.

These white-collar psychopaths often are heavily involved in obscenely lucrative scams of every sort. They lead lavish lifestyles while their victims lose their life savings, their dignity, and their health - a financial death penalty as one law enforcement officer put it. The public and the courts have difficulty in appreciating the enormity of the damage done by these social predators, and because their crimes often do not involve direct physical violence, they may receive comparatively light fines and sentences, and early parole. The money obtained from their depredations is seldom recovered, leaving the victims and the public bewildered and convinced that crime certainly does pay when committed by those whose charm, egocentricity, and deception disguise a flabby conscience.

You've designed the "Psychopathy Checklist - Revised" (PCL-R), the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy. Can you briefly describe its methodology and how it differs from other forms of measurement?

Hare: The PCL-R is a 20-item clinical construct rating scale for the assessment of psychopathy in forensic populations. Qualified professionals use interview and detailed file/collateral information to score each item on 3-point scales (0, 1, 2) according to the extent to which an individual matches explicit criteria for the item. The resulting total scores can vary from 0 to 40 and reflect the extent to which the individual matches the "prototypical psychopath." One derivative of the PCL-R, the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV), often is used in community and civil psychiatric research on psychopathy. It has 12 items, with total scores that can vary from 0 to 24. The items in each instrument are grouped into the same four factors or dimensions, each of which contributes to the measurement of psychopathy. For example, the items in the PCL: SV dimensions are: Interpersonal (Superficial, Grandiose, Deceitful); Affective (Lacks remorse, Lacks empathy, Doesn't accept responsibility for own behavior); Lifestyle (Impulsive, Lacks goals, Irresponsibility); Antisocial (Poor behavioral controls, Adolescent antisocial behavior, Adult antisocial behavior). The PCL-R and the PCL: SV are strongly related to one another, both conceptually and empirically and have much the same psychometric, explanatory, and predictive properties. Because of their demonstrated reliability and validity, they are widely used in basic and applied research on psychopathy and for clinical and forensic evaluations.

The personality disorder measured by the PCL-R is similar to antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), described in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV. The difference is that the PCL-R places considerable emphasis on the interpersonal and affective traits associated with psychopathy, whereas ASPD is defined more by antisocial behaviors. As a result, ASPD fails to capture the traditional construct of psychopathy and is much more prevalent in community and forensic populations than is psychopathy.

Self-report personality inventories also are used for the assessment of psychopathic traits and behaviors. The information provided by these instruments reflects the individual's self-understanding and evaluation, what he or she is willing to disclose to others, and impression management. It may be difficult to obtain accurate self-reports of affective experiences associated with psychopathic tendencies. Further, self-report measures of psychopathy are only moderately correlated with the PCL-R and its derivatives. Nonetheless, they provide useful information from the individual's perspective, and contribute to our understanding of the psychopathy construct, particularly in the general population. One derivative of the PCL-R is the B-Scan or Business Integrity Scan, which includes both a self-report version and a supervisor's rating version. We developed the scan out of our experiences with, and research on, the lack of integrity and honesty of corporate psychopaths. Although not a clinical measure of psychopathy, it is designed to tap into the behaviors, attitudes and judgments relevant to ethical business practices.

You've written that many people, after reading or hearing you speak, begin wondering if their bosses and co-workers are psychopaths - or even themselves! I imagine all of us exhibit psychopathic traits at various times, but what are the prevailing characteristics that you believe a person must exhibit to actually be diagnosed as a psychopath? How do you distinguish a psychopath from a difficult person?

Hare: Television constantly describes the symptoms associated with an endless list of diseases, some real, some contrived. The viewer may have one of the symptoms of disease X, say a sore throat, and worry that he or she has the disease. But this symptom is shared by scores of conditions other than disease X, and sometimes a sore throat is simply a sore throat. What people don't take into account is that a given disease or medical condition is defined and diagnosed by a set of symptoms, a syndrome, and that one or two of the defining symptoms may be of little diagnostic value. One symptom does not a disease make, nor does being impulsive, egocentric, irresponsible, and so forth make someone a psychopath; difficult, perhaps, but not psychopathic.

Psychopathy is defined by having a heavy dose of the features that comprise the disorder. How heavy? Like blood pressure, the construct measured by the PCL-R and PCL: SV is dimensional. The threshold for "high blood pressure" or for a label of "hypertensive" is somewhat arbitrary, but typically falls in a range where there is increased risk to the individual's health. The threshold for "psychopathy" also is somewhat arbitrary, but generally is set rather high, at a level where the individual's manipulative, callous, egocentric, predatory, irresponsible, and remorseless behaviors begin to infringe upon the rights and safety of others. For example, researchers often adopt a PCL: SV score of 18 (out of 24) for "probable psychopathy," and a score of 13 for "possible psychopathy." To put this into context, the average PCL: SV score is less than 3 for samples from the general population, and around 13 for samples from forensic populations. Most of those in the general population receive a PCL: SV score of 0 or 1. So, even those who appear to exhibit a few psychopathic features would fall well below thresholds for possible or probable psychopathy. This does not mean that such individuals are saint-like; they could still be very "difficult" for reasons other than psychopathy. Their values, beliefs, or personal style may not be appealing to us, but they may be honest, have integrity, experience emotions at a real level, and contribute to the success of the organization. These "difficult" people also can make sincere efforts to moderate their attitudes and behaviors so as to fit more comfortably into the corporate culture or social norms of their work group. Psychopaths, on the other hand, lack integrity, are dishonest and manipulative, and do not experience deep-seated emotions. They may go through the motions of change in order to achieve their goals, but it will be little more than play-acting. Like Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, psychopaths can be "good" or "bad," depending on what is likely to work best at the time.

What do psychopaths want? What are their motivations?

Hare: They want many of the same basic things that the rest of us want, but, in addition, have an inordinate need for power, prestige, wealth, and so forth. They differ from most of us in terms of how much they "need," their sense of entitlement to whatever they want, and the means with which they are willing to achieve their ends. They also differ dramatically from others in the communal nature of their needs and goals. That is, the sense of altruism, concern for the welfare of family, friends, and society, and the social rules, expectations, and reciprocity that guide most people are irrelevant to psychopaths. They operate according to their own self-serving principle: look out for number 1, no matter what the cost to others, and without guilt or remorse.

Do psychopaths feel emotions and respond to emotions in others?

Hare: The emotional life of psychopaths lacks the range and depth found in most individuals. It often is described as shallow and barren, consisting mostly of "proto-emotions," somewhat primitive responses associated with their own needs and experiences. Their displays of anger, hostility, envy, and response to frustration are likely to be much more intense and genuine than their feelings of empathy, love, shame, and sorrow. While at times they may appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow, and short-lived displays of feeling. They are able to mimic emotions rather convincingly, but an astute observer may be left with the impression that they are play-acting and that little is going on below the surface. This, of course, raises an interesting question. If their own emotional life is relatively barren how are they so adept at "reading" and responding to the emotions of other people? The answer seems to be that they have learned that what others describe as a given emotional state is reflected in a distinct pattern of verbal cues and body language. Psychopaths are able to use this information to intuit an emotional state that they don't really understand. In this sense, they are like a color-blind person who "recognizes" color because of the context in which it occurs (the red light is at the top of the traffic signal) and therefore gives the appearance of color perception. However, no amount of training and practice will allow the color-blind person to really understand color or the psychopath to really understand the emotional life of others, except in a vague intellectual, inferential sense. To put it simply, they don't know how you feel, nor do they much care.

You've written that some researchers have said that psychopaths "know the words but not the music." What does that mean?

Hare: It means that psychopaths understand the denotative, dictionary meanings of words but do not fully appreciate their connotative, emotional meaning. Their language is only "word deep," lacking in emotional coloring. Saying "I love you" or "I'm truly sorry" has about as much emotional meaning as saying "have a nice day." This lack of emotional depth in language is part of their more general poverty of affect as described by clinicians and observed in neuroimaging studies.

What are the differences between psychopaths, sociopaths, and those with narcissistic personality or histrionic personality disorders?

Hare: The terms psychopathy and sociopathy refer to related but not identical conditions. Psychopaths have a pattern of personality traits and behaviors not readily understood in terms of social or environmental factors. They are described as without conscience and incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves. Sociopathy is not a formal psychiatric condition. It refers to a pattern of attitudes, values, and behaviors that is considered antisocial and criminal by society at large, but seen as normal or necessary by the subculture or social environment in which it developed. Sociopaths may have a well-developed conscience and a normal capacity for empathy, guilt, and loyalty, but their sense of right and wrong is based on the norms and expectations of their subculture or group.

Many criminals might be described as sociopaths.

Narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders are described in DSM-IV, and their differences from psychopathy are outlined in "Snakes in Suits."

Do we have research that indicates that a person is a psychopath because of genetics, the environment, or both? If it's partially environmental, what could happen to a person so he or she develops into a psychopath?

Hare: All personality traits are the result of genetic-environmental interactions. Recent research in behavioral genetics indicates that callous-unemotional traits and antisocial tendencies, likely precursors to the dimensions of psychopathy described earlier, are highly heritable. There is no evidence that psychopathy can result solely from social or environmental influences. This doesn't mean that some people are destined to become psychopaths, only that the process of socialization is much more difficult for those with early indications of the precursors of the disorder.

Do male and female psychopaths practice their deceptions in different ways? If so, how?

Hare: There are many clinical accounts of female psychopaths but relatively little empirical research. The available evidence suggests that male and female psychopaths share similar interpersonal and affective features, including egocentricity, deceptiveness, shallow emotions, and lack of empathy. All will make maximum use of their physical attributes to deceive and manipulate others, but female psychopaths may be less prone than males to use overt, direct physical aggression to attain their ends. The term femme fatale comes to mind.

What are some ways that companies can screen out psychopaths during the interview and background check processes? This has to be extremely hard because psychopaths exhibit all the right qualities (and fake the rest) when companies are vetting them for jobs.

Babiak: Psychopaths make great first impressions and have extremely effective interviewing skills, so relying on employment interviews alone when making hiring decisions can lead an organization to make the wrong choice. The risk is increased by the use of untrained or inadequately trained interviewers who are unaware of the psychopath's skill at lying and deception, and therefore don't take the necessary extra steps to verify all information collected.

Improving one's chances of detecting psychopathic lying during the employment process requires verification of all details presented (knowledge, experience, expertise), and exploring and challenging discrepancies. Psychopaths talk a good game on a surface level, and will use technical jargon and glib, superficial charm to convince the interviewer of their experience and expertise. As much as possible, resume data should be checked before the interview. Then, by using structured interviewing techniques and multiple interviewers from different functions and levels in the organization, inconsistencies can be explored further and details drilled down.

It is critical that all interviewers get together to share their findings and impressions before an offer is made. During this important meeting, the discrepancies noted and possible deceptions will be uncovered. Relying on a group decision removes the psychopath's advantage in manipulating just one interviewer successfully.

Can you talk briefly about the "three personalities" that are within all of us?

Babiak: Deep down we all have a private experience of ourselves, our personality, which consists of our needs, values, emotions and so forth. This self-perception includes things we know about ourselves that we are comfortable sharing, other characteristics we wish to keep private, and even some parts that are unknown even to us. This is our inner or private personality. When we deal with others, though, we tend to limit the presentation of our personality to those things we like, are socially acceptable, and can positively influence those around us. This is our persona, or public self. We wear this mask in public. The third point of view of the personality is our reputation among those who know or interact with us; that is, our attributed personality.

In a business world, where "perception is reality," this last view of our personality - our reputation - is the most important. It influences how others will treat us and how decisions are made about us, and can ultimately foster or derail our careers. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of or discount this view of themselves. Sometimes it is only upon receipt of hard data, often in the form of "360-degree" feedback given during training programs, that they learn how others really perceive them.

The psychopath operates on the surface level, presenting a mask or persona that is in keeping with the expectations of the organization and its members. Typically, this mask is: "I am the ideal employee and leader."

The psychopath invests considerable effort creating and managing this facade through impression management techniques. Those who have power and authority will be shown only this mask - that is, the facade of an employee who is honest, productive, caring, with leadership potential, and so forth - and will integrate it into their evaluation of the psychopath - in effect, the psychopath's reputation. Those who are of little value to the psychopath will not receive such careful impression management, and may come to see the psychopath for who he or she really is. Unfortunately, however, they are often in positions least likely to influence the thinking of those in power.

In a nutshell, how do psychopaths judge the personalities of others?

Babiak: Psychopaths often come across as good psychologists, but in reality they are just more observant of others and are motivated to take advantage of the traits, characteristics, and personal situations of those around them. Psychopaths use the same three-part personality model to build strong relationships with others. They initially present a charming, charismatic mask, persona, which is often quite likeable. When they want to deepen the relationship (because the target has something they want), they first convince the target that they truly like him or her (that is, like his or her own persona or outward self). Then, they convince the target that they are more similar than different in many ways (including at the deep psychological level). Thirdly, they convince the target that they fully understand and accept the target's own true, private, and inner personality (the one with all of its secrets), and, therefore, because of this acceptance, they can be trusted. Finally, they convince the target that they (the psychopaths) are the ideal friend, partner, coworker, and so forth; this forms the "psychopathic bond." This bond is quite seductive, as few people reach this level of psychological intimacy with others in the work environment. Once this bond is formed, it is very difficult for the target to see the truth about the psychopath as he or she continues to be manipulated.

In business situations, do psychopaths target particular individuals? If so, what kinds of persons?

Babiak: Psychopaths are always on the lookout for individuals of whom they can take advantage. We often correctly assume that they target those with high status and power in the organization, but they also identify those with subtle, informal power in the organization. For example, many secretaries control access to their principals whom a psychopath will want to influence. Middle-level managers control the flow of materials, information, and processes that might prove useful to a psychopath. Individual contributors in professional positions (for example, those in IT, finance, and auditing), despite the lack of authority over staff, have great amounts of influence over information and other resources useful to the corporate psychopath. Any person with perceived utility to the psychopath will be targeted.

I know this is complex, but how are psychopaths able to manipulate people within an organization to be, as you call them, "pawns," and "patrons"?

Babiak: This model evolved out of our observations of how the "psychopathic drama" unfolds. It captures the theatrical nature of the psychopaths' view of organizational life. Psychopaths see themselves as the writers, directors, and producers of the dramas that are their lives - on and off their jobs; other people only exist to fulfill the supporting roles required of them - the pawns, and patrons.

Psychopaths form bonds with many people in the organization; that is, psychopathic bonds, not real ones. The psychopath views as pawns those who have the power, status, or access to desired resources, to be used until their utility is gone, and then dispensed with or even sacrificed. Patrons are those key power holders whom the psychopath relies upon for protection and defense when things get uncomfortable, much like the "mentors" or "godfathers" who exist in many large companies to assist high potentials negotiate their way through the political minefields to the top.

In addition, there is the patsy - a former pawn or patron whose organizational power and influence has been effectively neutralized by the psychopath. Finally, there are the organizational police, those in control positions such as accounting, HR, IT, and security who are in the best position to unseat the psychopath, but who often are not listened to by those in power, and who have already been trapped in the psychopathic bond. The psychopath prefers to avoid the organizational police (they tend to have ethical and professional values which are anathema to the psychopath), but having one in his or her vest pocket can be invaluable.

It makes sense that psychopaths would try to influence recognized top managers, but how do they manipulate and use "informal leaders," those who wield influence but might not be high on the organizational chart?

Babiak: While formal power holders are credited with leading their organizations, it is often a group of informal leaders who gets things done on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, in many companies, these informal leaders are the unsung heroes - and feel as such. What better person to convince that they have value and a friend in high places, as the psychopath moves up, than these individuals? They are the perfect targets from the up-and-coming psychopath's point of view.

How can a person avoid becoming ensnared in a one-sided relationship with a psychopath?

Babiak: Knowledge certainly is power in this case. It is important to learn as much as one can about psychopaths - their traits and characteristics, and how they operate. Furthermore, one should learn more about oneself, particularly those things that would make one attractive to a psychopath. These can include power and control of resources (formal and informal), as well as any psychological or emotional weak spots or hot buttons that can be used to unduly influence you. Psychopaths don't operate in a social vacuum, and those with whom they have worked or interacted can be valuable sources of information.

You've written that once psychopaths are within an organization, they revert to their natural three-phase behavior pattern - assessment, manipulation, and abandonment. Can you briefly describe those three steps? Can you also describe the ascension phase?

Babiak: In society, psychopaths exhibit a fairly consistent pattern of behavior. They identify targets (assessment phase), use them (manipulation phase), and dispense with them when their utility is used up (abandonment phase). In organizations, the abandonment phase is difficult to manage, as the psychopath cannot just move on, in the physical sense. This can lead to confrontations with former pawns who now feel like patsies. But the psychopath has already prepared for this, having spread disparaging information about these individuals - that is, "poisoned the water" - among those in positions of power. Those who ultimately confront a corporate psychopath often come to find themselves on the chopping block.

In some cases, psychopaths see opportunities to move up in the power hierarchies by unseating those who have mentored or protected them, their patrons, in the ultimate acts of betrayal. This form of ascension can be particularly rewarding to a psychopath who has played both the patron and other members of the organization.

Are most corporate and organizational psychopaths loners or do they sometimes team up with other psychopaths to pull off fraud schemes?

Babiak: Most of the individuals we have met have been "loners" in the sense of only thinking of themselves; however, they do surround themselves with supporters and followers to facilitate their activities. To the degree that the psychopath can get these naÔve supporters to believe that their actions are consistent with their own personal values, the game remains in play.

Occasionally, two psychopaths may work as a team in the same organization, at least for short periods. Inevitably, there will be a falling out: two stars is one too many. In one case, two corporate psychopaths worked in the same company but were in different divisions and rarely interacted. Historically, there may have been instances of psychopaths working together. One wonders who was "more" psychopathic: Joseph Stalin or his henchman, Lavrentiy Beria, chief of the secret police.

Have the Internet and other technological developments aided psychopaths?

Hare: Immeasurably! The Internet and technology have given psychopaths and other predators access to a virtually unlimited pool of potential victims. They can promote phony stocks, circulate crooked investment schemes, siphon off bank accounts, commit identity theft, and so forth, all with little risk to themselves. They also can promote themselves by constructing fake or greatly embellished Web sites and credentials in order to lure unsuspecting victims. In a very real sense, the Internet and associated technology represent a paradise on earth for fraudsters, with even better things to come.

The business world of the 1980s and 1990s went through startling changes after decades of relative stability in culture and procedures. And now we're in an economic slowdown or possible recession. Have these changes helped or hindered psychopaths in organizations?

Babiak: While economic slowdowns can lead to layoffs and plant closings, there is still the need for seasoned, experienced leaders who have the wherewithal to meet the challenge of recovery and turnaround. These individuals are rare. What a perfect scenario for the psychopath to enter as the "solution," replete with the skills (faked), abilities (faked), and background (faked) necessary to take over and makes things right.

There is also greater access to higher education in general than before, as well as questionable online degrees that can be bought and used by psychopaths to pad their resumes. Losing one's job no longer bears the stigma - or provokes as much concern - as it once did; layoffs and plant closings have left many truly stellar executives with gaps in their employment histories. Economic conditions can be a convenient explanation for short tenures listed on the resume. While a psychopath would be expected to blame the former boss's personality or colleagues' underhandedness for losing his or her job, a really clever one can feign some sadness at having to leave "a great job at a great company" due to economic conditions.

You've written that organizations have become more "psychopath friendly." What do you mean by that?

Babiak: The change of organizational structures from large and bureaucratic to lean, mean, and flat has inadvertently made companies more attractive to psychopaths (fewer rules) and, at the same time, easier to negotiate (faster progression). There is more opportunity for a motivated psychopath to stand out amongst his or her peers, less hoops to jump through, and shorter distances to the top. Changes in work values among employees have also facilitated entry by psychopaths. Many companies, initially puzzled by the demands of "younger" workers for large sign-on bonuses and promotions at least every two years, are beginning to accept this as part of a new work style that needs to be accommodated in some way. A young psychopath would fit in quite nicely in this culture.

You've written that you doubt that psychopathic individuals would be very successful in a highly structured traditional bureaucracy. Why is that?

Babiak: Bureaucracies, by design, are rule-bound structures. They are the result of a stage of organizational development in which companies attempt to systematize their operations in pursuit of consistency, quality, and productivity. An unfortunate outcome also is that they can become quite boring, slow to respond, and intolerant of creativity and innovation.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the speed required of businesses to maintain their positions, and perhaps grow market share, increased. This put a tremendous strain on organizational systems - the bureaucracy - as well as on employees and managers - the culture. The mantra became "do more, better, faster with less" - a difficult task, at best. In response to accelerated market demands, organizations began to jettison parts of their bureaucracy - policies and procedures - in the interest of speed. Entire levels of management were eliminated under the theory that communications would improve from top to bottom. Systems once thought to be helpful were eliminated or "reengineered" away. By eliminating those policies and procedures that could help uncover psychopathic behavior - formal performance appraisals are a good example - and systems that help prevent their hiring - structured employment practices - it became much easier for someone with psychopathic tendencies to slip in and look successful.

Unfortunately, this is where the psychopath has an advantage; these new structures are always in a state of flux and never reach the "ideal" state. We call them "transitional organizations" because the transitioning never ends. This frustrates and confuses those who have grown accustomed to the stability that large organizations used to provide. Being a thrill seeker by nature, the psychopath relishes the chaos. On a practical level, a constantly changing work environment provides the psychopath an endless source of new coworkers to target and many opportunities to move from project to project when boredom sets in.

Can you talk about how psychopathic fraudsters use affinity groups (religious, political, or social entities in which all members share common values or beliefs) to pull off their schemes?

Hare: We refer to these schemes as affinity fraud. They rely on the fact that members of an affinity group typically are very trusting of others who profess to share their values, beliefs, and interests. Those who are most adept at perpetrating affinity fraud are psychopaths who gain entry into the group by developing an acquaintance with a member who then introduces the fraudster as "one of us." The result is a "fox in the henhouse," with predictable results. Religious groups, are particularly vulnerable; belief in the inherent goodness of others and uncritical acceptance of professions of faith are tailor-made for an enterprising psychopath. Sadly, even after being victimized, many members of a group will refuse to face the truth, continuing to believe that the scamster is basically good at heart or that there must be a reason why he or she took advantage of the group. Even sophisticated members of financial and business groups - such as investment clubs - often are no match for the charm and seduction of a good-looking, well-dressed, and apparently well-connected psychopath. A suspicious view of newcomers might help but is no guarantee of immunity to infiltration by someone intent on doing the group harm. Even organizations that by their very nature are extremely cynical and suspicious - such as intelligence agencies and criminal gangs - cannot protect themselves completely from those who misrepresent their credentials, connections, and intentions.

Joseph Wells, the founder and chairman of the ACFE, has concentrated on teaching not just about fraudsters' actions but their psychological motivations and aberrations. How can a group like ours aid its members in spotting possible psychopaths and prevent them from transforming their behaviors into crimes?

Babiak: Increasing the professional standards and training of fraud examiners is a good foundation. Knowledge about the nature of psychopaths and of the strategies and tactics they use is important. Even so, it can be very difficult to spot them without detailed information from a variety of sources about their behavior and manipulations especially if you are the one being targeted. It is also important for examiners to understand themselves and how their own personality traits and vulnerabilities may play into the hands of a psychopath. A confidential "hot line" could be made available to members who have suspicions and need coaching and advice on how to proceed.

Are most psychopaths in organizations exposed or do they remain or go on to greater positions?

Babiak: With one exception, all of the psychopaths that we have studied are still in positions of authority in their companies. In some cases, they have risen within the ranks, and in others, they have solid positions from which they continue to use their organizations for personal gain. The one psychopath we studied who was fired ended up leaving with a sizeable financial package and a company car. He was hired by a competitor at a significantly greater salary. Unfortunately, in their effort to rid themselves of problems and to avoid embarrassment in front of corporate or financial communities, some organizations will cover up their messes and even write favorable letters of recommendation thus facilitating psychopaths' devious journeys up corporate ladders.

Since the publication of "Snakes in Suits," we have received an increased number of calls from executives, entrepreneurs, and principals who now suspect that someone on their staff - or even an equity partner - is a corporate psychopath. We see that awareness of the problem has increased, as has the willingness to take action to remove or otherwise deal with the problem person.

How does a fraud examiner identify possible psychopaths after they're hired? I imagine it's a sensitive issue to put the psychopath label on anybody, but how should a fraud examiner proceed to prevent a possible fraud or should they even try? Is it ever possible to discern the potential for fraud in a suspected psychopath?

Babiak: In business situations, it is rarely useful to label someone a psychopath; organizations can only respond to the overt behaviors of fraudsters and others. Suspecting that a client (or even a coworker) has psychopathic traits can help sensitize an examiner to search out and investigate subtle forms of lying and deceit. If the client is highly psychopathic, the odds are that some form of corporate misbehavior, perhaps fraud, is underway, but hidden from view. If inconsistencies and improprieties begin to surface, it is important that the examiner's focus remain on the facts of each case, as the psychopath will try to distract him or her through flattery, misdirection, questioning the examiner's competence or authority to investigate, and so forth.

What steps lead to the confrontation of a psychopath and how is it carried out? Can a psychopath ever be rehabilitated?

Hare: Like anyone suspected of corporate misbehavior or fraud, confrontation of a suspected psychopath should occur after all the facts have been obtained, verified, digested, and interpreted, and in accordance with corporate policies and due process. In addition, however, it is important to anticipate the potential reactions of the psychopath, which may include "plausible" indignation and denial, diffusion of blame and responsibility, appeals to a "higher" authority, verbal abuse, and threats of litigation. In such cases, it is essential to ensure that the case against the individual is factually and legally sound and to "stand one's ground."

A somewhat different tactic sometimes employed by those accused of misbehavior is to admit it, claim that the behavior was out of character, and solemnly pledge to change. However, when dealing with a suspected psychopath such tactics should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. There is little evidence that psychopaths can be, or even believe that they should be, rehabilitated. Their behavior reflects a well-established, stable personality structure. Most people have some insight into the motivations for their own behavior, and will accept that changes need to be made in order to be a good corporate citizen. Unfortunately, psychopaths already are aware of their own motivations, see little wrong with them, and do not believe they need to change. However, if they think that "rehabilitation" can serve their own selfish, pragmatic ends, then they are quite capable of playing the game, portraying themselves as a "saved" or "redeemed" sinner.

Dick Carozza is editor-in-chief of Fraud Magazine.

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[Aug 02, 2010] It's time to sack job appraisals By Lucy Kellaway

Job appraisal is actually a tremendously powerful weapon in hands of psychopath.
July 11, 2010 | Financial Times

Last week an e-mail went round the office touting for suggestions on ways to improve our performance appraisal system. My suggestion is dead easy and dirt cheap: get rid of the whole thing and replace it with nothing at all.

Normally, if I have any bright ideas about how this newspaper could be managed better, I propose them in private. It is not seemly to wash the Financial Times' dirty linen in public. Yet when it comes to appraisals, the linen of every other company is covered with much the same filthy stains as ours, and so there seems no shame in suggesting a mass outing to the launderette.

Over the past 30 years, I have been appraised three dozen times – as banker, journalist and non-executive director. I've lived through the craze for long, complicated forms. I've also survived the informal fashion in which appraisals are called "career chats" and where a bogus air of equality prevails. I've done appraisals across a table, on a sofa, even over a meal. I've had them à deux and à trois – with a facilitator in tow.

But never have I learnt anything about myself as a result. I have never set any target that I subsequently hit. Instead I always feel as if I am playing a particularly dismal game of charades, with three disadvantages over the traditional parlour game. There is no dressing-up box; there is no correct answer to guess and it isn't remotely fun. The norm is a harrowing hour's conversation during which you are forced to swallow an indigestible mix of praise and criticism referring to long-ago events, which leaves you demotivated and confused on the most basic question: am I doing a good job? The resulting form is then put on file, making you feel vaguely paranoid, even though you know from experience how much attention will be subsequently paid to it: none whatsoever.

At least I've only had to suffer one side of the process. I have never – thank goodness – had to appraise anyone else, which must be even more tiresome as you have to perform the same operation with each underling in turn, wearily letting people believe they are doing more or less okay, because it's too tiring to drop the bombshell that they aren't doing okay at all.

I have a friend in a large company who spends an entire month each year appraising her team. She says the system has been "improved" so that she no longer sorts people into "exceptional performers", "good performers" and so on. Instead she works through a list of mysterious attributes – such as "leverages mastery" and "innovates holistically" – choosing three strengths and one development need (or weakness, as it was formerly known) for each.

She admits that this system – which applies to almost 100,000 people worldwide – is utterly idiotic. But when I suggest it be scrapped she looks shocked. "Out of the question," she says. "That would be interpreted as us saying we don't care about developing people."

Not by everyone, it seems. Last week Samuel Culbert, a business school professor in California, went on US radio to say that all appraisal systems were total baloney. He thinks even less of them than I do. They were a throwback to the bad old days of management by objective, he said, and only persisted because they allow evil managers to hold employees down and because HR managers are like the KGB when it comes to hoarding information.

His alternative, which he describes in his new book Get Rid of the Performance Review, is that bosses and underlings should have regular, equal conversations during which the boss says things like: "What do you need from me to deliver what we are both on the firing line to produce?"

This is a fantastic idea. The only trouble is that it bears no relation to the world as I know it; managers don't talk or think like that.

The most sinister thing about the current system is that it allows managers to delude themselves into thinking that they are managing their people.

With this delusion stripped away, some managers might take matters into their own hands. They might even start saying "that's good" and "that's not so good" at the only helpful time to say such things: when they have just happened. This sort of thing is called managing, and the beauty of it is that it makes formal appraisals quite unnecessary.

Even for those whose managers did nothing to fill the gap, there would still be a net gain from scrapping appraisals. Time and energy would be saved and the only two things lost would be cynicism and paranoia.

[Jul 24, 2010] Overpaying CEOs by Linda Beale

"Specifically, we claim that higher income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in executives perceiving themselves as being all-powerful and this perception of power leads them to maltreat rank and file workers."

The Wall Street Journal reports today on a study by three academics on CEO pay. They are Streedhari Desai (Harvard), Jennifer George (Rice) and Arthur Brief (Utah), and their study is "When Executives Rake in Millions: Meanness in Organizations" (available on SSRN). Here's the abstract:

The topic of executive compensation has received tremendous attention over the years from both the research community and popular media. In this paper, we examine a heretofore ignored consequence of rising executive compensation. Specifically, we claim that higher income inequality between executives and ordinary workers results in executives perceiving themselves as being all-powerful and this perception of power leads them to maltreat rank and file workers. We present findings from two studies - an archival study and a laboratory experiment – that show that increasing executive compensation results in executives behaving meanly toward those lower down the hierarchy. We discuss the implications of our findings for organizations and offer some solutions to the problem.

Trends in this country are ominous.

[Jul 17, 2010] Economist's View In Finance We Distrust

Looks like higher level of inequality produced more sociopaths in upper echelons of power. That is really observable in financial industry. See also "The future of finance" a free ebook with entries by Adair Turner, Peter Boone and Simon Johnson among others:


According to the bestseller "The Sociopath Next Door" by former Harvard psychologist Martha Stout, 1 in 25 people are sociopaths. What does that mean? It's not anything like an internal struggle of conscience, a battle of good versus evil deep in the soul. It's much more frightening and diabolical than that. Similar to someone who is color blind being unable to see the colors red or green, a sociopath is unable to feel emotions like empathy, compassion or love. A sociopath could crush the skull of a puppy and feel nothing at all other than perhaps a passing sense of curiousity at best or, more villainously, a sense of sporting entertainment. After the first few million, I think it doubtful Bernie Madoff cared anything at all about the money. It was all about screwing the dumb suckers, taking it all from the pathetic little ants and getting away with it. I suspect that finance is an industry where the proportion of sociopaths in the population rises significantly greater than 1 in 25. Regulation may not be enough. The threat of harsh and lengthy prison sentences backed up by vigorous and vigilant prosecution may be in order.

K Ackermann :

I think the sociopath potential is in most people.

The police and the military have to train people to be able to aim a gun at another person and pull the trigger.

Some still never will, but for those that do, most report it gets easier the more they do it. Something gets shut off; it's not something missing or extra, it's just shut off.

Bruce Wilder :

Big bonuses tend to attract and/or train sociopaths.

Mbuna said...

Well, let's get to the heart of the problem. Teaching ethics and having it stick only occurs in a cultural circumstance. Certainly in the past (50 years ago let's say) there was a pretty clear delineation between what was right and ethical and what was not. The basis for such ethics of right and wrong was the Judeo-Christian culture that had a very prevalent voice in society back then.

I am stating as fact that the Judeo-Christian religious culture has lost a tremendous amount of influence in the last 50 years and that trend shows no sign of reversing. In fact I would say that the Renaissance was the real start of the world secularizing trend and it has continued to this day. The only real problem with this is that real culture will not last without some kind of real connection to the Source, the Divine, whatever you may wish to call it.

What we have now is no culture, or call it a secular culture if you will. Look back in history for any other secular cultures existence and you will not find one.

In all cultures to one degree or another, if you didn't follow the rules of the culture you were separated or ostracized, and this kept the core of the culture strong. Our present society lacks this necessary instrument of culture which is why I say we have no culture. Government laws do not suffice and if they did then we would have a police state.

So now lets jump back to ethics on Wall St. My point is that in a real culture you could be hired and everyone would not only understand what was required of them ethically but understand the wisdom of behind it. And that fundamental wisdom is the understanding of what works for the greater good of all. As long as we have this secular, adolescent, me first mentality, no amount of government structure and regulation will actually work because the people who need to make the regulation work will not be culturally dependable. This has already been and is currently being demonstrated, in spades. No one is culturally accountable period, so society just kind of festers into a me first free for all.

We all have to dig a lot deeper to begin to grasp the fundamental issue these times confront us with.


Judeo-Christians don't have a prominent voice in our culture? Give us a break. Or, how about an "indulgence."

"50 years ago there was a pretty clear delineation between what was right and ethical and what was not"

What is this, ancestor worship? 50 years ago, religious zealots beat their wives and lamented the uppity coloreds all six days between services. Only someone who never had to live back in those times would say something so inappropriately glorifying about such a savage era.

And what is currently being demonstrated is that over the last 10 years, the bureaucracy was overrun with foaming-at-the-mouth jesus-school sentinels. Right now is your recommended substitution of competence with "culture" on display.

How about this for a fundamental issue: The backward view that lawlessness is freedom, and ostentatious displays of religious piety is the same as accountability. That is what contempt for "secular" norms of objectivity brings to civilization

[Jul 15, 2010] Bully or Victim More Similar Than We Might Think Scientific American Podcast

July 10, 2010 | scientific american

We might think that bullies are quite different from the victims of bullying. But those who become either a bully or a victim actually share similar outlooks and have similar difficulties dealing with their environments. There is, however, one significant risk factor for bullying.

Researchers reviewed and analyzed 153 studies and found that both victims and bullies have poor problem-solving skills within social situations. They also found that boys bully more than girls but here's a significant point: Those who do poorly in school are at a higher risk of becoming a bully. The research was published this week in the journal School Psychology Quarterly.

Typical bullies have negative attitudes toward others, feel badly about themselves, and most likely grew up in a home with conflict. Victims share much of same, negative attitude, conflict in the family.

But the dividing characteristic: bullies dislike school and tend to perform worse academically than those who later become victims.

Most current solutions try to enforce anti-bullying rules or simply remove the bully from bullying situations. The authors note, however, that the most successful intervention is three-pronged. They suggest simultaneously targeting the areas that may be influencing the potential bully or victim in the first place: the parents, the peers and the schools.

-Christie Nicholson

[Jul 08, 2010] Tales of Corporate Oppression

I once got talking to a guy whose job it was to go into a company, sit alongside the Systems Administrator for two weeks, and write a professional audit on his processes and practices.

Naturally the sys admin would be on his best behavior, showing off all the clever things he did to keep the company's computer network ticking over.

At the end of the two weeks, the sys admin would be fired. There was never any audit: this was just the method the company used to replace their IT people without disruption, making sure the new guy was trained up and the old guy didn't cause any damage before he left.


At a former employer of mine it was common practice to only grant the pay raises and other benefits associated with a promotion six months after the promotion was given. The official rationale was that management needed to know you were going to work out in the position. Not suprisingly in practice the vast majority of promotions were recinded 4-5 months after they were announced. They always managed to catch people slipping up SOMEHOW over that time.

It was an horrific system but jobs were so scarce in that area that no one quit. (Obviously it wasn't a union shop.) Finally things came to a head when my friend and cubicle mate was promoted to group leader. The poor guy was put on earth to do the kind of Quality Control work the job entailed. He loved his job and worked at least three times faster than everyone else. Better yet he was obsessive about being on time for everything never slacking off during work hours.

In a normal company he would have shot up the corporate ladder. In this case the management freaked when they couldn't trip him up after 5 months. They started increasing his workload by the day. To the point where he was doing five and a half peoples share of analysis. He was my good friend and had a kid and needed the raise so I'd stay late for the first week and would help him finish his work. Then suddenly everyone was banned from assisting one another in their work load.

They finally got what they wanted and he missed a deadline and had his promotion canceled. It was honestly the saddest sight I have ever seen in any workplace. He literally cried the entire day in his cube while still doing his work faster than any of the rest of us.


Call centers collect a lot of stats on their employees, "average handling time" being one of them. They're meant to be be measures of efficiency, but when these stats are the only thing team leaders have to justify their existence sometimes that can lead to wackiness.

Take my mate, who was a genuinely nice guy. Far too nice really to be doing the job he was doing.

He thought he was there to help customers get their broadband services connected, his manager thought his job was to get customers off the phone ASAP in order to get good stats for the month.

Naturally this difference in goals lead to the amusing situation where the manager brought in an egg timer, set it to go off after a minute then would literally stand over the employee yelling, "Why are you still talking to this customer?!?" while the employee tried to juggle an irate customer and an irate boss.

After a couple of days of his he was really stressed out. I guess it wasn't helping that he had this whole Pavlovian dog thing happening with egg timers going off (yes, I'm a big meanie for setting one off during lunch) and he came to me for advice.

The only honest answer I could give him was to help 2 out of 3 customers and that should bring his handling time down. Just hang up on or transfer the third one. Although he baulked at this (nice guy), it did work, got his boss off his back and everyone was happier... well, except the customer obviously.

I suppose that's why I got promoted when I made the suggestion to management that they should make "Customer Satisfaction" a measure for team leaders as well?


I once, very briefly, worked as a telemarketer. I know, you hate me. I'm sorry.

We were collecting charitable donations for "The Police Benevolence Foundation," which had absolutely nothing to do with the police per se. I still to this day don't know what the money we were collecting for actually went to. They wouldn't outright tell us. They would only respond to the question by answering 'we might use the money to help officers who are wounded in the line of duty.' Then again, they might not.

We were told to never accept no for an answer. In fact, we couldn't accept two no's for an answer. We had to be rejected three times before we could give up. And they actually had to say "No," or "I'm not interested," or in some way offer a firm rejection. "I don't think I can afford it" did NOT count as a rejection.

So one day, I was listening to an old lady tell her tale of woe: her husband had died, her daughter never visited, she didn't know where her cat wandered off to, she couldn't afford her medication, she was laid up in bed for two months and her home care nurse was stealing her valuables... I really didn't want to keep pressing this poor old lady for money. But she had never said "no."

I should say there was also a strict guideline on how long these calls should LAST. The sooner you get one out of the way, the sooner you could start ripping off someone else.

Instead, I listened to her and tried to console her as best I could. After about the first three minutes I never brought up the subject of the Police Benevolence Foundation again. We said goodbye after about 20 minutes and she thanked me for calling.

As I left for the day, the boss calls me over to berate me for the length of the conversation, and--since it was screened--hassle me about letting her go without ever getting one firm, "No."

As I walked out the door, I waved and said, "Bye! Bye! Bye!" I never went back.


I am a woman. I worked on Wall Street where the C.E.O. (a man) convened a meeting to explore "Women's Issues on Wall Street." Successful women from the firm were invited along to share their opinions.

One woman, "Diane," said she thought mothers shouldn't take maternity leave, and that women just had to work harder and longer than men to get ahead.

The C.E.O. appointed Diane as "Head of Women's Issues." Diane's boss was forced out and she became co-Head of our department, meaning that I reported to her. At 35, I had been trying to get pregnant for years, and, as everyone in the group knew, was using fertility drugs. Happily, I became pregnant with triplets.

I was a very good producer for the department, but Diane was not happy about my news. She suggested, "as a friend," that I abort one or two of my children so I could "better manage my career."

After giving birth to three beautiful children, and taking my full maternity leave; I found a new job on Wall Street. With three babies, I did not want to fight that fight. Diane continues to move ever-higher on Wall Street.


I worked for a Not For Profit organisation where ineptitude is not only tolerated but expected. These are people who would be slaughtered in a private organisation quicker than you could say 'bleeding heart'.

So this isn't really a corporate tale, more of one about human shortcomings and passing the buck. Pretty much transferable over to the private industry world.

I worked in a small team, with two managers. Both managers were completely useless and under-performing for years. As is common for these types, they got away with this by passing the buck and lying to senior management. They blamed their staff for poor performance, we were lazy, lacking motivation, always late...yada yada. We weren't, in fact we were surviving and meeting targets in an sector where all our competitors were having their funding cut and being closed down.

Eventually, these managers had to up their lies - we were difficult (yeh, we were - we told them they were useless), hard to manage and had 'attitudinal problems' (is that even a word??) The General Manager believed them, HR stepped in, and we were all put on Performance Management. The shortsightedness of such an act escaped them, and we 'naughty' staff dutifully attended daily meetings to explain our every act to our hapless manager who didn't actually understand what it was that we were doing.

This went on for six months, the only thing we could do was laugh and wait to be fired. Eventually, the General Manager was fired and his replacement quickly cottoned on to what was happening and sacked our crapola managers. We were all taken off Performance Management, had our 'naughty files' destroyed, and given counselling for our ordeal.

If this isn't incredible enough, it turned out that the old management had been messing up reporting to our government funding body and we had actually performed 15% above what was originally thought.


At a medium-sized private textile company, the CEO prided himself on his benevolence to his employees. He even created a non-profit Foundation which provided college scholarships for the children of plant workers. Though each scholarship was only $1000, for the very poor it did provide assistance in helping them achieve their dreams. Each year, the winners were proudly announced in the company newsletter.

After several years, my old computer died and I needed a new one. The IT guy brought in a used computer from Accounting for me to use. I soon found that this computer had been used for running the Foundation. The IT guy hadn't wiped the hard drive and so I was left with lots of information.

As I reviewed the documents (of course I looked), I noticed the CEO's children's names popping up quite frequently--like once a month. They weren't even in college, so it didn't make sense. And the numbers were much larger, too.

A little digging revealed he was paying his kids' private school tuition out of the Foundation, to the tune of $25,000 per year for three kids!

Strangely, this one didn't make the company newsletter.


I have many stories about this particular Chairman of a company I used to work for, but this is my favorite.

The Chairman hired two assistants to run his office. The woman was "Kate" and the young man was "Alan," but the Chairman called him "Seven". For days Alan endured the Chairman calling them into the office by yelling down the hall, "Sue! Seven!"

Finally, Alan asked, "Why do you call me Seven?" The Chairman replied that he was the seventh assistant hired that month.

Aha. Alan got it, but kindly asked, "Why don't you just call me by my name?"

The Chairman said, "Because you're not going to be f*!%ing around long enough for me to learn your f*!%ing name!" He then pushed passed Alan, shouting, "Kate! Get rid of Seven and get me Eight!"


I was working for a small family-owned company (the kind that are supposed to care about employees, right?) when my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He did chemo and radiation in another state and I cheered him on from a distance.

Some months later the doctors decided the treatments were not working and there was nothing more to be done.

When i heard this sad news, I worked like a dog for a week to get ahead of my deadlines and explained the situation to my boss.

ME: So, can I take a week off to go see him?
BOSS: Well, is he dying right now?
ME: No, not yet, but he's terminal.
BOSS: But he's not dying now.
ME: No, but I'd like to see him while he's still lucid.
BOSS: If he's not dying right now, you can't take time off.

I thought I was misunderstanding something, so I explained again and told the boss that I had worked ahead of my deadlines, etc. He still refused.

I quit and did go see my father. He died two months later.


I was once manager of production, responsible for about 45 people. One day, early in the morning, the owner stopped by my office and informed me that we had just lost our major contract. As a result, we soon wouldn't have enough work to keep people employed.

When I enquired which one of us should tell the staff this, he instructed me not to inform anyone. Instead, I was to "find any reason to terminate employees." For example, if someone was a few minutes late to work, I should immediately terminate them. He said, "If that doesn't work... give them tasks that will make them want to quit."

I argued against this but the owner threatened to fire me. It was tough times in manufacturing and I needed the job.

Over the next four months I had to personally lay off 85% of our employees. Then they fired me.


I used to work a grocery store which was governed by a woman I would be accurate in describing as a "bean counter".

One day I called in sick, which I was, and this very lovely woman called me a liar and hung up on me. This infuriated me to the point that I called right back with every intention to resign my post but to frustrate me even more she put me on hold for ten minutes. Now, this may have been a good thing since I realized while I waited that quitting my job would hurt me a lot more than it would her. So I decided to resort to using some civilized verbal abuse (and it was indeed civilized, some words that were in my head did not escape through my mouth) and expressed my discontent with her attitude towards me as an employee. The conversation ended amicably with us coming to a common understanding. Or so I thought.

The next time I came into work I was summoned to her office. Once I got there I received no eye contact from her (her attempt to dominate the situation) and in front of her was my punch clock printout, with every day where I was even just one minute late highlighted. In this group of days being late my average was about three minutes past the hour - and this is in Iceland, where if you're ten minutes late, you're on time (in Mexico I'd have been there before she was). Still she gave me a long lecture on what a bad employee I was - this coming from the only boss I've had who hasn't given me outstanding recommendations - while my department head stood by almost burying his face in his hands. I countered with the argument that I made up for it by never taking a cigarette break, since I don't smoke, and her reply was... that nobody in the company smoked. Which was an insane lie (or delusions of some kind) since more than half of the staff were smokers at that time.

It's safe to say that I lost that battle unfairly but was redeemed when this very lovely woman got fired for being an uptight *enter civilized verbal abuse*.


I was part of a large team (100+ people) working on a worldwide rollout of a software product. It was quite a complicated business - the project was scheduled to roll out over a seven year period and we were about halfway through.

Early in the project one of the guys joked that we should have team T-shirts to build morale. Our manager said he didn't like T-shirts as they were too casual for the office. Our guy suggested golf shirts instead.

But no-one could agree and the "team shirt" debate continued, steadily becoming more serious, over the next few years.

One day, out of the blue, the manager arrives with boxes and starts handing out team golf shirts. I was impressed. Not only were they nice-looking, but they were decent quality.

He says everyone should wear their shirts the next day at our monthly all-hands meeting, to show team unity.

At the meeting we're all kidding each other about how cool we look in our team shirts. Then the VP stands up and tells us the project has been cancelled. Effective immediately.

Some of the people there had been hired two (I kid you not - TWO) days before. They looked like they had been sucker punched right there...

It's now three years since I left and the problem the project was meant to resolve has still not been fixed. Business is steadily declining as a result.

My shirt still looks sharp though.


During college I worked in a call center providing customer service for satellite TV customers that had purchased an extended warranty.

At first I worked in customer service, and had to explain to customers things like, "No, of course the Protection Plan doesn't cover that. If high winds blow your dish out of alignment, that's covered, but if high winds blow a tree into your dish, which knocks it out of alignment, then that's an act of God, and is not covered." Many customers didn't seem to understand the concept of a "limited warranty" and complained, "But they told me it would be covered... blah blah blah." The fact was we charged $75 for service calls unless the fault was expressly covered by the warranty.

Later, due to a staff shortage, I ended up being cross-trained, and was shown the actual sales script we read to the customers: "From electrical to mechanical failure, you can rest safely knowing that you're covered by the Protection Plan. You will never pay for a service call or replacement part again, because you're already covered!"

I then understood why they separated the two jobs.


I was a golden-girl director of a department in a southern conservative corporation until, much to my surprise, a man with no qualifications even near mine was promoted over me to run my department. This was a man I had just a year ago helped "get ahead" and even coached on his salary negotiations. When I asked my boss why he was promoted over me I was told because I had "a bad attitude." When I calmly asked for specific examples none could be provided. One was lamely offered up as a reason but was quickly proved to be incorrect.

Alas, the guy moved up over me and I quietly went about my job of being the one actually running the department when I found out that he had be secretly meeting with one of my employees about splitting the department and giving the younger guy half my employees. The younger guy came and told me about this because he was so upset about it going on behind my back. He and I decided to together to talk to our new boss about it. The new boss then wrote us a threatening and nasty email.

I then met with the HR Director after that to ask for his advice and he questioned my integrity and threatened my employment (mind you, I had a stellar record prior to this). I later found out my new boss and this HR Director were buddies and good friends and had also been talking about this behind my back and my fate was pretty much sealed regardless of what I did. They were both soon promoted to VPs. I soon resigned my position and now I make more money working for myself.


A friend of mine who I'll call "David" was bullied by another teacher in his department for many years. Although David was highly qualified and had a great rapport with his students, this other staff member continually made negative comments about him behind his back and ridiculed anything he did.

At first David tried to shrug this off, even when students began telling him that she was calling him an idiot in her class. She also began using David's title ("Head Teacher") at open days and when introducing herself.

After some years, David finally complained to the head of the department, but he was completely dismissive. So David began to keep a diary to show that he was the target of this teacher's negative campaign.

He saw a counsellor, who was shocked at what the diary revealed and encouraged David to take the issue to the school CEO. The CEO listened carefully and began an investigation (things were looking up at last!), but as the issue grew larger than he could reasonably handle, he ended up telling David to simply "take it like a man."

David had a type of mini breakdown, to the point where he says he can not recall a five hour period from that day, although he can remember the uncontrollable sobbing with the counsellor for an hour and a half.

He still works there, as does his tormentor.

[Jun 20, 2010] Ayn Rand- The Boring Bitch is Back | The Big Picture

danm :

1. An individual's life belongs to himself. 2. Physical force is not a proper way to deal with others. 3. The proper purpose of government is to protect individuals from force or fraud. Are these the principles of "assholes" or immature undergraduates? I think not.
Sociopath could not care less about those assumed "rights" and research has shown that both the political and business worlds are run by a slew of them.

Fog of war


The fog of war is a term used to describe the level of ambiguity in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations.[1] The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign. The term is ascribed to the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, who wrote:

"The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently-like the effect of a fog or moonshine-gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance."[2]

The term may also be a reference to the use of black powder in warfare, which often produced clouds of thick "fog", obscuring the battlefield from observers.

[Apr 24, 2010] Jamie Dimon Should Debate Us

April 20, 2010 | The Baseline Scenario


I would have argued that a bank or any corporation cannot be good or evil since thay are not people. The SCOTUS says differently.

I recently found this regarding Evil. I think It describe these people perfectly.

Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy." Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist , Nuremberg trails Submitted by questministries… on February 5, 2009 – 2:26am.

"In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It's the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men.

Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy."

Quotation: Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trails

On the other hand is a bank or corporation capable of an emotion? Such as Empathy.


Ordinarily in a skilled occupation (medicine, banking?), the community polices itself to avoid runaways from tainting the entire profession.

I don't think the oligarchs for the most part are lacking in empathy; I think it takes considerable ability to "read" other people and gauge your actions accordingly in order to succeed in business. Even members of urban gangs succeed according to their ability to empathize. Then, however, there is the ability to "compartmentalize," a word I learned in regard to Bill Clinton, the great compartmentalizer. You empathize in private, and wield your sword, figuratively, when fighting.

The oligarchs, I suspect, do not believe that there is really room in the world for all to flourish (someone posted something along those lines here; is there limitation worked into equations that squeeze profits out of plain paper?), and therefore oligarchical sanity depends on limiting the circle among whom they extend their empathy.

In the Jim Crow South, plenty of Ku Klux Klan types were upstanding, ethical, empathic sorts, but they excluded people of color from the circle of their empathy. Soldiers at war also compartmentalize.

It's interesting how our elected politicians maneuver, however, deriving campaign funds from the oligarchs, but deriving votes from the non-oligarchs. Each side would be the skunk at the party of the other these days, unless careful etiquette were understood, that etiquette being (in my corner of this country) chiefly to keep out of each other's space.

A debate would be a carefully controlled encounter, and one would retire to a sort of contrived anonymity once concluded.

Basically, I don't think the banker echelon believes a broadly-based inclusive community (including them) would really work (not enough basic necessities to go around? no cooperative spirit of sacrifice to get where needed?) (Say what?). Hence the pope-mobile idea.

James Gornick:

Far-fetched Jack54 but, I appreciate your wit and comments, thank you : – )

In keeping on the Scotus theme…

"What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do" (Aristotle). Seems to be the mystery the invites the very nature of Evil's empty compassion and absence of empathy to find a hollowed and empty erect body of common purpose as;

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit" (Aristotle). For we can not achieve Good or Excellence as an erect body and soul without passion for the human condition that breeds life, hence the point of evil and eventual death; this is why,

"It is possible then to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way" (Aristotle). As this is the call made to all that hold the position to be able to make change to the human condition.

I think a good way to end this deep thinking session comes with…

"All men are by nature equal, made all the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is poor peasant as the mighty prince" (Plato).

Simply stated, Goldman Sachs, and all the rest are and never will be GODS Bank nor is the Catholic Church for those wanting to rush in to toss in their two cents.

The Creator defined for all is "I am" or also known as GOD. When man places himself before all the rest, as we discussed the love, compassion, and empathy part, for your fellow neighbor (man / women "human") you have the full definition of evil exposed.

If you are Christian or even if you are not, these are two good theories to live by. The first, greatest commandment is to love God with all of your heart and soul and the second, to do the same with your neighbor.

From the sounds of the media today, and the continued layers of more covering up. Further folks are going to be losing their homes and jobs. Looks like the neighbor thing is having a little difficulty these days with the banking and financial folks; and for that matter, a lot of other industries just not putting people back to work. To many erect bodies putting profits first and not second, though some real great earnings are coming so far as reported these fist couple of weeks. Look at what came across the wires from Apple and others tonight reinforces even more the reason for this post tonight.

God bless…

Far-fetched, Not anymore…

James Gornick


James: A very good post! I think your post is getting at the root of how and why individuals, human beings functioning as bankers who are God's creations, have been able to do what they have done for a very long time. Especially being the epicenter of the housing bubble and collapse. The bankers have certainly not had empathy for all those affected by their actions. Your quote from Plato bears repeating:

"All men are by nature equal, made all the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is poor peasant as the mighty prince" (Plato).

Those entrusted with such an important function, such as investment banking, would better serve us and themselves if their actions where God-centered.

[Mar 15, 2010] Links Ides of March 2010

March 15, 2010 | naked capitalism


There was a study a while back. The gist of it was that the unsuccessful psychopaths were in prison. The successful psychopaths were highly successful businessmen. This was before the GFC. It's possible that many of the corporate looters are psychopaths who haven't gotten caught or punished.

[Mar 14, 2010] Indefensible Men

March 13, 2010 | naked capitalism

Alexandra Hamilton:

"The finance community has other elements in common with cults. One is the implicit and explicit reinforcement of bankers' "specialness," their elite status."
That is not unique to finance. You'll find that in almost any large business, especiallly top management.

The problem may have started in finance, but it is now everywhere.

Alexandra Hamiltons:

"But the firms are white-collar sweatshops with glamorous trappings. You do not know how hard you can work, short of slavery, unless you have been an investment banking analyst or associate. It is not merely the hours, but the extreme and unrelenting time pressure. Priorities are revised every day, numerous times during the day, as markets move."
Sounds like permanent 'hell week' to me.
However, Navy Seals only do this 5.5 days in their training, while employees nowadays have to put up with this constantly over several years.
Bringing you to your breaking point is intentional.
Everyone will crack sooner or later and either leave and possible carry away psychological scars from this, like PTSD or such, or (s)he might become brainwashed and accept the value system and start acting like them, namely like a psychopath. Like it or not the business environment is psychopatic in nature.


See definition below. Fits to a T the mold of many (not all) I met and knew in the Wall Street world, especially the "intraspecies predator" part.

Not trying to demonize these people – but this was the role, the character mold, that many of the best and the brightest in this country and elsewhere were drawn to (given the monetary reward, which is what we're all here for, right?)and groomed for (in elite MBA schools, etc.)

It is truly sick and twisted, and history is unlikely to be kind to this last 30-40 year rule of finanzkapital uber alles and its wrecking ball form of global capitalism.

And Jones, I think you are dead right and have hit on a crucial insight which we best hammer home soon. As the LibertAustrians start waving their snake flags high on the way to victory in the midterm elections, demand that they defend all their John Galt's on Wall Street.

The predator state, as Jamie Galbraith put it in a recent book, is not the only predatory institution out there. There clearly were other predators working close to the heart of their beloved free market, who for all intents and purposes corrupting and eroding all the rules of the game and social practices that would keep anything resembling a free market intact.

Hy Minsky used to say, it's like the label on Heinz ketchup says: there are 57 flavors of capitalism. This one leaves a decidedly foul, rancid taste in the mouth…while it rots you from the inside out. Time to head back to the kitchen and try a different recipe altogether.

Psychopathy ( ) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Robert Hare, a researcher in the field describes psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. …


Calling this mindset sociopathology is spot on. It's a common disease in this country, mostly infecting the jobs involving expensive wardrobes and obscure vocabulary. One of the ways you can see this is a current example and how it relates to law.

The Lehman report reveals an act with Repos that was certainly an attempt to defraud. Yet, the report calls the deception "colorable" rather than unlawful, a fraud that's only a fraud against, oh, someone somewhere. Not something that would send people to jail, rather something that should be settled by civil lawsuits. Lots of civil lawsuits, requiring lots of hours of legal work by lots of highly-paid lawyers. One notes in passing this was a report by lawyers, but that may not have relevance.

The relevance is that instead of public officials defending the public, we have private individuals settling things among themselves. From honest finance being a public good, it's now just a civil arrangement. You can't expect anything, since it's all negotiable before and after you say yes. Hand over your money and take what they give you. Both as an individual and as the state.

The danger is that the descent from public law to civil law will keep going. Getting to private law, like the Open Carry wackos, is no longer so wacky.

blunt :

Neibuhr, no doubt, is helpful in understanding the mindset behind the crisis and its aftermath.

But perhaps more in tune with the overall conduct before, during and now would be a stroll through Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann In Jerusalem."

I was forcefully struck by the ways in which the various unnamed characters in this piece were reminiscent of Arendt's views of Eichmann and of the culpability of the victims, in some respects, to enabling the horrors.

Surely, nothing could argue more forcefully for "the banality of evil" or the discovery that these people are not any different than the mass of us when we are, like Eichmann, eternal joiners of average intelligence who when we join the "right" group manage to believe we lose all volitional response to any situation.

Arendt was spot on. Such behaviors were not simply confined to Nazi Germany, but are a part of the human repertoire, available to any of us given the opportunity.

I find myself feeling a copmpassion for the fools, knowing that given a certain mindset, I could as well be one of them.

Still, to follow Arendt's justification for Eichmann's, that more normal than normal man, execution: since they, the traders and brokers, see no reason that they should share the world with us, then we should see no reason to share the world with them.

Justice and a reminder to us all that we could be them and to reinforce the lesson maybe a few public executions would not come amiss. Certainly there's need for seizures of whatever gains they've acquired through the banality of their regimentation.

Tom Crowl:

Fantastic article and overview of the culture of Wall Street and it's unfortunate evolution.

Paradoxically, much of this arises as a consequence of biological altruism's dysfunction in scaled societies… Which is why we need regulations and oversight…

A couple of brief posts on these issues if interested:

The Foundations of Authoritarianism

Compensation and the Social Network

Ayn Rand & Alan Greenspan: The Altruism Fly in the Objectivist Ointment

Alexandra Hamilton :

One of the core tenets of modernism is that social intelligence can be imparted to the masses and that this enhanced social intelligence will result in greater social justice.

This concept is totally modern. Before the advent of modernism such thoughts were unheard of.


Thanks for your great post. This concept is not modern, however. It is thousands of years old. Just to name a few: the New Testament and the Qu'ran, among others. The struggle is still the same, but has different names.

About the Greeks: Some time ago, I think I noticed something. Have you ever tried to analyse the personality types of the greek gods? The are amazingly pathological.

I think, the Greeks were aware of what those rather human "gods" actually described and thus were rather reserved about worshipping them. However, the Romans – which had the same gods under different names – acutally believed in this.They semm to have gone full tilt basing their society and ideals on those personality types.

Why Powerful People -- Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground -- Don't Practice What They Preach

Dec 30, 2009 | ScienceDaily

2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University explores why powerful people - many of whom take a moral high ground - don't practice what they preach.

Researchers sought to determine whether power inspires hypocrisy, the tendency to hold high standards for others while performing morally suspect behaviors oneself. The research finds that power makes people stricter in moral judgment of others - while being less strict of their own behavior.

The research was conducted by Joris Lammers and Diederik A. Stapel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and by Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. The article will appear in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.

"This research is especially relevant to the biggest scandals of 2009, as we look back on how private behavior often contradicted the public stance of particular individuals in power," said Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at the Kellogg School. "For instance, we saw some politicians use public funds for private benefits while calling for smaller government, or have extramarital affairs while advocating family values. Similarly, we witnessed CEOs of major financial institutions accepting executive bonuses while simultaneously asking for government bailout money on behalf of their companies."

"According to our research, power and influence can cause a severe disconnect between public judgment and private behavior, and as a result, the powerful are stricter in their judgment of others while being more lenient toward their own actions," he continued.

To simulate an experience of power, the researchers assigned roles of high-power and low-power positions to a group of study participants. Some were assigned the role of prime minister and others civil servant. The participants were then presented with moral dilemmas related to breaking traffic rules, declaring taxes, and returning a stolen bike.

Through a series of five experiments, the researchers examined the impact of power on moral hypocrisy. For example, in one experiment the "powerful" participants condemned the cheating of others while cheating more themselves. High-power participants also tended to condemn over-reporting of travel expenses. But, when given a chance to cheat on a dice game to win lottery tickets (played alone in the privacy of a cubicle), the powerful people reported winning a higher amount of lottery tickets than did low-power participants.

Three additional experiments further examined the degree to which powerful people accept their own moral transgressions versus those committed by others. In all cases, those assigned to high-power roles showed significant moral hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviors themselves.

Galinsky noted that moral hypocrisy has its greatest impact among people who are legitimately powerful. In contrast, a fifth experiment demonstrated that people who don't feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed "hypercrisy." The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

"Ultimately, patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy perpetuate social inequality. The powerful impose rules and restraints on others while disregarding these restraints for themselves, whereas the powerless collaborate in reproducing social inequality because they don't feel the same entitlement," Galinsky concluded.

[Dec 19, 2009] Are Americans a Broken People Why We've Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression by Bruce E. Levine

December 11, 2009 | AlterNet

Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not "set them free" but instead further demoralize them? Has such a demoralization happened in the United States?

Do some totalitarians actually want us to hear how we have been screwed because they know that humiliating passivity in the face of obvious oppression will demoralize us even further?

What forces have created a demoralized, passive, dis-couraged U.S. population?

Can anything be done to turn this around?

Can people become so broken that truths of how they are being screwed do not "set them free" but instead further demoralize them?

Yes. It is called the "abuse syndrome." How do abusive pimps, spouses, bosses, corporations, and governments stay in control? They shove lies, emotional and physical abuses, and injustices in their victims' faces, and when victims are afraid to exit from these relationships, they get weaker. So the abuser then makes their victims eat even more lies, abuses, and injustices, resulting in victims even weaker as they remain in these relationships.

Does knowing the truth of their abuse set people free when they are deep in these abuse syndromes?

No. For victims of the abuse syndrome, the truth of their passive submission to humiliating oppression is more than embarrassing; it can feel shameful -- and there is nothing more painful than shame. When one already feels beaten down and demoralized, the likely response to the pain of shame is not constructive action, but more attempts to shut down or divert oneself from this pain. It is not likely that the truth of one's humiliating oppression is going to energize one to constructive actions.

Has such a demoralization happened in the U.S.?

In the United States, 47 million people are without health insurance, and many millions more are underinsured or a job layoff away from losing their coverage. But despite the current sellout by their elected officials to the insurance industry, there is no outpouring of millions of U.S. citizens on the streets of Washington, D.C., protesting this betrayal.

Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the taxpayer bailout of the financial industry, yet only a handful of U.S. citizens have protested these circumstances.

Remember the 2000 U.S. presidential election? That's the one in which Al Gore received 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush. That's also the one that the Florida Supreme Court's order for a recount of the disputed Florida vote was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in a politicized 5-4 decision, of which dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens remarked: "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." Yet, even this provoked few demonstrators.

When people become broken, they cannot act on truths of injustice. Furthermore, when people have become broken, more truths about how they have been victimized can lead to shame about how they have allowed it. And shame, like fear, is one more way we become even more psychologically broken.

U.S. citizens do not actively protest obvious injustices for the same reasons that people cannot leave their abusive spouses: They feel helpless to effect change. The more we don't act, the weaker we get. And ultimately to deal with the painful humiliation over inaction in the face of an oppressor, we move to shut-down mode and use escape strategies such as depression, substance abuse, and other diversions, which further keep us from acting. This is the vicious cycle of all abuse syndromes.

Do some totalitarians actually want us to hear how we have been screwed because they know that humiliating passivity in the face of obvious oppression will demoralize us even further?


Shortly before the 2000 U.S. presidential election, millions of Americans saw a clip of George W. Bush joking to a wealthy group of people, "What a crowd tonight: the haves and the haves-more. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base." Yet, even with these kind of inflammatory remarks, the tens of millions of U.S. citizens who had come to despise Bush and his arrogance remained passive in the face of the 2000 non-democratic presidential elections.

Perhaps the "political genius" of the Bush-Cheney regime was in their full realization that Americans were so broken that the regime could get away with damn near anything. And the more people did nothing about the boot slamming on their faces, the weaker people became.

What forces have created a demoralized, passive, dis-couraged U.S. population?

The U.S. government-corporate partnership has used its share of guns and terror to break Native Americans, labor union organizers, and other dissidents and activists. But today, most U.S. citizens are broken by financial fears. There is potential legal debt if we speak out against a powerful authority, and all kinds of other debt if we do not comply on the job. Young people are broken by college-loan debts and fear of having no health insurance.

The U.S. population is increasingly broken by the social isolation created by corporate-governmental policies. A 2006 American Sociological Review study ("Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades") reported that, in 2004, 25 percent of Americans did not have a single confidant. (In 1985, 10 percent of Americans reported not having a single confidant.) Sociologist Robert Putnam, in his 2000 book, Bowling Alone, describes how social connectedness is disappearing in virtually every aspect of U.S. life. For example, there has been a significant decrease in face-to-face contact with neighbors and friends due to suburbanization, commuting, electronic entertainment, time and money pressures and other variables created by governmental-corporate policies. And union activities and other formal or informal ways that people give each other the support necessary to resist oppression have also decreased.

We are also broken by a corporate-government partnership that has rendered most of us out of control when it comes to the basic necessities of life, including our food supply. And we, like many other people in the world, are broken by socializing institutions that alienate us from our basic humanity. A few examples:

Can anything be done to turn this around?

When people get caught up in humiliating abuse syndromes, more truths about their oppressive humiliations don't set them free. What sets them free is morale.

What gives people morale? Encouragement. Small victories. Models of courageous behaviors. And anything that helps them break out of the vicious cycle of pain, shut down, immobilization, shame over immobilization, more pain, and more shut down.

The last people I would turn to for help in remobilizing a demoralized population are mental health professionals -- at least those who have not rebelled against their professional socialization. Much of the craft of relighting the pilot light requires talents that mental health professionals simply are not selected for nor are they trained in. Specifically, the talents required are a fearlessness around image, spontaneity, and definitely anti-authoritarianism. But these are not the traits that medical schools or graduate schools select for or encourage.

Mental health professionals' focus on symptoms and feelings often create patients who take themselves and their moods far too seriously. In contrast, people talented in the craft of maintaining morale resist this kind of self-absorption. For example, in the question-and-answer session that followed a Noam Chomsky talk (reported in Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, 2002), a somewhat demoralized man in the audience asked Chomsky if he too ever went through a phase of hopelessness. Chomsky responded, "Yeah, every evening . . ."

If you want to feel hopeless, there are a lot of things you could feel hopeless about. If you want to sort of work out objectively what's the chance that the human species will survive for another century, probably not very high. But I mean, what's the point? . . . First of all, those predictions don't mean anything -- they're more just a reflection of your mood or your personality than anything else. And if you act on that assumption, then you're guaranteeing that'll happen. If you act on the assumption that things can change, well, maybe they will. Okay, the only rational choice, given those alternatives, is to forget pessimism."

A major component of the craft of maintaining morale is not taking the advertised reality too seriously. In the early 1960s, when the overwhelming majority in the U.S. supported military intervention in Vietnam, Chomsky was one of a minority of U.S. citizens actively opposing it. Looking back at this era, Chomsky reflected, "When I got involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement, it seemed to me impossible that we would ever have any effect. . . So looking back, I think my evaluation of the 'hope' was much too pessimistic: it was based on a complete misunderstanding. I was sort of believing what I read."

An elitist assumption is that people don't change because they are either ignorant of their problems or ignorant of solutions. Elitist "helpers" think they have done something useful by informing overweight people that they are obese and that they must reduce their caloric intake and increase exercise. An elitist who has never been broken by his or her circumstances does not know that people who have become demoralized do not need analyses and pontifications. Rather the immobilized need a shot of morale.

See more stories tagged with: consumerism, television, depression, mental illness, american culture

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and his latest book is Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007). His Web site is

Comment from bernanke-confirmation-headwinds-increasing


December 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm

In regards to the Alternet article, isn't that the very reason why conservatives hate people like Martin Luther King and Marx so much? Are not their philosophies, after all, what gave oppressed peoples not only the intellectual framework to question their oppressors' rationales, but also the hope necessary to rise up against those oppressors.

Conservatives embrace an assumedly "natural" distinction of rich and poor. The revolutionaries, on the other hand, embrace a notion that men are born or created equal and become unequal by virtue of social and political, that is man-made, institutions.

As Hannah Arendt observed in On Revolution:

Marx's transformation of the social question into a political force is contained in the term 'exploitation', that is, in the notion that poverty is the result of exploitation through a 'ruling class' which is in the possession of the means of violence… If Marx helped in liberating the poor, then it was not by telling them that they were the living embodiments of some historical or other necessity, but by persuading them that poverty itself is a political, not a natural phenomenon, the result of violence and violation rather than of scarcity.

Likewise, MLK didn't buy into the conservative conviction that blacks are created inferior by virtue of the color of their skin, making their inferior status "natural."

As to engendering hope, MLK led people to believe that God is on the side of justice. The secular Marx, on the other hand, espoused an inexorable historical dialectic process that was equally as unstoppable as MLK's divinity.

And both MLK as well as the followers of Marx argued that it was incumbent upon the oppressed, and not their oppressors, to bring about change.

For an excellent encapsulation of the socialist doctrine, there is probably no better place to look than chapters 28 and 29 of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle:

And so all over the world two classes were forming, with an unabridged chasm between them-the capitalist class, with its enormous fortunes, and the proletariat, bound into slavery by unseen chains. The latter were a thousand to one in numbers, but they were ignorant and helpless, and they would remain at the mercy of the exploiters until they organized…

Personally, I believe it is nonsensical to argue that today's American middle class is more beaten down and demoralized than blacks or Hispanics were during Jim Crow, or workers were during the days of Upton Sinclair.

[Aug 26, 2009] How Banks (and Companies) Diversify Their Way Into Incompetence

naked capitalism

I read my first management book at the age of 11, not because it was a management book, but a best seller at the time, And it may have been imprinted by it more than I realized. The Peter Principle says that managers are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. The classic example is promoting the best salesman to be a sales manager. The joke (all too true) is that you both lose your best salesman and gain a lousy supervisor.

That pattern says that organizations as a whole are not very capable (if they recognize this danger, they should try to manage against it, but the popularity of The Peter Principle did not change corporate practice one jot, at least as far as I can tell). And of course, it explains why there are so many crappy managers and executives.

John Kay of the Financial Times applies this idea to financial firms, arguing that they diversify their way into incompetence:

Financial institutions diversify into their level of incompetence. They extend their scope into activities they understand less...

The principle of diversification into incompetence applies from the largest financial institution to the smallest. AIG was America's leading insurance company. The company did not just undertake credit insurance, but was the largest trader in the credit default swap market. That is how its financial products group, employing 120 people in London, brought about the collapse of a business that employed 120,000.

Yves here. Citigroup is another example. It isn't so much that Citi made a disastrous acquisition as it dedicated itself to massive reach as a corporate imperative: be as global and be in every conceivable product niche. That is a prescription for being unable to manage yourself, which is the essence of the big bank's problems. Back to Kay:
The boredom factor is important. Much of traditional banking is quite boring. The desire to find new challenges is an admirable human trait. It is, however, very expensive for shareholders to allow their chief executives to indulge it.

Public sector bodies are usually constrained in their activities, so deregulation is often a trigger for expensive experimentation. In Britain, many of the efficiency gains from privatisation were squandered in diversification: I watched senior managers spending 80 per cent of their time on activities that generated 1 per cent of turnover and minus 10 per cent of profit. But it is more fun to go on jollies to Buenos Aires than to fix leaking pipes.

To win an auction when you don't know what you are bidding for is often to lose. This winner's curse is often behind bad acquisitions because the successful purchaser is the bidder most willing to pay too much. Hence the contest between Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays as to which bank would court bankruptcy by buying ABN Amro. Ignorance of products may also be a problem. When you are the newcomer and know little, the business that gravitates to you will be the business no one else wants.

But the driving factor is hubris. Jim Collins's well-timed study of How the Mighty Fall applies to every business I have mentioned. The financial services industry is particularly vulnerable to hubris because sections of it are not very competitive, and randomness plays a large role in the outcome of speculative transactions. It is therefore particularly easy for those who work in financial institutions to make the mistake of believing that their success is the result of exceptional skill rather than good fortune. What more natural to believe than that extraordinary talent will find pots of gold under other rainbows? Until vanity is vanquished, I anticipate that diversification to the level of incompetence will continue to be a powerful element in business behaviour.

With all due respect, I think Kay has the essence of this wrong. First, deals are engrossing and sexy. They are very intense, the top executives are the focus of Big Decisions, and they have a horde of high priced talent catering to them (well actually, leading them by the nose, but they are usually so adept at it that the client often does not realize he is no longer in control).

But the big driver is that bank CEO pay is correlated with the size of the institution. And it is much easier to get big fast by acquisition than organically. Big deals are a wallet-lining activity, and the advisors understand that very well.


attempter :
I don't doubt Yves is right about the top-down influence, but I think there's also something to the boredom argument.

It's long seemed to me that e.g where it comes to computers and gadgets in general that the engineers seem to want to tinker and gratuitously change things and add superfluous features all way beyond what customers want, and even where it doesn't add to revenue (rent-seeking).

The designers have a fundamentally different, non-market mindset. A customer probably just wants a basic product that functions well, but for the engineer this is his toy, his "creative outlet."

I long suspected this, and recently I've started seeing pieces which agree with me, like in some of the NYT tech columns.

So I don't doubt there may be something similar going on with financial "engineering", although there of course the rent-seeking is a far greater motive.

skippy :
Like in the Military Kill Ratios or Counts get you noticed, promoted because its a sexy statistic (see Vietnam). Not consolidation of ones position in order to blunt the oppositions maneuver (see victory with out death).

skippy..."A solider will fight long and hard for a bit of ribbon" Napoleon Bonaparte.

Ina Pickle :
The problem is not just the organization, but self-selection and the process involved in getting to the top. They choose for risk-taking personalities for whom boredom is a serious issue - and who have a serious bias towards action over inaction, risk-taking over safety, etc.

I once had the CFO of a very large corporation tell me that, if I could tell him that he had a 50/50 chance of keeping the assets he wanted to acquire -- a coin toss -- he would go ahead with the merger.

We have reached a point where our idea of who is executive material involves a macho type who conflates decisiveness with risk-taking, when really they are two different things. Just my opinion.

DownSouth :
This is evidence as to why classical economics and all its begats--Marxism, libertarianism, neo-liberalism, etc---are all failed ideologies. All are predicated on the assumption that man is motivated solely by materialistic objectives, or, as Reinhold Niebuhr put it, "all human desires are determinate and all human ambitions ordinate."

As Niebuhr goes on to explain in The Irony of American History:

The false abstraction of "economic man" remains a permanent defect in all bourgeois-liberal ideology. It seems to know nothing of what Thomas Hobbes termed "the continual competition for honor and dignity" in human affairs. It understands neither the traditional ethnic and cultural loyalties which qualify a consistent economic rationalism; nor the deep and complex motives in the human psyche which express themselves in the desire for "power and glory." All the conflicts in human society involving passions and ambitions, hatreds and loves, envies and ideals not recorded in the market place, are beyond the comprehension of the typical bourgeios ethos.

Or as George Orwell put it:

The energy that actually shapes the world springs from emotions--racial pride, leader-worship, religious belief, love of war--which liberal intellectuals mechanically write off as anachronisms, and which they have usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to have lost all power of action.

Orwell uses H.G. Wells as the poster child of a failed bourgeois-liberal ideologue:

He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity. Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them. The people who have shown the best understanding of Fascism are either those who have suffered under it or those who have a Fascist streak in themselves. A crude book like "The Iron Heel,' written nearly thirty years ago, is a truer prophecy of the future than either "Brave New World" or "The Shape of Things to Come." If one had to choose among Well's own contemporaries a writer who could stand towards him as a corrective, one might choose Kipling, who was not deaf to the evil voices of power and military "glory."

--George Orwell, "Wells, Hitler and the World State"

Anonymous Jones :
To synthesize the comments of both DownSouth and Siggy, non-financial incentives are crucial to much of the world, just not to those who run it.

Another problem with management beyond the Peter Principle is the self-selection bias. It is exactly those who seek the levels of upper management of the large companies, especially the position of CEO, who are the most likely to exhibit antisocial personality disorder. It is rare that a non-sociopath will have a competitive advantage over a sociopath in rising up the corporate ranks to the top. To wit...

"Profile of the Sociopath

* Grandiose Sense of Self. Feels entitled to certain things as "their right." Extreme narcissism. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Believe they are all-knowing, entitled to every wish. May state readily that their goal is to be a mogul, rule the world.

* Need for Stimulation Living on the edge. Promiscuity and gambling are common.

* Incapacity for Love Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim; incapable of real human attachment to another

* Superficial Charm and conventional appearance Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them; only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired

* Manipulative and Conning They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.

* Seeks Affirmation to Create Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim's affirmation (respect, gratitude and love); Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims.

* Irresponsibility/Unreliability Not concerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed."

DownSouth :
Anonymous Jones,

I had a psychologist friend who believed the same as you, that those with anti-social personality disorder are disproportionately drawn to and well-suited to positions of power. But he insisted upon one caveat, and that is that human behavioral types are distributed along continua and not in discrete categories. Probably nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the findings of Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, who developed a seven-point scale (0-6) to indicate degrees of homosexuality-heterosexuality.

We could do the same with type of behavior you describe. A person with the characteristics you enumerate we could define as a 0, and a person, let's say, who is kind, generous, compassionate and caring we could call a 6. I think it goes without saying that a 4, 5 or 6 would be totally inappropriate as a modern corporate executive. But when we get 0's in positions of power, we have a problem.

As to your comment that "non-financial incentives are crucial to much of the world, just not to those who run it," I have to disagree. Being an engineer by training and a reformed "pragmatic jewell," as an art-dealer friend of mine used to call me, I once believed the same as you do.

However, if those who "run the world" do not respond to non-financial incentives, then how do you explain this?:

"Mexican splashes out record $140m for Jackson Pollock's drops of genius
1948 work by American master becomes world's most expensive painting"

As the article explains, that's the most expensive painting ever sold, $4 million per square foot for some paint dribbled (and litterally "dribbled" if you're familiar with the work of Jackson Pollock) on a canvas.

I could write quite a bit about this, as it's common knowledge amongst those who study ancient civilizations that powerful men have always coveted exclusive objects that convey a sense of prestige, status and rank upon their owners, and that much human behavior throughout history has been dedicated to acquiring these objects. This behavior can hardly be described as "rational," and has no place within the classical economic paradigm. And yet there it is.

Anonymous Jones :
DownSouth --

I agree with your instinct that most everything is a continuum. I actually believe what people perceive as "bright lines" are usually much more fuzzy upon closer inspection. You can play this game with anything, even acts as repugnant as murder and rape. Start pushing anyone with tough fact sets and their "bright lines" quickly blur.

The reason most humans accept a belief in any certain bright line is for economy of thought. It is just a natural heuristic technique. However, once one accepts that almost everything is a continuum, the world becomes much more interesting. What is the shape of the continuum? Is it a barbell with little in the middle? Or is it a ball with sticks on the sides? Or is it evenly distributed across? Or is it irregularly shaped?

But these questions are useless for most of humanity. People become attached to their heuristic methods and often react in anger when it is suggested that the lines they have drawn could possibly be masking a more complex and subtle world. So we should probably keep this to ourselves before everyone gets their knives out.

FWIW, I didn't actually promote the "synthesis" as my belief. I was just being "clever" (sarcasm intended). I think it would be very difficult for anyone to care about nothing but money. In fact, the "0" sociopath would usually see money as a means, not an end. The end is probably better defined as power, to which money is a very good means. As you note, lifetimes could be spent writing about this.

donna :
I don't believe in the Peter principle. I think companies just promote the managers who suck up best, and then find out they are only good at sucking up.
donna :
And I don't think the problem with Citi is diversification --they are simply evil and stupid.
gatopeich :
Well said, donna.

Trapped by the interesting post and superb comments, thinking about reading more of J. London, and at the same time realizing that we are talking the talk while they walk... Away with our money!

moslof :
Belonging to clubs like the Augusta National and landing the corporate jet there a couple hours after a break in the February weather doesn't require much money because the Master's tournament pays the bills tax free and you can meet with all your CEO buddies and strategize with no gossipy women around. These are the non$ perks that any and all bankers will bow down to their bosses for, just to keep the hope alive....
Francois :
"The boredom factor is important. Much of traditional banking is quite boring. The desire to find new challenges is an admirable human trait. It is, however, very expensive for shareholders to allow their chief executives to indulge it."

AMBAC comes to mind as a case example. Here was the corporation who had the most net profit per employee on the PLANET. But the business was a bore; mix that with the side effects of a testosterone-based culture and danger signals should've started to flash all over the place.

[Jul 15, 2009] The Economics of Narcissism By Marion Maneker

Jul 14, 2009 | The Big Money

How grandiosity and lack of empathy created our modern malaise

Narcissism is back in the news, thanks to Sarah Palin. Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair profile, which appeared just days before Palin announced her resignation, described the Alaskan governor this way:

More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin's extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of "narcissistic personality disorder" in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-"a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy"-and thought it fit her perfectly.

The diagnosis clearly resonates, not because it is accurate (who knows?) but because narcissism is the psychological substrate of our troubled times. During the credit boom, an unquenchable need for short-term success, combined with a lack of empathy for those who didn't share in the economic windfalls, was a byproduct of a society trying desperately to survive beyond its means. We both empowered the most ruthlessly self-aggrandizing among us and succumbed to the erosion of any authority that might have contained the overweening. We lost any independent measure of the American dream.

Still, a question remains: Was the army of narcissists unleashed upon our society a product of the boom or the cause of it-or both? For John Gartner, grandiosity was a precondition for success. His 2005 book The Hypomanic Edge praised the reckless abandon of Americans who leapt before they looked. (Slate's Dan Gross made a great case for why those leaders ultimately threaten the institutions they lead.)

In the noughties-given our obsessing over celebrities, insatiable consumption of debt to keep up with others, and the loss of any meaningful values that might sustain us in adversity-the country seemed to be caught up in its own culture of narcissism. As exceptional as this new culture was, it was not new. The culture of narcissism first appeared as a popular concept 30 years ago. And this week marks the apogee of its influence with the anniversary of President Jimmy Carter's infamous "malaise" speech (delivered on July 15, 1979).

That much-reviled address is an unlikely subject for study. But historian Kevin Mattson has done his best to reclaim it in his new book What the Heck Are You Up to, Mr. President? To Mattson, a desperate nation, hobbled by a stagnating economy with chronic energy shortages, a crumbling manufacturing sector, and crippling inflation, was buoyed by Carter's willingness to level with them. Carter tried to snap the country out of its frenzy of selfishness and return it to a civic-minded purpose. The speech boosted the president's poll numbers by 11 points in one evening, and the event seemed to provide a catharsis of sorts, if a short-lived one.

The 1970s were a nadir of American self-confidence. Carter came to give the "malaise" speech at the prodding of Patrick Caddell, who was himself inspired by a reading of historian Christopher Lasch's surprise best-seller of 1979, The Culture of Narcissism. A quiet Midwesterner with a cranky pen, Lasch was the Paul Krugman of 1979 - an esoteric thinker whose political stance was informed by raw anger and disgust. Lasch may have used radical cultural concepts to inform his views, but he himself was deeply and personally conservative. He would later write a book dismissing the notion of progress and locating our best hope as a society in small-town acceptance of limitations.

The Culture of Narcissism was an attack not only on the excesses and disillusionment of the '70s but also on the growth of institutions-the liberal state, corporations, and the therapeutic culture-that broke down the individual's independence and authority. Those institutions may have grown out of a need to protect us from depredations. But the unintended consequence was to replace our freedom and individual authority with insecurity and anxiety.

Thus was born the narcissistic personality of the 1970s. The cultural narcissist-as opposed to the clinical one, like Palin-can overcome the anxiety created by his or her lost economic and social independence, according to Lasch, only "by seeing his 'grandiose self' reflected in the attentions of others, or by attaching himself to those who radiate celebrity, power, and charisma. For the narcissist, the world is a mirror whereas the rugged individualist saw it as an empty wilderness to be shaped in his own design."

Narcissism thrives only where positive authority-a world of role models who establish genuine, trusted leadership and an economic system where rules are defined and enforced-no longer presides. Lasch's narcissism was a direct result of the hypocrisy of the liberal state and its collapse under the multiple assaults of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the degraded environment, and the emasculating energy crisis.

In our own day, narcissism seems the direct result not of societal failure but of success run amok. (Though we've had our own fruitless, frustrating war with its concomitant betrayals of public trust and an awareness of impending environmental collapse, too.) Beginning in 1994-15 years after the "malaise" speech and 15 years before today-the United States turned itself inside out. The Republican congressional victory of 1994 brought about a libertarian detente between left and right centered around globalization, in the form of NAFTA, and cultural truce, where everyone agreed to disagree on hot-button issues like abortion.

The new order unleashed an explosion of wealth, new technology, and a reinvention of politics both domestically and internationally. The '90s ended up being the 1970s in reverse. Instead of the decline of industry, we had the upending explosion of the Internet. Where the 1970s had eroding pessimism, the 1990s had the optimism that "this time, it is different."

In both cases, the path from past to future was no longer clear, which created confusion and doubt about what rules to follow. Clinton's new liberalism sought deregulation and a return to personal responsibility, but only one side of the equation took hold. Throughout American society in the 1990s, authority was eclipsed by the unparalleled success of young people.

There were other similarities between then and now that contributed to the emergence of the cultural narcissist. Both eras had presidents who were threatened with impeachment. Both eras had a vertiginous rise in housing prices. In the 1970s, homes became a rare anchor for embattled Americans as their most important asset became a refuge from rampant inflation.

For us later, our houses were the devil's candy to satisfy our insatiable needs. Instead of the last and most vital of our assets-the one protected from bankruptcy by homestead laws in many states-we used property as a grub stake in a poker match, hoping to win shallow advantages like better-looking kitchens, elaborate home theaters, and more authentic personal experiences. Each one of these desires fits neatly into the Lasch-ian definition of narcissism: the frantic need to distinguish ourselves without ever mastering our anxieties.

Lacking her own goals, and an independent measure of success, the narcissistic personality keeps chasing a fleeting dream. Perhaps that is why the debt bubble churned endlessly without restraint. We had everything, but it was never enough. Insatiability, of course, is a hallmark symptom.

Another era of adversity might have restored the bulwarks of our society. The excesses of the Internet boom were burned off in the scandals of Enron, Tyco, and the like. The Sept. 11 attacks also seemed to presage a new era of rationality. The Bush administration's response, however, was narcissism through and through. A sober response would have been to track down the malefactors to ensure that justice prevailed. Instead, the neocons in the Bush Pentagon pursued an unlikely target-Iraq-with the misguided idea that they could transform the politics of the Middle East through shock and awe. (Grandiose?) They even imagined they would be greeted as liberators. (Admiration seeking?) And they failed to address the root causes of Sept. 11 attacks: the frustrations felt by the disenfranchised toward the United States. (Not much empathy there, eh?)

So the flood of credit from 2002 on only fueled the narcissism raging at the center of our society. To read the Culture of Narcissism today is to look at ourselves through a distant mirror. We have a better communicator as president, but many of the same maladies confront us-a crippled economy, a recently discredited president whose White House was filled with dirty-tricksters, and a sense that American power no longer has a place in the world. The only good thing is that the feeling of desperation so pervasive during Jimmy Carter's time has not taken hold; but that could be because we just haven't hit bottom yet.

Marion Maneker is the former publisher of HarperCollins's business imprint.

[Jul 15, 2009] Are Americans rich because they're crazy By Daniel Gross

Feb. 15, 2005 | Slate Magazine

That's the thesis of a new book, The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, by John D. Gartner, a psychotherapist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. America may be the dominant force in the global economy because we're a nation made of somewhat Crazy Eddies-gonzo businessmen and -women who may be genetically predisposed to take big-time risks.

Related in Slate

Hypomania may be related to another, less helpful, form of financial risktaking-stock speculation by novice dummies. "The Book Club" examined this particularly American delusion in its discussion of American Sucker. Tim Carvell pointed out that you don't necessarily need to be a success to succeed. Also, while geniuses may have made America great, they also need grant money; David Plotz examined the qualifications for a MacArthur genius grant.

It sounds right. Creativity and genius have often been linked to mental illness. Many virtuoso painters, composers, and architects are a little kooky. Why not entrepreneurs? Gartner identifies "hypomania" as a benign form of madness-manic without the depressive. Here's how they present: "Hypomanics are brimming with infectious energy, irrational confidence, and really big ideas. They think, talk, move, and make decisions quickly. Anyone who slows them down with questions 'just doesn't get it.' " They find it hard to sit still, channel their energy "into the achievement of wildly grand ambitions," feel a sense of destiny, "can be euphoric," have a tendency to overspend, take risks, and act impulsively, and with poor judgment.

They are "witty and gregarious" and possess a confidence that makes them charismatic and persuasive. It sounds a lot like Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape and animating character of Michael Lewis' The New New Thing. Or like President Bush.

Gartner concludes that many of the components of the archetypal American character-optimism, entrepreneurial energy, religious zeal-fit the hypomanic profile. Perhaps, he posits, this nation of immigrants has a gene pool of hypomanics. Immigration may select for it. After all, who else would be eager to embark on a dangerous journey, convinced he could make it in the New World? As a result, Gartner writes, Americans may be "culturally and genetically predisposed to economic risk."

Gartner sets out to prove his case not through contemporary case studies or the aggregation of vast quantities of data, but through brief, lively studies of key hypomanics from five different centuries. Christopher Columbus, the "messianic entrepreneur," had divine ambitions. Some of the first settlers of the United States were "protestant prophets"-John Winthrop of Massachusetts and Roger Williams in Rhode Island. Alexander Hamilton fearlessly charged British positions at Yorktown and wrote The Federalist papers in a series of all-nighters. His hypomania "was an essential ingredient in his accomplishments. And his accomplishments were an essential ingredient in the creation of America." Andrew Carnegie, the hypomanic steel baron, feverishly built up an industrial empire and then spent the rest of his life trying to change the world. More recent hypomanics might include movie-studio moguls David Selznick and Louis B. Mayer, and geneticist Craig Venter, who founded Celera and set off a race to decode the human genome.

It's a fun read. But Gartner's diagnosis overlooks the more rational factors that were crucial to the settling of America and the construction of our unique economic and business culture. The British Protestants who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the 17th century came for God, but they also came for the cod. And the timber and the tobacco. By the time John Winthrop arrived in Massachusetts, non-dissenting settlers-economic opportunists, not prophets-had been farming and trading in Jamestown, Va., for more than 20 years.

Immigrants like Hamilton, Carnegie, and David Selznick's parents may have been hypomanic. But whether you were a landless peasant in Ireland in the 1840s, a Jewish cobbler in Russia in 1910, or an Indian computer programmer in the 1980s, the decision to move to America made profound economic sense. America had cheap land in abundance. The opportunities-if occasionally overblown-were real. So was the infrastructure that provided for the rule of law, capital markets, and the protections of minority rights.

In fact, practicality and realism have coexisted with messianism and utopianism in the American experiment from the very beginning. Benjamin Franklin was almost certainly hypomanic by Gartner's reckoning, but he was also one of the most relentlessly practical Americans of the 18th century. The U.S. economy has been distinguished by hypomanic booms and busts and by the creative destruction that lies at the heart of entrepreneurial capitalism. But it's also distinguished by durable systems and institutions that are emblematic of our distinct style of managerial capitalism-the Federal Reserve and the New York Stock Exchange, our telecommunications networks, and Procter & Gamble. Such institutions are not the work of flamboyant geniuses but of tons of thoughtful, far-sighted, and average Americans.

To put it another way, hypomanics instigate, but they rarely build institutions that outlive them. The necessary counterpart to the hypomanic Henry Ford was Alfred P. Sloan, who built General Motors. Andrew Carnegie could never have monetized his fortune were it not for the constantly rationalizing financier J.P. Morgan. In every generation, cooler-headed executives and entrepreneurs enter a field after a burst of creativity and build businesses and fortunes by imposing the discipline and order the creators may have lacked. Steve Jobs of Apple (who certainly has hypomanic tendencies) is an innovator who has become a billionaire, made long-term investors wealthy, and helped spread the personal computer revolution. But the same can also be said of the preternaturally well-adjusted Michael Dell.

Executives who chew the scenery may suck up attention, revolutionize industries, and symbolize American capitalism. But they're not particularly good for companies' long-term health, as Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Kurana's argues in his book Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs. No country produces as many turnaround artists, bankruptcy specialists, and temporary CEOs as America does.

The late 1990s Internet boom was the golden age of hypomanic CEOs. But how many of their companies still survive? Perhaps the most prominent and successful Internet executive is eBay's distinctly unhypomanic Meg Whitman. So, yes, Gartner is right that hypomanic first movers matter a lot, and that we need a few more. But we shouldn't forget the huge contributions of the more sober-minded folks who follow behind and pick up the pieces.

[Jun 6, 2009] Dan Agin Political Corruption, Wall Street Frauds, and Sociopaths

" Labels are just linguistic conveniences that we use to organize reality. We need to keep in mind the continuities in the real world, the gradations, the way traits gradually differ along a spectrum from one person to another, from ordinary to extreme."
Dec 17, 2008 | The Huffington Post

The roots of all of this are deep and troubling. Aside from the general American ethic of "money talks"--net worth more important than personal worth--there's a real psychiatric problem.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have learned a few things about what they call "social cognition"--our awareness of our connections to the people around us. People with normally developed social cognition appear to have attributes that foster social understanding. For example, they have what psychologists call a "theory of mind"--the ability to recognize what some person may be thinking from that person's facial expression or from cues related to what that person is doing or saying. Those with normally developed social cognition also have an attribute called "empathy"--the ability to imagine or feel the emotions of another person.

Unfortunately, either as a consequence of variant genes or very early environment or an interaction of both genes and environment, not everyone is operating with a full deck in the social cognition domain.

For example, 30 to 50 percent of all incarcerated criminals in American prisons have measurable problems in social cognition.

Autistic children have problems in social cognition.

Many psychotics such as schizophrenics have problems in social cognition.

Serial killers have special problems with empathy, although they do have good theory of mind--they excel at reading people and manipulating them. But lacking empathy, they can kill without batting an eye.

Sociopaths in general usually have social cognition problems, especially with empathy. They are people who feel nothing when viewing or imagining the pain and suffering of other people.

Most clinical psychologists and psychiatrists use a rating scheme called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to diagnose sociopathy (also called psychopathy).

Here are some items on the checklist to detect sociopaths:

Glibness and superficial charm. Grandiose sense of self-worth. Pathological lying. Conning and manipulative behavior. Lack of remorse or guilt. Lack of empathy. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.

Yes, we could make a list of politicians and Wall Street scam artists described by the above cluster of traits.

Sociopaths? Labels are just linguistic conveniences that we use to organize reality. We need to keep in mind the continuities in the real world, the gradations, the way traits gradually differ along a spectrum from one person to another, from ordinary to extreme.

Not everyone with the traits of a sociopath is a serial killer. Not everyone with the traits of a sociopath is in prison. Not everyone with the traits of a sociopath is autistic or psychotic.

One can have enough empathy to refrain from homicide, but not enough empathy to refrain from fraud or political callousness that causes harm to many thousands of people.

So if you want to understand how someone can run the huge scam that was Enron, or how someone can rip $50 billion out of the pockets of charities and people, many of whom are "friends," or how some people can be callous about a torture called water-boarding (a "no-brainer," he said), or offer nothing but a shrug when reminded they have caused the death of thousands--if you want to understand the dynamics of these behaviors it might help to remember the continuum that runs from ordinary people with empathy to people with no empathy at all.

It seems that's the real America. Or is it? These days it seems we're living in a society that's a candy store for sociopaths and almost-sociopaths and wannabe-sociopaths.

I don't have a fix. Regulation will help on Wall Street, but it's only a band-aid. The general problem is apparently psychiatric.

With so many media people manifesting amazement at the revelations about political corruption and Wall Street scams, one wonders if the media are really amazed or is the surprise just one more example...

With so many media people manifesting amazement at the revelations about political corruption and Wall Street scams, one wonders if the media are really amazed or is the surprise just one more example...

MyTherapy Discussion Forums - Sociopath Comments.

Dear Readers,

I'm a sociopath, lets make that perfectly clear. I don't know if I'm an exception to any rule, but I have a morale guideline that substitutes for the conscience, I was born without. I don't feel, as we all probably have researched my brain reads stimuli much differently, or ignores it all together. As a sociopath, it is hard for me to relate to the value the rest of you put into your relationships, if someone is so horrible and cannot be controlled then just leave, do not pass go, do not let them collect your two hundred dollars, as the case seems to be over and over again.

Advice to Victims.

I've read so many of these stories, and cannot see how every single one of you fall for the ploys of your alleged loved ones. The thing you need to understand is sociopaths seek control, even me. It is very easy to learn just how to present anything to get others to agree or at least behave as you want them too, the best way to discourage a sociopath is to take the control away from them. You can do this directly, assert yourself as the one in control, or get law enforcement involved, most sociopaths, out of self preservation, will not come after you with their own freedom at stake. We understand consequences, and will not volunteer for any of them.


If you've already suffered and left, and are merely looking for some sort of understanding, well then, hear this. People, these days, have a Victim mentality. You, humans, want pity, consolation, like your own personal TV drama. TV is not how the world is suppose to work, but I find that more and more situations end up with dramatic endings. Drama is not supposed to run the world, blame your television set. It is not hard to get over things, simply separate it, because if you let this person control your thoughts, then they won, they have accomplished their goal. Control.

Advice to Sociopaths

The world is stale, boredom is so hard to overcome, because you don't FEEL like our fellow inhabitants of the Earth, we simply exist. We get impulses like animals, but we also use Logic, more precisely than any other being, even humans. Sociopathy is a Blessing or a Curse, depending on whom you ask, and what day it is. I've seen horrid displays of human emotion that makes me glad that I have no emotional spectrum, but I also resent the fact that I'm numb inside, it has almost driven me to extremes, but the code I live my life by, my substitute conscience, always keeps me in line. I made my rules that I live by, and insist that others live by in my presence, and if I can agree on these rules, as important, then I can stop myself from doing the rather basic or violent things that my impulses drive me too.

I know, most of us, can tell a lot about a person merely looking them over, know what they want to hear, and know how to present it to them in a manner to get what we want, I know I can. I'm very good at playing human. I'm handsome, charming, and have a higher IQ than a good ninety percent of people on the planet, and yes, I see myself as 'better than' everyone surrounding me, but that doesn't mean I should use the people beneath me, I would rather help them, like a stray animal, they're very little importance to me, but I'd rather not have them whining within earshot. With your ability to manipulate people, you can lead them in the 'right' direction just as easy as you can lead them in the wrong one.

Humanity is all we have, really, to communicate with, especially since there isn't conventions or parades held in our honor. So, we must simply learn how to be peaceful in our world with others. A human life means very little, we've had time to observe and analyze that people are going to die, so their personal deaths aren't very important, but we are human, at least, genetically, too. We will die, the same way they will, so our lives really aren't more important than others'. Plenty of jobs in society a sociopath would excel at, far past our human counter parts. Lawyers, Law Enforcement, Politicians, and many others, to name a few. I suggest you look strongly in the mirror, and decide on a good life to live, because, we all know how tempting boredom is, to do something new, and satisfy that perpetually talking mind. So, devote yourself to something, even if you cannot feel happy at the fruition of your skill, you can know that you're the best at what you do, and know that rather than manipulating those around you, you were an example among us and helped others rather than hurt them. With a smile and good reputation you can get a lot further in life than with fear. Fear eventually inspires your pets to snap at you, or flee. Love, Respect, and Admiration inspires them to continue on in the path you set for them.


WhiteWolf Starting Member

JD, as a sociopath, I can tell you... you are not one of us. While I don't doubt you have issues this is not your issue. Stop letting your ex wife dictate to you what you are. As I am sure she has something to do with your believe that you are a sociopath.

Also I wouldn't expect Divineman to return or reply. I've had some experience with the hit and fade tactic he is using. No doubt he probably came back at some point to see what the replies were but didn't feel the need to.. amuse you.

I, on the other hand, am in the mood to amuse myself and you by answering some of the questions you had for him. Perhaps they will enlighten you or otherwise confirm some presumed theories you have had.

Marriage is something I can't really breakdown into less than a chapter. It would take me quite a while to explain and I am not currently in the mood to go into such detail.

BTW, I learned a long time ago that it is best to get a girl to cheat on you and leave you. That way you don't have to put up with the constant acquisitions and harassment they want to subject you to. If a woman leaves you she wont look back. If you leave her she will stalk you till the end of time. Now my ex still hates me bitterly but she doesn't stalk me and that is all that really matters to me. I am not concerned with her erratic emotional instability even if I am the cause.

As for faking emotions... The only time I have found it hard to fake emotions is at a funeral. Everyone is crying and sad and they want you to be sad and cry with them but all I want to do is go get something to eat or go smoke some weed. I believe in the Bible. So I know that certain people, when they die, will go to Heaven. So why feel sad for them? Are they not going to a happier place? I do not understand this about people. You weep and cry for people who are moving on to a better existence than your own. It doesn't make much sense.

Other than funerals faking emotions isn't hard. I like to play the role of Chandler from the TV series Friends. I like to be the funny/witty/sarcastic guy. It's a better role to play because you can always act as if you are being sarcastic.. even when you are not. Other than that I just pretend to be interested in what these cattle say. I mean if you think about it.. normal people are all a bunch of fake liars anyway. Always laughing and smiling about stupid crap no one really cares about but they do so because it is their social norm. How ironic that their social norm is just my plain norm. Who's faking it now? Reflect on that.. so called normal people.

BTW, All you Christians and your waivering faith are going straight to Hell. Why? Because you didn't obey the laws. Why? Because your EMOTIONS got in the way. Little note. If your "temple" is completely corrupted you can kill yourself and still go to Heaven. In fact killing yourself really isn't a rejection of God so much as a rejection of pain. Normal peoples views on God pisses me off the most. How can you say a homosexual is going to Hell or someone who kills himself when all sins are equal sins? Bunch of people living in glasses houses throwing stones at each other. Each of you claiming to be correct. Each of you claiming the other to be wrong. You so called normal people are responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the world due to your arrogant/ignorant judgements. Then you say I am crazy because I don't share your emotional instability. You people of humanity are not a great people. You are an abomination to this planet and your own greatest enemy.

Normal people are slaves to their emotions while sociopaths are ruled by their logic. That's what makes us superior to you. That's what gives us control over you and that's why we think less of you.

WhiteWolf Starting Member
CBoo, moral insanity is part of being a sociopath.

As for evil deeds. What is evil? To determine what evil is really relies on what is socialy acceptable in an area. In Iran people get stoned to death. In America that is simply evil. So evil can be a broad term. We also prey on others which can be seen as evil. I believe it is more instinctive than evil. We see weakness.. we exploit weakness. It's how we survive.

I, for some reason, do not like little dogs. Something about them triggers my instinct to attack. I tortured a lot of little animals as a child. As an adult I try very hard not to torture them but the instinct to punt a little dog is ever present in my mind. I also tortured cats as a child but as I have grown up I have come to really love cats.. but I still hate little dogs. lol Am I evil as well?

CBoo, I will let you in on a little secret that may help you some. Other sociopaths will hate me for admiting this. If you actually got your ex to stalk you... you got the very best of him. You beat him bad if he was that obsessed with aquiring revenge against you. Take comfort in that thought because you won. To us the game is everything because we have nothing else and you beat him at the game.

The following is just me rambling.

I'm working on my sheep and wolves analogy but it is not perfected yet. So much of the new testiment is dedicated to the sociopaths. I think Jesus was trying to explain things to people who will never understand. If you feed the wolf, give the wolf a home to defend and love the wolf.. it is your wolf. That which would prey on you becomes your greatest defender. But you do not love your neighbors as you should thus we prey on you. You're supposed to drown us in love. It is your love that destroys our hate. It is your fear that turns you into our prey. Perhaps your fear provokes our instinct to attack or prey upon you. I believe this is only true for sociopaths who have moral guidlines. The rest are just wolves.

Surviving A Psychopath (Sociopath)

MyTherapy Discussion Forums

Dear Members,

Many of you have written elsewhere about the emotional damage done to you from living with a psychopath (formerly termed "sociopath"). A psychopath is defined as one who lacks empathy, guilt, remorse, and a feeling of responsibility. Thus the psychopath is the exact opposite of the depressed individual (who often suffers from excessive guilt, remorse and feelings of responsibility).

There is an excellent description of a psychopath's behavior at:

Given the harm that psychopaths do to others; it is easy to just judge them as "evil" and not consider that this disorder may have an underlying biological cause.

Recent research has shown that psychopaths may have abnormal functioning in the parts of their brains that control emotion. There are excellent reviews of this at:

Our very compassionate member, David, alluded to psychopaths having such a biologically-based disorder in an earlier discussion. If you have ever lived with a psychopath, you will eventually conclude that there must be something desperately wrong in the way their brain functions. How can a normal person not feel guilt, remorse or responsibility?

Research on antisocial personality disorder suggests that about half of this disorder has an environmental causation, and the other half has a genetic causation:

A very important research finding is that women are much less likely to be psychopaths than men:

Early research suggested that the treatment of psychopaths actually made them worse. This research argued that psychotherapy just gave the psychopath new ways to justify their behavior (e.g., "I learned that my behavior is all due to my terrible childhood", etc.). More recent research has concluded that we just don't know if treatment helps or harms psychopaths:

However, there is a consensus amongst mental health professionals. Namely, if you are in a relationship with a psychopath, leave. There is no way whereby a normal individual can happily live with another individual who does not feel guilt, remore or responsibility. Remember, this advice is valid only if the other individual is truly a psychopath (that is, the individual has the majority of items listed in R. Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised).

Since this topic has received many posts elsewhere; I believe it should be given its own forum here.

Thus I would welcome hearing if your mental health problems were related to dealing with a psychopath.

Phil Long M.D.Administrator

MyTherapy Discussion Forums - Leaving a sociopath - tips - add yours

CBoo Starting Member

I'm on a mission. When I left my ex sociopath husband, I was totally unprepared for what lay ahead of me and I made crucial mistakes in dealing with my situation. I'm painfully aware that there are people out there who are currently living with a sociopath and want to leave, but may be unsure of what to expect or of how to go about it. While all situations are different in some ways, leaving a sociopath, because of their very nature, is almost always complicated. Even more complicated when marriage, kids and financial factors are involved. I don't have all the solutions, but I will give all that I have and hope that others who have freed themselves from a sociopath can add their tips too. I speak only from my own experience and from what I have read from others' experiences.

Some of this advice may also be a applicable to men leaving women sociopaths.


Other possible tips:

Everyday is a winding road...

[Apr 22, 2009] Economist's View A Crisis of Ethic Proportions

Patricia Shannon says...

Adult psychopaths commonly have a long history of significant behavior problems in youth and juvenile delinquency (although most delinquents will not become psychopaths). Studies show that a significant portion of children who show psychopathic traits - often referred to among researchers as "callous-unemotional (CU) traits," which include not being concerned about others' feelings and not feeling bad or guilty

Frick says some of the best evidence for helping kids with CU traits comes from an Australian study of boys ages 4 to 8 with conduct problems. Those with CU traits did not respond to the common discipline strategy of time-outs but they did show a response to a parenting strategy in which they were rewarded - praised - for good, "prosocial" behavior. Frick says the study, published in 2005 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, makes sense considering that people with psychopathic tendencies tend to be reward-driven and largely insensitive to punishment.

[Nov 21, 2008] U.S. suicide rate is up

"I would not be surprised if a big factor was the despair that sets in by age 50 plus or minus when you realize your life has been wasted doing meaningless tasks for bosses who are essentially criminals.
The American way of prosperity leaves something out."
Los Angeles Times

After falling for more than a decade, the U.S. suicide rate has climbed steadily since 1999, driven by an alarming increase among middle-age adults, researchers said Monday.

A new six-year analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the U.S. suicide rate rose to 11 per 100,000 people in 2005, from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1999, an increase of just under 5%.

The report found that virtually all of the increase was attributable to a nearly 16% jump in suicides among people ages 40 to 64, a group not commonly seen as high-risk. The rate for that age group rose to 15.6 per 100,000 in 2005, from 13.5 per 100,000 in 1999.

Susan P. Baker, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and an author of the study, said she was baffled by the findings. Sociological studies have found that middle age is generally a time of relative security and emotional well-being, she said.

"We really don't know what is causing this," said Dr. Paula Clayton, research director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who was not involved in the study. "All we have is speculation."

One possibility, she said, is that the increase in suicides might be tied to a concurrent increase in abuse of prescription pain pills, such as OxyContin. Studies have shown that people who abuse drugs are at greater risk for suicide, she noted.

Another possible explanation, she said, was the drop in hormone replacement therapy after it was linked to health risks in 2002. Women who gave up the drugs or decided not to take them might have been more susceptible to depression and potentially suicide, she said.

Dr. Ian Cook, an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said stresses of modern life, particularly worries in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, might have a role.

Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, he said.

"The bottom line is while we can't infer a lot of things about what is causing the trend, I think it cries out for better depression screening and treatment," he said.

Suicide rates declined 18% from 1986 to 1999, helped in part by a focus on prevention among teenagers and the elderly.

In the current study, researchers found little or no change in the suicide rates for three other age groups: 10 to 19, 20 to 29, and over 65.

Suicides for whites ages 40 to 64 rose 17% from 1999 to 2005, researchers said. For middle-age white men, the rate rose 16% to 26.9 per 100,000 in 2005, from 23.1 per 100,000 in 1999. For white women in that age group, the rate rose 19% to 8.2 per 100,000 from 6.9 per 100,000.

The suicide rate among middle-age African Americans rose 7% from 1999 to 2005, but it was not enough to drive up the overall suicide rate among blacks.

For black men ages 40 to 64, the rate rose 5% to 10.4 per 100,000 from 9.9 per 100,000, and for black women in that age group, the rate rose 14% to 2.5 per 100,000 from 2.2 per 100,000.

Baker said she had no idea why the increases among whites were higher.

Gellene is a Times staff writer.

Comments from Angry Bear Late Working-Age Suicides Rising


The authors find an increase in the rate of suicide in a longitudinal analysis of the 40-64 cohort. This would already hold for an inherent acceleration in suicide as people move from an younger cohort to the one being discussed.


coberly: (despair over wasted life)

Isn't that what the stereotypical midlife crisis is mostly about? What you mentioned is just a particular aspect of the general phenomenon. And it usually doesn't start as late as 50. But I can imagine the despair escalates.

As for Greg's point, he has already followed up but what he says is essentially it's a boomer phenomenon -- whatever characteristics boomers have are strongest in the age group where the peak of the boomers is. That's how I read his claim.

Really interesting, thanks for posting this. I'd also look to the increasing use of SSRI antidepressants, which have suicide as a side-effect. I understand some new allergy medicines also have depression and suicide as a side effect-Singulair?

Yep, boomers. They died in their 20s and now in their 50s. There should be cheering all around.

But on a serious note, I wonder what the job loss is among this group. The stats on men/women increases work against this factor but it may play some role. Also, what about divorce. Are a greater number left alone in their 50s after children are grown with children moving elsewhere for jobs? A loneliness factor, perhaps?

Perhaps its just not anything in particular.
Anna Lee

[Nov 21, 2008] Rake (character) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A rake is defined as a man habituated to immoral conduct. Rakes are frequently stock characters in novels. Often a rake is a man who wastes his (usually inherited) fortune on wine, women and song, incurring lavish debts in the process. The rake is also frequently a cad: a man who seduces a young woman and impregnates her before leaving, often to her social or financial ruin. To call the character a rake calls attention to his promiscuity and wild spending of money; to call the character a cad implies a callous seducer who coldly breaks his victim's heart. These men are also known as heels. A bounder is an 'ill-bred, unscrupulous man', the social inferior of the cad.[1][2][3][4] During the English Restoration period (1660–1688), the word was used in a glamorous sense: the Restoration rake is a carefree, witty, sexually irresistible aristocrat typified by Charles II's courtiers, the Earl of Rochester and the Earl of Dorset, who combined riotous living with intellectual pursuits and patronage of the arts. The Restoration rake is celebrated in the Restoration comedy of the 1660s and 1670s.[5] After the reign of Charles II, and especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the cultural perception of the rake took a dive into squalor. The rake became the butt of moralistic tales in which his typical fate was debtor's prison, venereal disease, or, in the case of William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, insanity in Bedlam.[6]

The rake is often portrayed as a heavy drinker or gambler. An earlier form of the word was rake-hell, a form reshaped by folk etymology to mean someone who stokes the fires of Hell, making them hotter. The actual etymology of the word is from the Old Norse reikall, meaning "vagrant" or "wanderer"; this was borrowed into Middle English as rakel (possibly via Dutch rekel, meaning "scoundrel").

Rakes are also very arrogant.[citation needed]

Well known fictional rakes and cads include:

Historical figures who have informed the stock character include:

The stock character of the rake can be contrasted with some others. The town drunk is frequently intoxicated, and impoverished by heavy drinking, but here the focus is on the character's alcoholic state rather than on sexual excess; the town drunk is typically older than the rake.

[Nov 19, 2008] Bullying devastates lives -- until victims find ways to heal By Janet Kornblum

Kathy Shedd had red hair. Meg Rafferty was shy. And Jodee Blanco was just different. Those were their crimes.

The punishments for Blanco, Shedd, Rafferty, and others like them? Being kicked, punched and spit upon. They were yelled at, taunted and shunned. They spent hard time in isolation, crying themselves to sleep at night, sometimes wanting to die.

They weren't in prison. They were in school. And their tormenters were not adults, but other children. And yet, now as adults, the memories of childhood bullying still haunt their daily lives.

"I was relentlessly tormented from fifth grade until the end of high school simply for being different," says Blanco, a former public relations executive from Chicago. Blanco wrote about her experiences in Please Stop Laughing at Us. .. : One Survivor's Extraordinary Quest to Prevent School Bullying, which was published in the spring. "I was ambushed. I would find my belongings floating in the toilet. I was spat at and kicked and worst - ignored."

Blanco, a school consultant who talks to students and teachers about ways to prevent bullying - often cyberbullying - still bears the emotional pain of bullying, including raw flashbacks to childhood torment. But she's getting help and now also wants other adults who have been bullied to seek help as well.

Though cyberbullying has taken center stage among many in the psychological community, "adult survivors of peer abuse," as she calls her demographic, often suffer in silence, she says.

Rafferty, of Eden Prairie, Minn., 52, knew she was different and "that there was something wrong with me," she says. But like many adult survivors, "I tried to hide it."

Not everyone who is bullied has lifelong trauma. But there's no question that "unrelenting, daily hostilities that maybe escalate to threats or actual aggression can be on par with torture and child abuse," or that "repeated and severe bullying can cause psychological trauma," says Daniel Nelson, medical director of the Child Psychiatry Unit at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"There's no question that bullying in certain instances can be absolutely devastating."

The abuse that Kathy Shedd of Lafayette, Ind., endured more than two decades ago still affects her, even at age 42.

Shedd's crime? Being born with red hair - and having a name that unfortunately made rhyming taunts simple.

"Being bullied set me up as a mark," she says. "I don't fight back." It's so bad that she likes to have her husband with her when she goes out in public - although lately things have been improving for her, ever since she began focusing on the issue.

"I've always wanted to know: Why? Why do they bully?"

That's a simple question with many answers. Experts have different theories on why certain children get picked on, but most agree that being different - in even the smallest way - can lead to bullying.

As a teenager, Jenny Morsch, 28, of Hinckley, Ill., became the target of anonymous letters that called her fat and threatened her. She has her suspicions about the teens in town who might have written the letters. But even police couldn't identify the perpetrators, leaving Jenny ostracized, sentenced to sit alone at lunch with kids staring at her. The letters made her frightened, depressed and suicidal."

She did get help in college. But a decade after it happened, it still affects her.

"I feel like everything sucks and I can't do anything right. I feel like I have to be perfect."

Blanco is also still affected today, even though she spends her life counseling other victims. Recently she began therapy to help her put the pain behind her.

And she strongly believes that others who have survived years of abuse also need to find ways of healing.

"I want people who are victims, who are survivors like me, to know that if you're affected by it, you have to take it just as seriously as you would if you were abused in any other way as a child, and you need to incorporate it into whatever therapy you're doing," she says. " You have to acknowledge it."

READERS: Have you ever been bullied? How did you deal with it? Does it affect you now? Or have you ever been the bully? Why and is there anything someone could've done to make you stop? Share your experiences and opinions below, keeping in mind USA TODAY's community guidelines against personal attacks and hate speech:

A Reporter at Large Suffering Souls Reporting & Essays

The New Yorker

... ...

At thirty-eight, Kiehl is one of the world's leading younger investigators in psychopathy, the condition of moral emptiness that affects between fifteen to twenty-five per cent of the North American prison population, and is believed by some psychologists to exist in one per cent of the general adult male population. (Female psychopaths are thought to be much rarer.) Psychopaths don't exhibit the manias, hysterias, and neuroses that are present in other types of mental illness. Their main defect, what psychologists call "severe emotional detachment"-a total lack of empathy and remorse-is concealed, and harder to describe than the symptoms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This absence of easily readable signs has led to debate among mental-health practitioners about what qualifies as psychopathy and how to diagnose it. Psychopathy isn't identified as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association's canon; instead, a more general term, "antisocial personality disorder," known as A.P.D., covers the condition.

There is also little consensus among researchers about what causes psychopathy. Considerable evidence, including several large-scale studies of twins, points toward a genetic component. Yet psychopaths are more likely to come from neglectful families than from loving, nurturing ones. Psychopathy could be dimensional, like high blood pressure, or it might be categorical, like leukemia. Researchers argue over whether tests used to measure it should focus on behavior or attempt to incorporate personality traits-like deceitfulness, glibness, and lack of remorse-as well. The only point on which everyone agrees is that psychopathy is extremely difficult to treat. And for some researchers the word "psychopath" has been tainted by its long and seamy relationship with criminality and popular culture, which began with true-crime pulps and continues today in TV shows like CBS's "Criminal Minds" and in the work of authors like Thomas Harris and Patricia Cornwell. The word is so loaded with baleful connotations that it tends to empurple any surrounding prose.

Kiehl is frustrated by the lack of respect shown to psychopathy by the mental-health establishment. "Think about it," he told me. "Crime is a trillion-dollar-a-year problem. The average psychopath will be convicted of four violent crimes by the age of forty. And yet hardly anyone is funding research into the science. Schizophrenia, which causes much less crime, has a hundred times more research money devoted to it." I asked why, and Kiehl said, "Because schizophrenics are seen as victims, and psychopaths are seen as predators. The former we feel empathy for, the latter we lock up."

In January of 2007, Kiehl arranged to have a portable functional magnetic-resonance-imaging scanner brought into Western-the first fMRI ever installed in a prison. So far, he has recruited hundreds of volunteers from among the inmates. The data from these scans, Kiehl hopes, will confirm his theory, published in Psychiatry Research, in 2006, that psychopathy is caused by a defect in what he calls "the paralimbic system," a network of brain regions, stretching from the orbital frontal cortex to the posterior cingulate cortex, that are involved in processing emotion, inhibition, and attentional control. His dream is to confound the received wisdom by helping to discover a treatment for psychopathy. "If you could target the brain region involved, then maybe you could find a drug that treats that region," he told me. "If you could treat just five per cent of them, that would be a Nobel Prize right there."

The four hundred and six prisoners in the Western New Mexico facility are serving sentences ranging from a year to life without parole. New Mexico uses a classification system that assigns each inmate a number from one to six, with six being reserved for the most violent offenders; Western has inmates of all levels up to five. Although not all psychopaths are violent, Kiehl told me, the majority are fours, fives, and sixes.

Unlike most academic psychopathy researchers, Kiehl has spent many hours in the company of his subjects. When he meets colleagues at conferences, he told me, "they always ask, 'What are they like?' These are guys who have spent twenty years studying psychopaths and never met one." Although the number of psychopaths who are not in prisons is thought to exceed the number who are-if the one-per-cent figure is correct, there are more than a million psychopaths at large in the United States alone-they are much harder to identify in the outside world. Some are "successful psychopaths," holding down good jobs in many types of industries. It is generally only if they commit a crime and enter the criminal-justice system that they become available for research.

In the conference room where Western's warden, Anthony Romero, greeted Kiehl, there was a framed tableau of illegal items confiscated from inmates, including handmade shivs and crude tattooing devices. Romero explained that Kiehl was using the scanner not only to study psychopathy but also to measure the level of craving in the brains of substance abusers as they go through a treatment program, also run by Kiehl, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The volunteer rate among the inmates is more than ninety per cent (although some are too muscle-bound to fit inside the scanning tube). As a "collateral benefit," Kiehl throws in a free clinical examination of their brains. (He has discovered previously undetected tumors in about five per cent of the volunteers.) In addition to the pay they receive for their time (a dollar an hour, Western's standard rate for prison labor), inmates get pictures of their brains that they can post in their cells. "There's a lot of joking among the prisoners about who's got the biggest brain," Romero said.

The scanner was housed in a tractor-trailer parked behind the prison's I.D. center. We followed a correctional officer through an internal courtyard to the rehab wing, which consisted of a large common area surrounded by two-man cells. The prisoners were standing at attention outside their cells, some holding mops and brooms. I entered a vacant cell and saw the occupant's brain, a grainy black-and-white image on a piece of a paper, its edges curling, tacked up over the desk.

Then we walked through the common room and out a door at the other end, passing under a large poster with lines that read, "I am here because there is no refuge, finally, from myself." The officer led us along a corridor of offices in which students from the University of New Mexico, where Kiehl is on the faculty, conduct psychopathy interviews and also counsel participants in the drug-treatment program. Carla Harenski, one of Kiehl's postdocs, was interviewing a beefy guy with a tattoo on his neck. Her office, like those of all the researchers in the lab, is equipped with a button she can press to call for help if an interview gets out of hand.

In order to distinguish psychopaths from non-psychopaths among the Western volunteers, Kiehl and his students use the revised version of the Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL-R, a twenty-item diagnostic instrument created by Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist, based on his long experience in working with psychopaths in prisons. Kiehl was taught to use the checklist by Hare himself, under whom he earned his doctorate, at the University of British Columbia. Researchers interview an inmate for up to three hours, and compare the inmate's statements against what is known of his record and his personal history. The interviewer "scores" the subject on each of the twenty items:

among other tendencies-with zero, one, or two, depending on how pronounced that trait is.

Most researchers agree that anyone who scores thirty or higher on the PCL-R is considered to be a psychopath. Kiehl says, "Someone who scores a thirty-five, a thirty-six, they are just different. You say to yourself, 'Aha, here you are. You are why I do this.' "

Harenski recently interviewed a Western inmate who scored a 38.9. "He had killed his girlfriend because he thought she was cheating on him," she told me. "He was so charming about telling it that I found it hard not to fall into laughing along in surprise, even when he was describing awful things." Harenski, who is thirty, did not experience the involuntary skin-crawling sensation that, according to a survey conducted by the psychologists Reid and M. J. Meloy, one in three mental-health and criminal-justice professionals report feeling on interviewing a psychopath; in their paper on the subject, Meloy and Meloy speculate that this reaction may be an ancient intraspecies predator-response system. "I was just excited," Harenski continued. "I was saying to myself, 'Wow. I found a real one.' "

... ... ...

Psychopaths are as old as Cain, and they are believed to exist in all cultures, although they are more prevalent in individualistic societies in the West. The Yupik Eskimos use the term kunlangeta to describe a man who repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, and takes sexual advantage of women, according to a 1976 study by Jane M. Murphy, an anthropologist then at Harvard University. She asked an Eskimo what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, and he replied, "Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking."

The condition was first described clinically in 1801, by the French surgeon Philippe Pinel. He called it "mania without delirium." In the early nineteenth century, the American surgeon Benjamin Rush wrote about a type of "moral derangement" in which the sufferer was neither delusional nor psychotic but nevertheless engaged in profoundly antisocial behavior, including horrifying acts of violence. Rush noted that the condition appeared early in life. The term "moral insanity" became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, and was widely used in the U.S. and in England to describe incorrigible criminals. The word "psychopath" (literally, "suffering soul") was coined in Germany in the eighteen-eighties. By the nineteen-twenties, "constitutional psychopathic inferiority" had become the catchall phrase psychiatrists used for a general mixture of violent and antisocial characteristics found in irredeemable criminals, who appeared to lack a conscience.

In the late nineteen-thirties, an American psychiatrist named Hervey Cleckley began collecting data on a certain kind of patient he encountered in the course of his work in a psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Georgia. These people were from varied social and family backgrounds. Some were poor, but others were sons of Augusta's most prosperous and respected families. Cleckley set about sharpening the vague construct of constitutional psychopathic inferiority, and distinguishing it from other forms of mental illness. He eventually isolated sixteen traits exhibited by patients he called "primary" psychopaths; these included being charming and intelligent, unreliable, dishonest, irresponsible, self-centered, emotionally shallow, and lacking in empathy and insight.

"Beauty and ugliness, except in a very superficial sense, goodness, evil, love, horror, and humor have no actual meaning, no power to move him," Cleckley wrote of the psychopath in his 1941 book, "The Mask of Sanity," which became the foundation of the modern science. The psychopath talks "entertainingly," Cleckley explained, and is "brilliant and charming," but nonetheless "carries disaster lightly in each hand." Cleckley emphasized his subjects' deceptive, predatory nature, writing that the psychopath is capable of "concealing behind a perfect mimicry of normal emotion, fine intelligence, and social responsibility a grossly disabled and irresponsible personality." This mimicry allows psychopaths to function, and even thrive, in normal society. Indeed, as Cleckley also argued, the individualistic, winner-take-all aspect of American culture nurtures psychopathy.

The psychiatric profession wanted little to do with psychopathy, for several reasons. For one thing, it was thought to be incurable. Not only did the talking cure fail with psychopaths but several studies suggested that talk therapy made the condition worse, by enabling psychopaths to practice the art of manipulation. There were no valid instruments to measure the personality traits that were commonly associated with the condition; researchers could study only the psychopaths' behavior, in most cases through their criminal records. Finally, the emphasis in the word "psychopath" on an internal sickness was at odds with liberal mid-century social thought, which tended to look for external causes of social deviancy; "sociopath," coined in 1930 by the psychologist G. E. Partridge, became the preferred term. In 1958, the American Psychiatric Association used the term "sociopathic personality" to describe the disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In the 1968 edition, the condition was renamed "general antisocial personality disorder."

Cleckley's book fell out of favor, and Cleckley described himself late in life as "a voice crying in the wilderness." When he died, in 1984, he was remembered mostly for his popular study of multiple-personality disorder, written with Corbett Thigpen, "The Three Faces of Eve."

In 1960, Robert Hare took a job as the resident psychologist in a maximum-security prison about twenty miles outside Vancouver. On his first day, a tall, slim, dark-haired inmate came into his office and said, "Hey, Doc, how's it going? Look, I've got a problem. I need your help." Hare later wrote of this encounter, "The air around him seemed to buzz, and the eye contact he made with me was so direct and intense that I wondered if I had ever really looked anybody in the eye before." Hare asked the inmate, whom he called Ray in his account, to tell him about his problem. "In response, he pulled out a knife and waved it in front of my nose, all the while smiling and maintaining that intense eye contact," Hare wrote in his 1993 book, "Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us." Ray said he was planning to use the knife on another inmate, who was making overtures to his " 'protégé,' a prison term for the more passive member of a homosexual pairing." Ray never harmed Hare, but he successfully manipulated him throughout Hare's eight months at the prison, and two and a half years later, after Hare had joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia, Ray, now paroled, tried to register there with a forged transcript.

Hare wasn't familiar with the psychopathy literature when he was working at the prison. Later that year, he moved with his family to London, Ontario, where he pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Western Ontario. (When his brakes failed at the first steep hill on the trip east, he recalled that Ray had worked on his car in the prison garage.) His dissertation was on the effects of punishment on human learning and performance. One day in the library, he came across "The Mask of Sanity." Reading Cleckley's case histories put Hare in mind of Ray, and of other types he had encountered in the maximum-security prison. Were these men psychopaths? Over the next year, Hare read not only Cleckley but also the early literature Cleckley had synthesized. After receiving his doctorate, in 1963, and returning to Vancouver, he set about what would be his life's work: the study of psychopathy, and the creation of the Psychopathy Checklist, the twenty-item diagnostic instrument that Kiehl is using at Western.

Thanks to the checklist, scientists working in different places can be confident that the subjects they are studying are taxonomically similar. The PCL also has a wide variety of forensic applications. It is employed throughout Canada in parole-board hearings and is gaining popularity in the U.S. In the thirty-seven states that allow the death penalty, a high psychopathy score is often used by prosecutors as an "aggravating factor" in the penalty phase of capital cases. Psychopathy scores have also been used in child-custody cases; a high score may result in one parent's loss of custody. Hare's influence on the field of psychopathy is profound. Today, Hare's former students hold important administrative positions throughout the Canadian prison system, and are prominently represented in the next two generations of psychopathy researchers around the world.

One day when Kent Kiehl was eight years old, his father, Jeff, a copy editor at the Tacoma News Tribune, came home talking about a local man named Ted Bundy. "This was a guy who had grown up just down the street," Kiehl told me, "and he had supposedly killed all these women." Bundy, whose family moved to Tacoma when he was a child, is known to have sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty women in the nineteen-seventies. But to outward appearances he was an exceptionally promising young man. He had received glowing letters of recommendation both from a psychology professor at the University of Washington, where he was an undergraduate ("he is exceedingly bright, personable, highly motivated, and conscientious"), and from the Republican governor of Washington, Dan Evans, for whom he worked. His good looks, charm, and verbal skills-qualities that made him such an effective predator-convinced many in the Tacoma community that he was innocent, up until the time he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, in 1979. Bundy was executed in Florida in 1989.

... ... ...

Another hypothesis is that psychopaths lack fear of personal injury and, more important, moral fear-fear of punishment. David Lykken pioneered this theory in the nineteen-fifties, and it has been taken up by James Blair, Christopher Patrick, and others. The updated version of this model posits that psychopathy is a result of a dysfunction of the amygdala, the almond-shaped bundle of gray matter situated in the midbrain, which is another area instrumental in emotional processing.

... ... ...

Today, Kiehl and Hare have a complementary but complicated relationship. Kiehl claims Hare as a mentor, and sees his own work as validating Hare's checklist, by advancing a neurological mechanism for psychopathy. Hare is less gung ho about using fMRI as a diagnostic tool. "Some claim, in a sense, this is the new phrenology," Hare said, referring to the discredited nineteenth-century practice of reading the bumps on people's heads, "only this time the bumps are on the inside." (Hare himself is a "strong proponent" of brain-imaging technology, but he noted that scans in isolation will always be insufficient.) Hare sees himself as a generalist, and Kiehl as "more of a data-driven guy." Hare added that, while Kiehl's brashness sometimes puts people off, "that's why Kent gets things done."

Robert Hare is bearded and slight, and has a detached, feline manner. He is in his early seventies, and his position at the University of British Columbia is emeritus. I met him in May, at a Homewood Suites hotel in Albany, where he was conducting a two-day seminar in psychopathy and the use of the checklist, sponsored by the New York State Office of Mental Health's Bureau of Sex Offender Education and Treatment. A substantial percentage of sex offenders are psychopaths. New York State recently began creating special programs housed in psychiatric facilities for sex offenders who have completed their prison terms but are judged too dangerous to release.

Hare's Psychopathy Checklist now exists in three variations. (There's one for juveniles, the PCL-YV, and one designed for the general population-the "screening" version.) He collects a royalty fee every time the official PCL scoring sheet is used. The complete psychopathy kit, which includes a book-length manual on how to administer the checklist, costs two hundred and sixty-three dollars. It has been translated into more than twenty languages. The Albany seminar was one of roughly half a dozen that Hare conducts each year. He was giving a talk on psychopathy and culpability in Las Vegas the following week; then he was off to Rome, to instruct the carabinieri in the use of the checklist, and in profiling psychopaths. In Albany, his audience was composed mostly of psychologists and other mental-health professionals.

Hare sees himself as continuing the work that Cleckley started-warning society of a devastating and costly mental disorder that it mostly continues to ignore. Hare's forensic experience has taught him that psychopathy is of vital concern to mental-health workers in prisons as well as to people in law enforcement and on parole boards; people who come into daily contact with dangerous and destructive individuals need an instrument that will allow them to identify psychopaths and make risk assessments based on their predictive behavior. (According to several national and international studies, psychopathic criminal offenders are three times more likely to return to prison within a year of their release.) Mary Ellen O'Toole, one of the F.B.I.'s top criminal profilers, whose job is "to investigate the most extreme and violent crimes from all over the world, including serial murders, serial rapes, child abductions, school shootings, workplace violence, domestic homicides, and other crimes of extreme and/or bizarre violence," told me that she uses her psychopathy training, some of which came under Hare, when she is investigating crime scenes. She looks for evidence of, "for example, lack of remorse, thrill seeking, or impulsivity that could be consistent with the traits and characteristics of psychopathy." This information, in turn, can be useful in "the investigation, the interview, even the prosecution of the offender."

Hare wants to disassociate psychopathy from the DSM's catchall diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. "It's like having pneumonia versus having a cold," he said. "They share some common symptoms, but one is much more virulent." Before the fourth edition of the DSM came out, in 1994, Hare published several articles pointing to field research that showed a difference between psychopathy and A.P.D. John Gunderson, the psychiatrist who chaired the personality-disorders work group for the revision, told Hare that, intellectually, he had "won the battle," Hare recalls; even so, in DSM-IV "psychopathy" appears only as a synonym for A.P.D. (Gunderson says this was a function of institutional inertia.) Hare has continued to follow preparations for the next edition, due out in 2012, and recently sent an e-mail to a senior member of the task force inquiring about what revisions, if any, were planned for A.P.D. The reply, Hare said, was noncommittal.

Hare has published two books that translate some of the concepts of psychopathy for a general audience and attempt to teach people how to identify the "successful psychopaths" in their midst. In the introduction to "Without Conscience," he writes, "It is very likely that at some point in your life you will come into painful contact with a psychopath. For your own physical, psychological, and financial well-being it is crucial that you know how to identify the psychopath." Among the professions likely to attract psychopaths, he writes, are law enforcement, the military, politics, and medicine, although he notes that these have norms and are self-policing. The most agreeable vocation for psychopaths, according to Hare, is business. In his second book, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work," written with Paul Babiack, Hare flirts with pop psychology when he points out that many traits that may be desirable in a corporate context, such as ruthlessness, lack of social conscience, and single-minded devotion to success, would be considered psychopathic outside of it.

On the evening of the first day of the seminar, Hare and I went out for dinner at Smokey Bones, a rib joint. As I sped along Wolf Road, a traffic light ahead turned yellow. I momentarily thought about flooring it, and probably would have, if not for my passenger; instead, I slowed down and stopped. But the car on my left went flying by, through what was now a red light.

"Wow, look at that," Hare said. "Now, that man might be a psychopath. That was psychopathic behavior, certainly-to put others in the intersection in danger in order to realize your own goals."

But the problem is that "psychopathic behavior"-egocentricity, for example, or lack of realistic long-term goals-is present in far more than one per cent of the adult male population. This blurriness in the psychopathic profile can make it possible to see psychopaths everywhere or nowhere. In the mid-fifties, Robert Lindner, the author of "Rebel Without a Cause: A Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath," explained juvenile delinquency as an outbreak of mass psychopathy. Norman Mailer inverted this notion in "The White Negro," admiring the hipster as a "philosophical psychopath" for having the courage of nonconformity. In the sixties, sociopathy replaced psychopathy as the dominant construct. Now, in our age of genetic determinism, society is once again seeing psychopaths everywhere, and this will no doubt provoke others to say they are nowhere, and the cycle of overexposure and underfunding will continue.

Hare is urbane and well read, and during dinner he seasoned his clinical descriptions of the psychopath with references to characters from film and literature. Harry Lime, the villain played by Orson Welles in "The Third Man," is one example. "Iago was a classic psychopath," he added. "The way Shakespeare wrote him. In films and plays he is portrayed as evil-seeming, but he isn't written that way." Hare was friendly but wary of me-several times he said, "I have to see your eyeballs before I can tell you that." We talked about the checklist. "Am I happy about the way the checklist can be used?" Hare asked rhetorically. "No, not always. Am I happy it is used to help condemn people to death? No, I am not." Nor does he approve of its use in child-custody cases. However, he believes that, when properly used as a predictor of risk in forensic settings, the social benefits of the checklist far outweigh its drawbacks. Hare rejects the notion that a distinction ought to be made between a violent psychopath, like Ted Bundy, and a nonviolent one who commits financial crimes. Both, he said, are willing to do whatever it takes. He went on, "Can you say Ted Bundy caused more disaster than the guys at Enron? How many destroyed lives and suicides followed as a result of so many people losing their savings?"

... ... ...


Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Main Entry: >
often capitalized
German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy
: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others


A very apt word describing sociopath sadism.

Schadenfreude (IPA: [ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də] Audio (German) (info)) is enjoyment taken from the misfortune of someone else. The word referring to this emotion has been borrowed from German by the English language[1] and is sometimes also used as a loanword by other languages.

Philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno defined schadenfreude as "largely unanticipated delight in the suffering of another which is cognized as trivial and/or appropriate."[2]

Spelling, etymology, and English equivalents

In German, Schadenfreude is capitalized, as are all nouns in the German language. When used as a loanword in English, however, it is not, unless the origin of the word is meant to be emphasized. The corresponding German adjective is schadenfroh.

The word derives from Schaden (damage, harm) and Freude (joy); Schaden derives from the Middle High German schade, from the Old High German scado. Freude comes from the Middle High German vreude, from the Old High German frewida, from frō, (happy). A distinction exists between "secret schadenfreude" (a private feeling) and "open schadenfreude" (Hohn, a German word roughly translated as "scorn") which is outright public derision.

Little-used English words synonymous with schadenfreude have been derived from the Greek word ἐπιχαιρεκακία.[3][4] Nathan Bailey's 18th-century Universal Etymological English Dictionary, for example, contains an entry for epicharikaky that gives its etymology as a compound of epi (upon), chaira (joy), and kakon (evil).[5][6] A popular modern collection of rare words, however, gives its spelling as "epicaricacy." [7]

A more common English expression with a similar meaning is 'Roman holiday', a metaphor taken from the poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome expects to be "butcher'd to make a Roman holiday" while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering. The term suggests debauchery and disorder in addition to sadistic enjoyment.[8]

Another phrase with a meaning similar to Schadenfreude is "morose delectation" ("delectatio morosa" in Latin), meaning "the habit of dwelling with enjoyment on evil thoughts".[9] The medieval church taught morose delectation as a sin.[10][11] French writer Pierre Klossowski (1905-2001) maintained that the appeal of sadism is morose delectation.[12][13]

The Buddhist concept of mudita, "sympathetic joy" or "happiness in another's good fortune," is cited as an example of the opposite of schadenfreude.[14][15] Alternatively envy, unhappiness in another's good fortune, could be considered the counterpart of schadenfreude.

Literary and philosophical discussion of the emotion of schadenfreude


In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the term epikhairekakia (alternatively epikairekakia; ἐπιχαιρεκακία in Greek) as part of a triad of terms, in which epikhairekakia stands as the opposite of phthonos, and nemesis occupies the mean. Nemesis is "a painful response to another's undeserved good fortune," while phthonos is "a painful response to any good fortune," deserved or not. The epikhairekakos person actually takes pleasure in another's ill fortune.[16][17]

Seventeenth Century

During the 17th century, Robert Burton wrote in his work The Anatomy of Melancholy, "Out of these two [the concupiscible and irascible powers] arise those mixed affections and passions of anger, which is a desire of revenge; hatred, which is inveterate anger; zeal, which is offended with him who hurts that he loves; and ἐπιχαιρεκακία, a compound affection of joy and hate, when we rejoice at other men's mischief, and are grieved at their prosperity; pride, self-love, emulation, envy, shame, &c., of which elsewhere."[18]

Scientific studies of schadenfreude

A New York Times article in 2002 cited a number of scientific studies of schadenfreude. Many such studies are based on social comparison theory, the idea that when people around us have bad luck, we look better to ourselves. Other researchers have found that people with low self-esteem are more likely to feel schadenfreude than are people who have high self-esteem.[19]

One recent (2006) experiment suggests that men, but not women, enjoy seeing "bad" people suffer. The study was designed to measure empathy, by watching which brain centers are stimulated when subjects inside an MRI observe someone having a painful experience. Researchers expected that the brain's empathy center would show more stimulation when those seen as "good" got an electric shock than they would if the shock was given to someone the subject had reason to consider bad. This was indeed the result for their female subjects, but for male subjects the brain's pleasure centers also lit up when someone else got a shock that the male thought was well-deserved.[20]

[Jun 18, 2008] Bad guys really do get the most girls by Mason Inman

NICE guys knew it, now two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the "dark triad" persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs.

The traits are:

At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies. People with these personalities risk being shunned by others and shut out of relationships, leaving them without a mate, hungry and vulnerable to predators.

But being just slightly evil could have an upside: a prolific sex life, says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy."

Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they'd had and whether they were seeking brief affairs.

The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships, Jonason reported at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month. But the correlation only held in males.

James Bond epitomises this set of traits, Jonason says. "He's clearly disagreeable, very extroverted and likes trying new things - killing people, new women." Just as Bond seduces woman after woman, people with dark triad traits may be more successful with a quantity-style or shotgun approach to reproduction, even if they don't stick around for parenting. "The strategy seems to have worked. We still have these traits," Jonason says.

This observation seems to hold across cultures. David Schmitt of Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, presented preliminary results at the same meeting from a survey of more than 35,000 people in 57 countries. He found a similar link between the dark triad and reproductive success in men. "It is universal across cultures for high dark triad scorers to be more active in short-term mating," Schmitt says. "They are more likely to try and poach other people's partners for a brief affair."

Barbara Oakley of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, says that the studies "verify something a lot of people have conjectured about".

Christopher von Rueden of the University of California at Santa Barbara says that the studies are important because they confirm that personality variation has direct fitness consequences.

"They still have to explain why it hasn't spread to everyone," says Matthew Keller of the University of Colorado in Boulder. "There must be some cost of the traits." One possibility, both Keller and Jonason suggest, is that the strategy is most successful when dark triad personalities are rare. Otherwise, others would become more wary and guarded.

Related Articles

From issue 2661 of New Scientist magazine, 18 June 2008, page 12

[May 23, 2008] The Resiliency Advantage Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks Al Siebert Books

A practical book the provides valuable tools for confronting life's difficult challenges!!!, December 29, 2006

By Stephen Pletko "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews

Self-rate yourself on a scale from 1 (meaning little agreement) to 5 (meaning strongly agree) on the following ten items:

(1) In a crisis or chaotic situation, I calm myself and focus on taking useful actions.
(2) I'm usually optimistic, seeing difficulties as temporary and believe things will eventually turn out well.
(3) I can tolerate high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity.
(4) I'm good at bouncing back from difficulties and quickly adapt to new developments.
(5) I'm self-confident and have a healthy concept of who I am.
(6) I prefer to work without a written job description since I'm more effective when I'm free to do what I think is best in each situation.
(7) I trust my intuition and "read" people well.
(8) I'm a good listener and have good empathy skills.
(9) I've been made stronger and better by difficult experiences.
(10) I've converted misfortune into good luck and even found benefits in bad experiences.

A low score of (under 25) means your resiliency skills are weak and you would greatly benefit from this amazing, easy-to-read, psychobabble-free book by Dr. Al Siebert, a clinical psychologist and Director of "The Resiliency Center". (`Resiliency' means (i) coping well with ongoing negative change (ii) sustaining good health and energy under constant pressure (iii) bouncing back from setbacks and adversities (iv) changing to a new way of living and working when an old way no longer works (v) and doing all this without acting in harmful ways.)
A middle score of (25 to 45) means your resiliency skills are adequate but probably can be greatly enhanced by using this book.
A high score of (over 45) means you have good resiliency skills and this book will validate many things you are doing right.

This book in a nutshell presents five resiliency "levels" or skills (level four is divided into 4 sub-levels while level 5 is divided into 3 sub-levels) so, in affect, the reader is presented with ten essential resiliency skills that Siebert has distilled from "the emerging new science of resiliency psychology." This book, besides other important things, shows you how to:

(1) Sustain strong, healthy energy in non-stop pressure and change
(2) Bounce back quickly from setbacks
(3) Gain strength from adversities
(4) Convert misfortune into good fortune
(5) Overcome tendencies to feel like a victim, and stay detached from victim reactions of others
(6) Overcome the three main resiliency barriers.

Who is this book written for? Siebert explains: "The resiliency guidelines in this book focus mainly on resiliency in the workplace, but they apply broadly to all aspects of life." (Actually, I think Siebert is being too restrictive in saying that these principles "focus mainly on resiliency in the workplace." Personally, I think these principles are essential to know so as to effectively play the game of life.)

What will this book NOT tell you? It "will not tell you what to do or how to act or think...Resilient people are those who decide that somehow, some way, they will do the very best they can to survive, cope, and make things turn out well." This book helps you develop your own unique way of being resilient by being both self-reliant and socially responsible.

As a physically disabled person, my personal favorite chapter was entitled "Mastering Extreme Resiliency Challenges." Included here are true stories from 9/11 survivors. I feel Siebert outdoes himself in this penultimate chapter.

Finally, this book has some key features. Important definitions, exercises, and other important and essential information are isolated from the main narrative as inserts so as to highlight key ideas. Each chapter is broken up into sections with anecdotes, examples, and true stories instead of having one long narrative. At the end of each chapter are insightful "Resiliency Development Activities" that help you utilize and think about the information from each chapter.

In conclusion, this is truly a helpful and unique book. Discover for yourself why this book was named the winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the "Self Help" category at BookExpo America (the largest book publishing event in the United States) and why it was endorsed by the past president of the American Psychological Association!!

Our Life is Not Determined By What Happens But How We React, October 28, 2005

By Norman Goldman "Editor of" (Montreal)

After reading Dr. Al Siebert's enlightening book, The Resiliency Advantage, I was reminded of the old adage that was often drummed into me by my parents, that our life is not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitudes we bring to life. Thinking positively creates a chain reaction pertaining to our thoughts, events and outcomes-a kind of catalyst that can create extraordinary results.

Siebert begins his book by telling his readers how he came to the conclusion that clinical psychology and psychiatry are not mental health professions but rather mental illness professions. There does not seem to be any focus on what makes individuals mentally healthy, but rather on what causes mental illnesses and how do we go about treating these illnesses.

This prompted Siebert to do extensive research as to why some people survive many of life's ordeals while others seem to continually flounder. As a result of his thirst for knowledge of the subject matter he developed a good understanding of what he calls "the survivor personality."

In 1996 he published his first book on the topic, "The Survivor Personality," and we now have the follow up, The Resiliency Advantage, that reflects the tremendous amount of knowledge Siebert accumulated in his search for the causes and effects of the survivor personality.

According to Siebert there exist several levels of resiliency that he deals with in depth in his book: optimizing your health, emotions and well-being; developing good problem solving skills; strengthening your inner selfs; unleashing your curiosity and enjoy learning from the school of life; power of positive expectations; integrating paradoxical abilities; allowing everything to work well or the synergy talent; the talent for serendipity.
In order to reinforce the learning of these principles, Siebert provides many exercises, as well as brief case histories showing just how they work out in practice.

There is some excellent material in this book, particularly the sections dealing with learning from failures, benefits of curious and playful questioning, the power of positive expectations, hope, optimism, and self-reliance. It is also heartening to learn, as the author points out, that resiliency psychology, a relatively new discipline, is making good progress and is now recognized as quite vital in understanding how it can help people fare better during adversity and recover more quickly from life's ordeals.

Writing about new disciplines is always a challenge, given the negative feedback one often receives from the traditionalists. However, Siebert has risen to the occasion with his breezy style of writing, and he admirably presents an accessible work that could have easily strayed, leaving his readers with a sense of boredom.

Norm Goldman Editor of Bookpleasures

[May 22, 2008] Carolyn Baker - BEWARE OF THE PSYCHOPATH MY SON, By Clinton Callahan

[The following is extracted from two articles: Twilight of the Psychopaths, by Dr. Kevin Barrett and The Trick of the Psychopath's Trade by Silvia Cattori. Both articles are recommended. Both articles reference the book Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes, by Andrzej Lobaczewski. Cattori's article is longer and includes an interview with the book's editors, Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Henry See.]

I make the effort to share this information because it gives me, at last, a plausible answer to a long-unanswered question: Why, no matter how much intelligent goodwill exists in the world, is there so much war, suffering and injustice? It doesn't seem to matter what creative plan, ideology, religion, or philosophy great minds come up with, nothing seems to improve our lot. Since the dawn of civilization, this pattern repeats itself over and over again.

The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination. The inventor of civilization - the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers - was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies - especially military hierarchies.

Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as their power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld - the overlapping criminal syndicates that lurk above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it.

During the past fifty years, psychopaths have gained almost absolute control of all the branches of government. You can notice this if you observe carefully that no matter what illegal thing a modern politician does, no one will really take him to task. All of the so called scandals that have come up, any one of which would have taken down an authentic administration, are just farces played out for the public, to distract them, to make them think that the democracy is still working.

One of the main factors to consider in terms of how a society can be taken over by a group of pathological deviants is that the psychopaths' only limitation is the participation of susceptible individuals within that given society. Lobaczewski gives an average figure for the most active deviants of approximately 6% of a given population. (1% essential psychopaths and up to 5% other psychopathies and characteropathies.) The essential psychopath is at the center of the web. The others form the first tier of the psychopath's control system.

The next tier of such a system is composed of individuals who were born normal, but are either already warped by long-term exposure to psychopathic material via familial or social influences, or who, through psychic weakness have chosen to meet the demands of psychopathy for their own selfish ends. Numerically, according to Lobaczewski, this group is about 12% of a given population under normal conditions.

So approximately 18% of any given population is active in the creation and imposition of a Pathocracy. The 6% group constitutes the Pathocratic nobility and the 12% group forms the new bourgeoisie, whose economic situation is the most advantageous.

When you understand the true nature of psychopathic influence, that it is conscienceless, emotionless, selfish, cold and calculating, and devoid of any moral or ethical standards, you are horrified, but at the same time everything suddenly begins to makes sense. Our society is ever more soulless because the people who lead it and who set the example are soulless - they literally have no conscience.

In his book Political Ponerology, Andrej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests), psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth. Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths. Since psychopaths have no limitations on what they can or will do to get to the top, the ones in charge are generally pathological. It is not power that corrupts, it is that corrupt individuals seek power.

How can we distinguish between psychopaths and healthy people? What is the portrait of a true psychopath?

Such a dangerous question has almost never been successfully asked. The reason is that we mistakenly confuse healthy for normal. Human psychological diversity is the health of our race. There is no normal because healthy humans continuously evolve beyond all normalizing standards. The terrorism of searching through hierarchies for anyone deviating from normal is no different from witch hunts or Inquisitions. You must remember that hierarchies thrive on such low dramas, torturing victims until they confess to evil beliefs. Not so long ago the church and state ongoingly acquired significant income and property through witch hunts and Inquisitions. This continued for over two hundred and fifty years. Ten generations of Europeans understood pogrom as normal life. Let us not return to that nightmare. Testing for normal is guaranteed to backfire in our face. There is no normal. But there is conscience.

We have very little empirical evidence to support the idea that true psychopathy is the result of an abused childhood, and much empirical evidence to support that it is genetic. The neurobiological model offers us the greatest hope of being able to identify even the most devious psychopath. Other recent studies lead to similar results and conclusions: that psychopaths have great difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal affective (emotional) material, that they tend to confuse the emotional significance of events, and most importantly, that these deficits show up in brain scans! A missing internal connection between the feeling heart and the thinking brain is detectable.

Psychopaths are incapable of authentic deep emotions. In fact, when Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who spent his career studying psychopathy, did brain scans on psychopaths while showing them two sets of words, one set of neutral words with no emotional associations and a second set with emotionally charged words, while different areas of the brain lit up in the non-psychopathic control group, in the psychopaths, both sets were processed in the same area of the brain, the area that deals with language. They did not have an emotional reaction until they intellectually concluded that it would be better if they had one, and then they whipped up an emotional response just for show.

The simplest, clearest and truest portrait of the psychopath is given in the titles of three seminal works on the subject: Without Conscience by Robert Hare, The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, and Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. A psychopath is exactly that: conscienceless. The most important thing to remember is that this lack of conscience is hidden from view behind a mask of normality that is often so convincing that even experts are deceived. As a result, psychopaths become the Snakes in Suits that control our world.

Psychopaths lack a sense of remorse or empathy with others. They can be extremely charming and are experts at using talk to charm and hypnotize their prey. They are also irresponsible. Nothing is ever their fault; someone else or the world at large is always to blame for all of their problems or their mistakes. Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, identifies what she calls the pity ploy. Psychopaths use pity to manipulate. They convince you to give them one more chance, and to not tell anyone about what they have done. So another trait - and a very important one - is their ability to control the flow of information.

They also seem to have little real conception of past or future, living entirely for their immediate needs and desires. Because of the barren quality of their inner life, they are often seeking new thrills, anything from feeling the power of manipulating others to engaging in illegal activities simply for the rush of adrenaline.

Another trait of the psychopath is what Lobaczewski calls their special psychological knowledge of normal people. They have studied us. They know us better than we know ourselves. They are experts in knowing how to push our buttons, to use our emotions against us. But beyond that, they even seem to have some sort of hypnotic power over us. When we begin to get caught up in the web of the psychopath, our ability to think deteriorates, gets muddied. They seem to cast some sort of spell over us. It is only later when we are no longer in their presence, out of their spell, that the clarity of thought returns and we find ourselves wondering how it was that we were unable to respond or counter what they were doing.

Psychopaths learn to recognize each other in a crowd as early as childhood, and they develop an awareness of the existence of other individuals similar to themselves. They also become conscious of being of a different world from the majority of other people surrounding them. They view us from a certain distance.

Think about the ramifications of this statement: Psychopaths are, to some extent, self-aware as a group even in childhood! Recognizing their fundamental difference from the rest of humanity, their allegiance would be to others of their kind, that is, to other psychopaths.

Their own twisted sense of honor compels them to cheat and revile non-psychopaths and their values. In contradiction to the ideals of normal people, psychopaths feel breaking promises and agreements is normal behavior.

Not only do they covet possessions and power and feel they have the right to them just because they exist and can take them, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others; what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor. They also learn very early how their personalities can have traumatizing effects on the personalities of non-psychopaths, and how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of achieving their goals.

So now, imagine how human beings who are totally in the dark about the presence of psychopaths can be easily deceived and manipulated by these individuals, gaining power in different countries, pretending to be loyal to the local populations while at the same time playing up obvious and easily discernable physical differences between groups (such as race, skin color, religion, etc). Psychologically normal humans would be set against one another on the basis of unimportant differences (think of Rwanda 1994, think of Israelis and Palestinians) while the deviants in power, with a fundamental difference from the rest of us, a lack of conscience, an inability to feel for another human being, reaped the benefits and pulled the strings.

We are seeing the final desperate power-grab or endgame (Alex Jones) of brutal, cunning gangs of CIA drug-runners and President-killers; money-laundering international bankers and their hit-men - economic and otherwise; corrupt military contractors and gung-ho generals; corporate predators and their political enablers; brainwashers and mind-rapists euphemistically known as psy-ops and PR specialists - in short, the whole crew of certifiable psychopaths running our so-called civilization. And they are running scared.

Why does the Pathocracy fear losing its control? Because it is threatened by the spread of knowledge. The greatest fear of any psychopath is of being found out.

Psychopaths go through life knowing that they are completely different from other people. Deep down they know something is missing in them. They quickly learn to hide their lack of empathy, while carefully studying others' emotions so as to mimic normalcy while cold-bloodedly manipulating the normals.

Today, thanks to new information technologies, we are on the brink of unmasking the psychopaths and building a civilization of, by and for the healthy human being - a civilization without war, a civilization based on truth, a civilization in which the saintly few rather than the diabolical few would gravitate to positions of power. We already have the knowledge necessary to diagnose psychopathic personalities and keep them out of power. We have the knowledge necessary to dismantle the institutions in which psychopaths especially flourish - militaries, intelligence agencies, large corporations, and secret societies. We simply need to disseminate this knowledge, and the will to use it, as widely and as quickly as possible.

Until the knowledge and awareness of pathological human beings is given the attention it deserves and becomes part of the general knowledge of all human beings, there is no way that things can be changed in any way that is effective and long-lasting. If half the people agitating for truth or stopping the war or saving the earth would focus their efforts, time and money on exposing psychopathy, we might get somewhere.

One might ask if the weak point of our society has been our tolerance of psychopathic behavior? Our disbelief that someone could seem like an intelligent leader and still be acting deceptively on their own behalf without conscience? Or is it merely ignorance?

If the general voting public is not aware that there exists a category of people we sometimes perceive as almost human, who look like us, who work with us, who are found in every race, every culture, speaking every language, but who are lacking conscience, how can the general public take care to block them from taking over the hierarchies? General ignorance of psychopathology may prove to be the downfall of civilization. We stand by like grazing sheep as political/corporate elites throw armies of our innocent sons and daughters against fabricated enemies as a way of generating trillions in profits, vying against each other for pathological hegemony.

Nearly everyone who has been part of an organization working for social change has probably seen the same dynamic play out: The good and sincere work of many can be destroyed by the actions of one person. That doesn't bode well for bringing some sort of justice to the planet! In fact, if psychopaths dominate political hierarchies, is it any wonder that peaceful demonstrations have zero impact on the outcome of political decisions? Perhaps it is time to choose something other than massive, distant hierarchies as a way of governing ourselves?

So many efforts to provide essays, research reports, exposés and books to leaders so they might take the new information to heart and change their behavior have come to naught. For example, in the final paragraph of his revised edition of the book, The Party's Over, Richard Heinberg writes:

I still believe that if the people of the world can be helped to understand the situation we are in, the options available, and the consequences of the path we are currently on, then it is at least possible that they can be persuaded to undertake the considerable effort and sacrifice that will be entailed in a peaceful transition to a sustainable, locally based, decentralized, low-energy, resource-conserving social regime. But inspired leadership will be required.

And that is the just-murdered fantasy. There are no inspired leaders anymore. And in hierarchical structures there can't be. Assuming that you can elect men or women to office who will see reason and the light of day, and who will change and learn and grow, make compassionate decisions and take conscientious actions... is a foolish, childish dream. Continuing to dream it simply plays into psychopathic agendas.

Only when the 75% of humanity with a healthy conscience come to understand that we have a natural predator, a group of people who live amongst us, viewing us as powerless victims to be freely fed upon for achieving their inhuman ends, only then will we take the fierce and immediate actions needed to defend what is preciously human. Psychological deviants have to be removed from any position of power over people of conscience, period. People must be made aware that such individuals exist and must learn how to spot them and their manipulations. The hard part is that one must also struggle against those tendencies to mercy and kindness in oneself in order not to become prey.

The real problem is that the knowledge of psychopathy and how psychopaths rule the world has been effectively hidden. People do not have the adequate, nuanced knowledge they need to really make a change from the bottom up. Again and again, throughout history it has been meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If there is any work that is deserving of full time efforts and devotion for the sake of helping humanity in this present dark time, it is the study of psychopathy and the propagation of this information as far and wide and fast as possible.

There are only two things that can bring a psychopath under submission:

  1. A bigger psychopath.
  2. The non-violent, absolute refusal to submit to psychopathic controls no matter the consequences (non-violent noncompliance).

Let us choose path 2! If individuals simply sat down and refused to lift a hand to further one single aim of the psychopathic agenda, if people refused to pay taxes, if soldiers refused to fight, if government workers and corporate drones and prison guards refused to go to work, if doctors refused to treat psychopathic elites and their families, the whole system would grind to a screeching halt.

True change happens in the moment that a person becomes aware of psychopathy in all its chilling details. From this new awareness, the world looks different, and entirely new actions can be taken. Distinguishing between human and psychopathic qualities begins the foundation of responsibility upon which we have a real chance to create sustainable culture.

Clinton Callahan, originator of Possibility Management, author of Radiant Joy Brilliant Love, founder of Callahan Academy, empowers responsible creative leadership through authentic personal development.

[May 18, 2008] naked capitalism Bail Out Housing to Salve Damaged Psyches

"...being fired (47) is far worse than foreclosure (30), and if it leads to a change in financial status (38) and/or change to a different line of work (36) those are separate, additive stress factors. "

Now admittedly, this is not a validated instrument, but a widely used stress scoring test puts loss of spouse as 100 and divorce at 73. Foreclosure is 30, below sex difficulties (39), pregnancy (40), or personal injury (53). Change in residence is 20.

Note that if we as a society were worried about psychological damage, being fired (47) is far worse than foreclosure (30), and if it leads to a change in financial status (38) and/or change to a different line of work (36) those are separate, additive stress factors.

Yet policy-makers have no qualms about advocating more open trade even though it produces industry restructurings that produce unemployment that does more psychological damage than foreclosures. As a society, we'll pursue efficiency that first cost blue collar jobs, and now that we've gotten inured to that, white collar ones as well (although Alan Blinder draws the line there).

[May 14, 2008] The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin

Edition: Hardcover Price: $10.36

The Perfect Book (for the person who needs to be told the obvious), May 22, 2007 By Robert Schmidt (Honolulu, HI USA) - The Dip, by Seth Godin, is a very small book (80 pages) that says, in short:

- Winners quit (regroup. cut their losses, switch gears) whenever necessary on the path to winning.

- Be the best, and the world comes knocking at your door.

- Work through the pain, because the reward is waiting for you further down the road.

If any of these comments/suggestions seem unclear, take at look at The Dip.

If you understand already, you've just saved $12.95.

This is not a "how-to" book. It is meant to be a motivational piece of writing. Work hard... the financial rewards are greatest for the hardest worker. Work through "the dip," or that period where the gains don't seem to be coming as quickly as you'd like. Don't stop running the marathon at mile 25.

Look, the very successful don't read these books. The barely successful can't read these books. So it is written for the somewhat successful, or the person who is looking for "something" else. Here's the shortened version: "Work and study hard. Don't give up. Persevere. However, consider alternatives. Share this book with others."

Don't get me wrong... this is not, in any sense, a bad book, or a book giving bad advice. To me, the advice seems pretty obvious.

Work hard, play hard, and be well.

[Apr 30, 2008] Too Nice for Your Own Good How to Stop Making 9 Self-Sabotaging Mistakes Duke Robinson Books

"Too nice" people serve as a natural feeding ground for sociopaths. See also Groupthink
Niceness Mistakes-For Good!, June 11, 2003 By Ilaxi S. Patel "Editor, & A... (India) - See all my reviews

How oft we create a wave to spell trouble with our own perfections being true and honest with good faith and intentions? We take on too much not saying what we want and that's exactly what the book reveals - the niceness mistakes that 'Damage' us! Unconsciously, we have planted strong messages in the back of our minds and with good intentions by our mentors, follow the moral code of conducts in life. Be good, be nice, be cool, share and care, don't be selfish, be reasonable, don't hurt others, help friends, say yes and so on. In real, trying to reach perfection and taking on too much lead us to exhaustion and sooner or later the ship of our life start sinking. The author gives an insight to the nine unconscious mistakes we often make daily and helps us correct them and pulls a person out of frustration and stress.

In not saying what you want and taking on too much, it leads to suppressed anger. Robinson provides healthy tips to express anger to orchestrate a balanced life. Life itself is like riding a bike up and down roads that are bumpy, curvy, hilly while juggling bananas, balloons and bowling balls says Robinson and so this is when you have a fall, life needs balancing back to pedal and steer with too much/too little, too rational/too emotional, to fast/too slow, too cautious/too reckless, too strong/too weak, etc. and remain upright empowering to get what you need and deserve. Irony is, sometimes our niceness betrays us and this book is a key to understanding our mistakes and bring about a 'change' in us. Robinson makes us a nicer person making one realise the mistakes, why we make and how to give up.

In doing so, Robinson guides in:

1. Liberating from the bondage of other's expectations
2. Saying no and saving work overloads
3. Telling what we want and analyze what we receive is worth or not
4. Express anger that heal and maintain relationships too.
5. Face irrationality and criticism
6. Tell truth to friends when they fail us
7. Care for others but do no burden own trying to run their lives.
8. In pain and grief, feel competent enough

A change is always welcome even for the nice to be nicer and avoid the mistakes that we keep making out of the blue. Our good intentions turn out to be damn-in-way for others who often misunderstand or shrug off not appreciating your worth as human being. This book is indeed a gem collection for every person who has learned to live being 'Nice' and remain being so without being emotionally hung up sometimes. Good Pick!

Former title was better., April 8, 2007

By Geoffrey J. Barnes "CyberBronco" (Miami, FL United States)
The former title of this book was Good Intentions. From the information I gathered in the first few pages it was first published in 1997. I am not sure if that refers to the first publication under the current title or the previous one. I say that because the text feels more dated than just 10 years old.

I bought this book at Borders. The title caught my eye and a scan of the first few lines of each chapter confirmed I would like this book. As someone who is always accused of being too nice a guy and winding up burned more than once by relationships and employers, I thought I was on to something! Unfortunately I feel burned again by being naive enough to buy this book. There are those reading this that will say I should have done my homework first before making a purchase. Well, I'm sorry but I am not one of those jerks who sits in Barnes and Noble all day, taking up space and breaking in the backs of books I never intend to purchase. I wish those chairs would run a few megawatts of electricity through them every 10 minutes to get those creepy people out of the stores. They never buy anything and they smell bad! When my cell phone rings in the store, they have the nerve to "Shush" me. Hey people! This is a retail establishment! Buy something or move back into the library!

To give an example of what I am referring to in this book go to page 201, Mistake #8: Rescuing Others. The first page gives an example of a guy with a nephew who is having trouble staying in school or keeping a job. This is actually the chapter that made me buy the book. After getting a few pages into the chapter you realize they are only referring to people who try to rescue addicts and nothing else. My nephew is not an addict, but he otherwise fits the description in the example. Too bad this book didn't stick to its original title: Good Intentions. It is a better description of what is being preached here.

Mistake #7 is called Giving Advice. It tells you to never give advice, and lists several reasons why you should not. Ironically advice is what this book is based upon. The author is giving all of us poor "Nice" guys advice.

I believe the author had "good intentions" when he wrote this book. I believe the publisher had a great money making idea when he re-released this book under its new title.

What is Mobbing? Workplace Mobbing in Academe (2004).

Budget Cuts Are Not the Only Way Workers Are Forced from Jobs: Workplace Abuse

"The mobbing syndrome is a malicious attempt to force a person out of the workplace through unjustified accusations, humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse, and/or terror. "It is a 'ganging up' by the leader(s) - organization, superior, co-worker, or subordinate - who rallies others into systematic and frequent 'mob-like' behavior.

"Because the organization ignores, condones, or even instigates the behavior, it can be said that the victim, seemingly helpless against the powerful and many, is indeed 'mobbed.' The result is always injury - physical or mental distress or illness and social misery and, most often, expulsion from the workplace."

-Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, by Davenport, Schwartz, and Elliott, 1999.

When a budget crisis hits a large institution, certain workers often seem to be treated as though they are"expendable," and are often the first forced out. But this is not the only manner in which workers are driven out of the workplace. Mobbing has been recognized for many years in Europe, and it is also beginning to be identified as a serious workplace problem in the United States. The authors above go on to say, "Mobbing is an emotional assault. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace."

"These actions escalate into abusive and terrorizing behavior. The victim feels increasingly helpless when the organization does not put a stop to the behavior or may even plan or condone it... Frequently productivity is affected... Resignation, termination, or early retirement, the negotiated voluntary or involuntary expulsion from the workplace, follows. For the victim, death - through illness or suicide - may be the final chapter in the mobbing story." -ibid

Much of the original research on mobbing was done by Swedish researcher Heinz Leymann in the 1980's. His findings have been slow in making it to the United States. However a number of local statutes have been enacted, and publications, conferences, and resources have surfaced recently in the U.S. For example, Peralta Community College District in Oakland recently established a regulation outlawing such behavior.

Often mobbing activities are directed at whistleblowers. Brian Martin, in Whistleblowing and Nonviolencen (Peace and Change, Vol. 24, No. 3, January 1999) describes attacks on whistleblowers this way:

Whistleblowing, in casual usage, means speaking out from within an organization to expose a social problem or, more generally, dissenting from dominant views or practices... The most common experience of whistleblowers is that they are attacked. Instead of their messages being evaluated, the full power of the organization is turned against the whistleblower. This is commonly called the shoot-the-messanger syndrome,... The means of suppression are impressive, nonetheless. They include ostracism by colleagues, petty harassment (including snide remarks, assignment to trivial tasks and invoking of regulations not normally enforced), spreading of rumors, formal reprimands, transfer to positions with no work (or too much work), demotion, referral to psychiatrists, dismissal, and blacklisting.

Whistleblowers often discover that formal channels for complaint or remedy are ineffective or easily blocked. As Martin explains, "Appeal bodies are part of the wider system of power and usually seek or reach accommodation with other powerful groups. Hence such bodies are highly unlikely to support a single individual against elites from a major organization, who usually have links with elites elsewhere."

Whistleblowers have other resources, according to Martin: "One strategy is based on 'mobilization,' namely winning supporters by circulating relevant documents, holding meetings and obtaining media coverage." Howeve, such attempts at mobilization are often met by more severe mobbing and harassment.

Kenneth Westhues, has identified academic institutions as a primary location for mobbing attacks:

"Ordinarily, colleagues in positions of local power explain the situation in terms of failings of the targeted professor: bad teaching, too few publications or the wrong kind, ethical misconduct, shirking of duties, failure to live up to legitimate expectations of the job... Sometimes, however, the target's failings have little to do with why he or she is in trouble. The evidence may point to a sharply contrasting explanation: that colleagues and/or administrators have ganged up on the targeted professor for no good reason, to the point that collectively shunning, shaming, and tormenting the target bolsters the group's solidarity, its esprit de corps." - Workplace Mobbing in Academe (2004)

Westhues also tracks the trajectory of mobbing, and its consequences for victims and perpetrators. Here are more of his comments:

"Mobbing ... is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate."

"Not infrequently, mobbing spelled the end of the target's career, marriage, health, and livelihood. From a study of circumstances surrounding suicides in Sweden, Leymann estimated that about twelve percent of people who take their own lives have recently been mobbed at work.... By Leymann's and others' estimates, between two and five percent of adults are mobbed sometime during their working lives. The other 95 percent, involved in the process only as observers, bystanders, or perpetrators (though occasionally also as rescuers or guardians of the target), mostly deny, gloss over, and forget the mobbing cases in which they took part. That is one reason it has taken so long for the phenomenon to be identified and researched.

"Workplace mobbing is normally carried out politely, without any violence, and with ample written documentation. Yet even without the blood, the bloodlust is essentially the same: contagion and mimicking of unfriendly, hostile acts toward the target; relentless undermining of the target's self-confidence; group solidarity against one whom all agree does not belong; and the euphoria of collective attack.

"The worker most vulnerable to being mobbed is an average or high achiever who is personally invested in a formally secure job, but who nonetheless somehow threatens or puts to shame co-workers and/or managers. "Ironically, it is in workplaces where workers' rights are formally protected that the complex and devious incursions on human dignity that constitute mobbing most commonly occur. Union shops are one example... University faculties are another, on account of the special protections of tenure and academic freedom professors have...Mobbing appears to be more common in the professional service sector, where work is complex, goals ambiguous, best practices debatable, and market discipline far away. Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life. Less time, skill, and energy are required to write off a persistent critic as a "difficult professor" than to rebut the critic's arguments. Chalking up dissent to the dissenter's real or imagined flaws of character relieves overworked administrators of uncertainty and ambiguity. It lets them feel good about themselves.

Westhues (and others) point out that the best way to deal with mobbing is to nip it in the bud. Organizations not able to do this are at least as much at fault as the perpetrators of the attacks. To stop it requires an open atmosphere at the very beginning: "The basic priority for constructive resolution of workplace conflict, namely to keep the conversation going, to let competing positions be expressed and the evidence for them reviewed, to listen to what opponents say, to respond honestly and respectfully, to try not to silence anyone."

Westhues lists three points for a strong academic institution which has vaccinated itself against mobbing:

  1. Protect freedom of speech.
  2. Keep academic organization loose. A tight ship cannot be a university. It has to be full of contradiction and brimming with debate in order to fulfill its public purposes.
  3. Focus attention on these purposes, like educating youth, producing useful knowledge, and above all seeking truth.

These quotes on mobbing were collected and prepared by Karl Schaffer(, x8214), as a public service to the DeAnza College community. In addition to the sources cited above, google "mobbing" or "workplace abuse" for more info.

[Apr 24, 2008] Cool to Be Frugal

If you think that cannot leave job because you cannot take the pay cuts, think again. There might be some compensating factors which you overlooked. A better health is definitely one factor that should be entered into the equation... Also kid might understand your decisions better that you think...
Changes in behavior begin with changes in attitudes. And there's no better place to build a proper attitude than in the youth of America.

Cool to Be Frugal

Professor Depew was once again on top of the changing attitudes story with point number 5 of Monday's Five Things.

We ran across an interesting piece in USA Today this morning playing right into our theme of a growing wave of resentment against consumption and a disassociation from luxury goods and symbols of wealth.

According to the article, "Teens Turn to Thrift as Jobs Vanish and Prices Rise," rising costs of typical teenage indulgences are causing teens to do something they rarely do: be thrifty. As the article notes, "It's even becoming cool to be frugal."

Let's take a closer look at the article.
The stalwart retailers of teen apparel, such as Abercrombie, based in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of New Albany, and American Eagle Outfitters Inc., are reporting sluggish sales, defying the myth that teen spending is recession-proof: It holds up longer, but can eventually fold.

It's even becoming cool to be frugal.

Last week,, the teen offshoot of Elle magazine, launched a new video fixture called Self-Made Girl, which shows teens how to make clothes and accessories. The first video offers tips on how to create a prom clutch.

"It's a little tacky in the economic unrest to tote a big logo bag," said Holly Siegel, the site's senior editor. She said it's no longer about teens "one-upping each other," but rather where they can get it cheap.

Economists say this teen spending slump could be the worst in 17 years, when teen frugality led to the demise of once-hot Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. and ushered in an era of flannel shirts and torn jeans.

Sales at teen retailers open at least a year averaged a 0.5% decline last year, compared to a 3.3% increase in 2006 and a 12.1% gain in 2005, according to a UBS-International Council of Shopping Centers tally. Among the few bright spots is Aeropostale Inc., whose jeans are about 30% cheaper than Abercrombie & Fitch. Candace Corlett, principal at consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, said low-price chains like H&M and Steve & Barry's should do well.

"It is way cooler to get a super deal on that shirt rather than being able to spend the most money on something," said Anna D'Agrosa, director of Consumer Insights at The Zandl Group, a market research company focusing on teens. "Kids are becoming really aware of what is happening to their economy and to their families."

Teen Awareness

"Kids are becoming really aware of what is happening to their economy and to their families."

Every teen is going to have a friend or classmate whose parents lost their home. Walking Away Will Be The Next Mortgage Crisis. And as foreclosures skyrocket and parents lose their homes, these kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.

Secular changes in behavior start with secular changes in attitudes. That secular change in attitudes is now underway and it's not just with teens either. Many baby boomers facing retirement are half scared to death.

Greenspan had the wind of spendthrift consumers at his back. Bernanke has the wind of increasingly frugal consumers blowing briskly in his face. The implications should be obvious. Those who think Deflation In A Fiat Regime cannot happen, need to think again.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

[Mar 11, 2008] Human brain appears 'hard-wired' for hierarchy

Human imaging studies have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health. They found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order – or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors. Circuitry activated by important events responded to a potential change in hierarchical status as much as it did to winning money.Our position in social hierarchies strongly influences motivation as well as physical and mental health," said NIMH Director Thomas R Insel, M.D. "This first glimpse into how the brain processes that information advances our understanding of an important factor that can impact public health."

Caroline Zink, Ph.D., Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues of the NIMH Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, report on their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in the April 24, 2008, issue of the journal Neuron. Meyer-Lindenberg is now director of Germany's Central Institute of Mental Health.

Prior studies have shown that social status strongly predicts health. Animals chronically stressed by their hierarchical position have high rates of cardiovascular and depression/anxiety-like syndromes. A classic study of British civil servants found that the lower one ranked, the higher the odds for developing cardiovascular disease and dying early. Lower social rank likely compromises health through psychological effects, such as by limiting control over one's life and interactions with others. However, in hierarchies that allow for more upward mobility, those at the top who stand to lose their positions can have higher risk for stress-related illness. Yet little is known about how the human brain translates such factors into health risk.

To find out, the NIMH researchers created an artificial social hierarchy in which 72 participants played an interactive computer game for money. They were assigned a status that they were told was based on their playing skill. In fact, the game outcomes were predetermined and the other "players" simulated by computer. While their brain activity was monitored by fMRI, participants intermittently saw pictures and scores of an inferior and a superior "player" they thought were simultaneously playing in other rooms.

Although they knew the perceived players' scores would not affect their own outcomes or reward –and were instructed to ignore them – participants' brain activity and behavior were highly influenced by their position in the implied hierarchy.

"The processing of hierarchical information seems to be hard-wired, occurring even outside of an explicitly competitive environment, underscoring how important it is for us," said Zink.

Key study findings included:

"Such activation of emotional pain circuitry may underlie a heightened risk for stress-related health problems among competitive individuals," suggested Meyer-Lindenberg.

In collaboration with other NIMH researchers, Zink and colleagues are planning follow-up studies to explore brain activity in response to the experimental social hierarchy in patients with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or autism, which are marked by social and thinking deficits. The researchers will also be exploring whether particular gene variants might differentially affect brain responses in similar experiments.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health


Posted by superhuman 20 minutes ago Provide size of the samples and how other possible explanations were ruled out, theres to many idiotic social 'science' to take such articles seriously without being able to at least verify the assumptions and statistics behind them.

For example where is the proof that subjects really interpreted results in terms of social hierarchy? What authors think was associated with social status can simply be an anticipation of difficulty of the game - since player rank is linked to gaming ability if you see a player higher ranked you know he won more games therefore you anticipate tougher game and enjoy victory more, loosing to inferior player is also more frustrating.

[Mar 11, 2008] Politics, and Scandal, as Usual by N. R. Kleinfield

While this case has nothing to do with toxic managers, it demonstrates an interesting mechanism at work in positions of power:
March 11, 2008 | New York Times

It keeps happening. Recklessly, shamelessly, cavalierly - as if this time they're the ones who will somehow manage to get away with it all.

But many of them don't.

Congressmen, senators, governors, presidents, mayors - politicians at all levels keep starring in this familiar and non-partisan soap opera rerun. They engage in clandestine sexual entanglements, commonly cloaked in the tawdry textures of hotel pseudonyms and airport bathrooms and pay-by-the-hour copulation. All too often, their stealthy frolics then poison their political careers.

And now add to the lengthening list Gov. Eliot Spitzer, husband, father of three teenage daughters, who authorities on Monday said had been involved with a ring of prostitutes.

"I think biologists could tell you this has something to do with natural selection - the person who acquires power becomes the alpha male," said Tom Fiedler, who teaches a course in press and politics at Harvard's Kennedy School. He was involved in reporting Gary Hart's notorious fling with Donna Rice in 1987 that terminated the senator's presidential bid.

Politics and sex is an old story, and as Mr. Fiedler and others point out, it simply reinforces the lessons of the aphrodisiac of power taught in Shakespeare. Its prime characters constitute a crowded society.

Governor Spitzer's startling appearance with his wife, Silda, at his side is itself something of a contrapuntal answer to New Jersey's 2004 entry in this dubious catalog of political misbehavior, Gov. James E. McGreevey's relinquishing office after disclosing a gay affair.

By now, many of the more publicized escapades have become embedded in political lore, from President Bill Clinton encounters with Monica Lewinsky to Senator Bob Packwood and his unwanted advances on women to Representative Mark Foley and his lewd e-mails to House pages.

Who can forget the late Wilbur D. Mills, the one-time powerful head of the House Ways and Means Committee, and his dalliances back in 1974 with the stripper Fanne Foxe? She's the one who barreled out of Mr. Mills's car and waded into the Tidal Basin in Washington when the park police stopped them. Enterprisingly, she went and changed her name from the Argentine Firecracker to the Tidal Basin Bombshell, and got a book out of her adventures.

There was, as well, Representative Gary Condit, whose career imploded when it came out that he had been involved with Chandra Levy, an intern who was murdered. And Wayne Hays, the Ohio representative, who quit in 1976 after it was revealed that the job requirements of Elizabeth Ray were less as a secretary than as his mistress. In her famous words: "I can't type. I can't file. I can't even answer the phone."

Sexual missteps among politicians are nothing peculiar to the United States, having firm grounding in England, for instance, and turning up with good regularity throughout the world. But they seem to reach more absurdist proportions in this country, and have almost the quality of a catch-me-if-you-can game at a time when private borders have gotten extremely porous.

"There is a broader anxiety about what is private anymore," said Paul Apostolidis, a political science professor at Whitman College and the co-editor of the book "Public Affairs: Politics in the Age of Sex Scandals." "It's not that politicians are behaving more badly. We're just learning about it more often."

But why does it go on repeatedly when the ramifications can be so dire?

"I don't see why we would expect politics to be more free of the psychological contradictions of other humans beings," Mr. Apostolidis said. "People do self-destructive things that are not rational."

Psychologists mention the sense of entitlement felt by those who attain political standing that blinds them to the consequences of their actions. And they say that ambitious politicians are invigorated by risk and feel impervious.

Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, said that many politicians are what he calls Type T personalities, with T standing for thrill-seeking. "Politics is an uncertain business," he said. "You're at the whim of the electorate. There's no tenure. It's often hard to know what the criteria for success are. It's either all or nothing - you either win or you lose. And so it inspires a risk-taking person to go into that line of work. But on the public side, they're supposed to show stability and responsibility, and so this risky nature may show itself more on the private side."

Despite the intensified scrutiny of politicians in recent times, and the ongoing parade of those who do get caught, Dr. Farley said public officials keep acting recklessly because their nature is hard to restrain. "It's deep," he said. "It's very hard to throttle back."

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, an adjunct professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University's Teachers College, said that "sex and power are extremely connected, because they're basically an expression of this huge energy that these people have."

Not uncommonly, she said, politicians speak out vigorously against the very behavior that they then indulge in, as is the case with Governor Spitzer. "You project wrong onto others that is symptomatic of your own behavior," she said. "It's called a defense mechanism. Basically, it's unconscious."

Moreover, she added, "Even though Spitzer is a lawyer, when you get into a position of power, you think you're above the law."

Some secrets do in fact have long lives. Not until 2004, three decades afterward, did it come out that Neil Goldschmidt, who became governor of Oregon in the 1980s, had sexually abused a 14-year-old babysitter while he was mayor of Portland.

Well, what could Oregon legislators do at that point? They took his official portrait and hung it in a less visible spot in the state capitol.

Not always, of course, are political careers ruined by sexual irregularities. Rep. Barney Frank continued to win re-election in Massachusetts even after it was disclosed in 1989 that he had hired a male prostitute who ran a brothel out of his apartment.

It is sometimes speculated that certain politicians, at least subconsciously, want to be caught and have their careers upended. But do they?

"I've never seen it," said Dr. Farley. "I don't believe it's a factor with these people. It's just in their nature to push things. I don't think they have a death wish. I think they have a life wish. They just love all aspects of life - some of it too much."

[Mar 9, 2008] Bullying more harmful than sexual harassment on the job, say researchers

Workplace bullying, such as belittling comments, persistent criticism of work and withholding resources, appears to inflict more harm on employees than sexual harassment, say researchers who presented their findings at a conference today.

"As sexual harassment becomes less acceptable in society, organizations may be more attuned to helping victims, who may therefore find it easier to cope," said lead author M. Sandy Hershcovis, PhD, of the University of Manitoba. "In contrast, non-violent forms of workplace aggression such as incivility and bullying are not illegal, leaving victims to fend for themselves."

This finding was presented at the Seventh International Conference on Work, Stress and Health, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology.

Hershcovis and co-author Julian Barling, PhD, of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, reviewed 110 studies conducted over 21 years that compared the consequences of employees' experience of sexual harassment and workplace aggression. Specifically, the authors looked at the effect on job, co-worker and supervisor satisfaction, workers' stress, anger and anxiety levels as well as workers' mental and physical health. Job turnover and emotional ties to the job were also compared.

The authors distinguished among different forms of workplace aggression.

Both bullying and sexual harassment can create negative work environments and unhealthy consequences for employees, but the researchers found that workplace aggression has more severe consequences. Employees who experienced bullying, incivility or interpersonal conflict were more likely to quit their jobs, have lower well-being, be less satisfied with their jobs and have less satisfying relations with their bosses than employees who were sexually harassed, the researchers found.

Furthermore, bullied employees reported more job stress, less job commitment and higher levels of anger and anxiety. No differences were found between employees experiencing either type of mistreatment on how satisfied they were with their co-workers or with their work.

"Bullying is often more subtle, and may include behaviors that do not appear obvious to others," said Hershcovis. "For instance, how does an employee report to their boss that they have been excluded from lunch? Or that they are being ignored by a coworker? The insidious nature of these behaviors makes them difficult to deal with and sanction."

From a total of 128 samples that were used, 46 included subjects who experienced sexual harassment, 86 experienced workplace aggression and six experienced both. Sample sizes ranged from 1,491 to 53,470 people. Participants ranged from 18 to 65 years old. The work aggression samples included both men and women. The sexual harassment samples examined primarily women because, Hershcovis said, past research has shown that men interpret and respond differently to the behaviors that women perceive as sexual harassment.

Source: American Psychological Association

[Jan 30, 2008] Angry Bear/OldVet: Scheming Your Way from Rags to Riches

This one is by OldVet...

"Scheming your way from riches to rags"

This seems an opportune time for Angrybears to gird up their loins financially. For those who have not already succumbed to the lures of the "greater fool" theory of housing markets, please be aware that in declining economies the clever may turn to other schemes to part you from your cash. Ponzi operators such as hedge funds, private equity funds, Nigerian con artists with "special opportunites" and other wickedly complex characters will importune you to "invest" for quick returns. Pyramid scheme operators will urge you to "invest in yourself and your future" with the promise of riches and income streams in perpetuity by recruiting friends and neighbors to buy and sell inventories of overpriced crap.

Wikipedia's definition of a Ponzi scheme and a pyramid scheme distinguish them from financial "bubbles" thusly:

- A pyramid scheme is a form of fraud similar in some ways to a Ponzi scheme, relying as it does on a disbelief in financial reality, including the hope of an extremely high rate of return. However, several characteristics distinguish pyramid schemes from Ponzi schemes:
- In a Ponzi scheme, the schemer acts as a "hub" for the victims, interacting with all of them directly. In a pyramid scheme, those who recruit additional participants benefit directly (in fact, failure to recruit typically means no investment return).

- A Ponzi scheme claims to rely on some esoteric investment approach, insider connections, etc., and often attracts well-to-do investors; pyramid schemes explicitly claim that new money will be the source of payout for the initial investments.

- A pyramid scheme is bound to collapse a lot faster, simply because of the demand for exponential increases in participants to sustain it. By contrast, Ponzi schemes can survive simply by getting most participants to "reinvest" their money, with a relatively small number of new participants.

- A bubble. A bubble relies on suspension of belief and an expectation of large profits, but it is not the same as a Ponzi scheme. A bubble involves ever-rising (and unsustainable) prices in an open market (be that shares of a stock, housing prices, the price of tulip bulbs, or anything else). As long as buyers are willing to pay ever-increasing prices, sellers can get out with a profit. And there doesn't need to be a schemer behind a bubble. (In fact, a bubble can arise without any fraud at all - for example, housing prices in a local market that rise sharply but eventually drop sharply because of overbuilding.) Bubbles are often said to be based on "greater fool" theory.

Armed with this knowledge and alert to these potential pitfalls, I would only add that the operators of such schemes have identifiable personality characteristics. From investigator Bill Branscum we learn:

His system makes it possible for him to pay incredible rates of return. The elaborate office, exquisitely tailored suits, involvement with the church, and generosity toward charitable organizations are all classic window dressing. . . Ponzi or Pyramid - either way, the con artists who perpetrate these scams are swindlers with sociopathic personalities who view everyone around them as bit part players in their own personal play. These people are devious beyond comprehension. Uninhibited by anything akin to conscience or remorse, they have no mercy and feel nobody's pain. Charm and charisma can conceal a lot. It is hard to imagine that one of the most likeable people you ever met in your life, totally trusted by those you respect and admire, would destroy everything you worked your entire life to build while looking you in the eye and smiling in your face all the while.

Oh my!! Is there any way to protect yourself from these smooth operators? Yes. Become a psychopath. That's your best shot, according to a study.

Wanted: psychopaths to play the stock market. The US team found that people with certain brain injuries which suppress their emotions could make the best stock market traders. They took a selection of 41 people of normal IQ, 15 of whom had suffered lesions on the areas of the brain that affect emotions, and made them play a simple investment game. Those with brain damage significantly out performed those without, the researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Iowa found.

[Dec 1, 2007] The Psychopath The Mask of Sanity

Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being 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.

Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.

You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.

You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered.

... ... ...

Crazy and frightening - and real, in about 4 percent of the population....

The prevalence rate for anorexic eating disorders is estimated a 3.43 percent, deemed to be nearly epidemic, and yet this figure is a fraction lower than the rate for antisocial personality. The high-profile disorders classed as schizophrenia occur in only about 1 percent of [the population] - a mere quarter of the rate of antisocial personality - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the rate of colon cancer in the United States, considered "alarmingly high," is about 40 per 100,000 - one hundred times lower than the rate of antisocial personality.

The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth.

Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about this disorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopathy - murderers, serial killers, mass murderers - people who have conspicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, will be imprisoned, maybe even put to death by our legal system.

We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger number of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense.

Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of the inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking, when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, or selfish.

Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cake in the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally and methodically set about to hurt another person.

Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers.

The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.

What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of others from one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one who is a contemporary robber baron - or what makes the difference between an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer - is nothing more than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple opportunity.

What distinguishes all of these people from the rest of us is an utterly empty hole in the psyche, where there should be the most evolved of all humanizing functions. [Martha Stout, Ph.D., The Sociopath Next Door] (highly recommended)

[Oct 24, 2007 ] 5 Signs You are About to Lose Your Job

By Flexo on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 in Career and Work | 12 Comments Many of us depend on our employers for our livelihood. Even those not living paycheck-to-paycheck count on being employed to build up savings, invest and insure for the future, and of course pay the bills. Here are some things to look out for. If these apply to you, start hedging your bets and planning for what life will be like without your job.

It's good to be prepared for losing your job even if there are no signs yet. Anything can happen, and anything can happen quickly.

[Jul 10, 2007] MSN Careers - Five Common Workplace Dilemmas - Career Advice Article by Rachel Zupek,

Dilemma: Bosses who sabotage your career
Solution: "Document for yourself what you do," Bond says. "Be politically savvy in not out-shining the boss and showing the boss in a professional manner how your contributions bring value to him/her, as well as to the bottom line by which you all are measured."

Dilemma: Bullying
Solution: More than half of American workers have been the victim of, or heard about, supervisors/employers behaving abusively by making sarcastic jokes/teasing remarks, rudely interrupting, publicly criticizing, giving dirty looks, yelling at subordinates or ignoring them as if they were invisible, according to a 2007 survey by the Employment Law Alliance. Not to mention the 44 percent who said they have worked for a supervisor or employer whom they consider abusive.

"Document and collect evidence of bullying incidents. If workplace violence is an issue, do not delay in reporting concerns to your boss or HR," Bond says. If it's a personality conflict, confront the bully one-on-one in private about what was done and what's not acceptable, Bond adds. Seek legal counsel for strategy support.

[Feb 7, 2007] Born to be bad Genetic research says maybe - Kids & Parenting -

If some children seem like they were born to be bad, new research suggests it may be true.

In a study of adult twins and their children, researchers found that genes, rather than parents' own argumentative behavior, seemed key in the children's odds of serious conduct problems - like bullying, skipping school and shoplifting.

[Feb 7, 2007] Unskilled and Unaware of It How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

One of the most distinguishing feature of toxic managers is "humor impairment".

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

[Jan 26, 2007] Coping With Psychopaths @ Work

Bad Boss Do You Have An Incompetent Manager by Carl Mueller

Here are some things you should consider before taking any action: Although you will ideally reach a positive conclusion without having to change jobs, sometimes this is just not possible.

At the end of the day, no job is worth keeping if you have a bad boss who is making your life hell and if it appears they aren't going to change or leave the company.

Carl Mueller is an Internet entrepreneur and professional recruiter who wants to help you find your dream career.

Visit Carl's website to separate yourself from other job searchers:

Ezine editors/Webmasters: Please feel free to reprint this article in its entirety in your ezine or on your website. Please don't change any of the content and please ensure that you include the above bio that shows my website URL. If you would like me to address any specific career topics in future articles, please let me know.

Article Source:

Here are some things you should consider before taking any action:

Although you will ideally reach a positive conclusion without having to change jobs, sometimes this is just not possible.

At the end of the day, no job is worth keeping if you have a bad boss who is making your life hell and if it appears they aren't going to change or leave the company.

Carl Mueller is an Internet entrepreneur and professional recruiter who wants to help you find your dream career.

Visit Carl's website to separate yourself from other job searchers:

Ezine editors/Webmasters: Please feel free to reprint this article in its entirety in your ezine or on your website. Please don't change any of the content and please ensure that you include the above bio that shows my website URL. If you would like me to address any specific career topics in future articles, please let me know.

WITI - Careers The Wrong Stuff

... In the years since, I've heard countless tales of bosses who rant and rave, give their employees the silent treatment, ignore them, mock them, glare at them, insult and belittle them in front of others, spread false rumors about them, withhold the information they need to do their work -- and take credit for everything they've done. Employees working in these conditions often find their physical health, mental health, and confidence so destroyed that they lack even the confidence to leave and instead find themselves trapped in a world of psychological violence.

In talking to people about their work, it has been so hard to find people without at least one such experience that it's made me wonder how systemic bullying is in our business environment. The lowest estimate says that 12% of workers are bullied; others put it as high as 50%. Women are as likely as men to be toxic bosses -- but women are 80% more likely to be the targets. Men pick on women -- and women pick on women. The abused are neither young nor thin skinned but tend to be in their 40s, with years of experience behind them. And toxic bosses don't work alone -- 77% of them enlist others to help. So widespread is this phenomenon that lawyers seeking some legal remedy have found that in many cases, people see abuse and stress as simply intrinsic to employment."

Is a poor economy to blame? High unemployment combined with an increasing dependence on temporary and contingent labor means that companies have more vulnerable employees to pick on. But while the economic slump may exacerbate bullying, it doesn't explain why it is so deeply embedded in our workplace culture.

... ... ...

A business culture that celebrates aggression, toughness, endurance, and the ability to endure pain, as our does, runs dangerously close to endorsing bully bosses. As long as we perpetuate the myth that business is not emotional, we fail to develop the language we need to deal with the emotion which business will always engender. Moreover, our tradition of keeping our work lives and our private lives severely compartmentalized makes it feasible for people to behave at work in ways they would never dream of behaving at home.

... ... ...

What to do if you are being bullied:

College Journal The Jungle

The toxic boss has long been a cliché of management tomes, career guides and Web sites. Whether they're screamers, door slammers or high-functioning sociopaths, such managers can badly wound careers and trample workers' self-esteem in ways that amount to psychological abuse. They also can infect entire workplaces.

But here's an equally disturbing thought: People sometimes actually prefer bad bosses and can be complicit in making them destructive. So contends a new book, "The Allure of Toxic Leaders," by Jean Lipman-Blumen, an organizational-behavior professor at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. "It's sometimes hard to see through that smokescreen of charisma when you first encounter a boss or leader," she says.

Toxic leaders manipulate deep psychological needs in their subordinates, Ms. Lipman-Blumen finds. Because people need to feel secure or special, she says, they may overlook early signs of unethical or otherwise damaging behavior.

She also believes that people sometimes repeat unhealthy family dynamics with their bosses because they're drawn to a situation that feels familiar. Once trapped by a destructive boss, individuals frequently experience damaged self-esteem and disorientation that make escape difficult. "Certainly, a toxic leader who promises to keep you safe is absolutely addictive," she says.

Ms. Laichter says her boss initially "seemed really smart and intelligent and at the same time hip." The young woman's enthusiasm about landing a new job last year blinded her to her superior's true colors. Nowadays, she steers clear of potentially bad employment situations by bringing a list of questions about how long workers have been there, among other things. She rejects offers if she doesn't like the answers.

Other experts argue that bad bosses are so common that almost everyone will work for one someday.

"Organizations need to understand how prevalent the bad-boss phenomenon is," says Gary Lahey, co-founder of, a Web site devoted to the matter. A recent survey completed by site visitors found that 48% would fire their boss if they could, while 29% said they would have their boss assessed by a workplace psychologist.

If you become snared in the bad-boss trap, begin by assessing the situation. Ask yourself whether you may be contributing to the problem. Can you minimize it by performing your job differently? Observe how others interact with your manager. Some bad bosses have personality disorders that you won't be able to change -- but you need to figure out how much of the problem begins with them.

Some career specialists recommend talking to a boss about the offensive behavior. Be specific and approach him or her with calm and respect. "The employee should avoid presenting their case from an emotional standpoint, because when emotions run high, situations can spiral out of control," says Linda Matias, president of CareerStrides, a coaching company in Smithtown, N.Y.

Be careful about talking to co-workers about your problems with your manager. "Once they know you're in the boss's crosshairs, there's a darn good chance that those people are worried about their own careers and they're not going to protect you," Mr. Lahey says.

The human-resources department isn't always the answer. One recent study found that only 1% of workers surveyed felt the HR department was helpful in resolving their problems with a difficult boss. Even if that finding is an extreme, HR officials must investigate claims of harassment, Ms. Matias notes, so it can be difficult to keep your complaint from eventually reaching your boss.

It's helpful to keep a log of your boss's abusive behavior. Ask a good employment lawyer about your legal options -- whether or not you quit. And be respectfully assertive with your superior, as toxic bosses frequently victimize people who acquiesce easily.

Finally, enlarge your internal network by cultivating relationships with more-senior managers.

"The extent to which you have power," says Mr. Lahey, "is the extent to which a bad boss isn't going to mess with you."

Do you have a toxic boss the Daily Mail

Mr Angry: one of the classic profiles of a toxic boss. Experts have identified a new breed of nightmare bosses - "toxic managers". They have pinpointed the traits that they say make workers life hell and are bad for business.

Typically a toxic manager will shout at staff, have few academic qualifications, be arrogant and poor emotional control.

... ... ...

"Having a toxic manager makes workers unhappy and incompetent," said Professor Adrian Furnham, of University College, London.

He presented his findings to the British Psychological Society's occupational psychology conference in Bristol yesterday.

Prof Furnham, who pooled together previous studies as well as conducting his own research, said the number of toxic managers remains mercifully low - but still causes misery for thousands of workers.

He produced a checklist on how to spot a toxic boss, including characteristics like moodiness, unpredicability, restlessness and selfishness, He told the delegates that the characteristics of bad parents could be translated to managers - with similar effects on other people.

... ... ...


How you can spot if you have a toxic boss. Your boss:

[Jan 17, 2007] What Makes a Bad Boss - Bad

Consensus doesn't exist, but several themes occurred most frequently in the comments the site received from readers. Bad bosses, in order of their frequency in the comments thread, do the following.

These six were the top "bad boss" characteristics cited by readers. The following came up less frequently but were contributed by more than one reader. The bad boss:

Reader comments also made the point that a lot of bad boss behavior is enabled, or at least allowed, by the boss's bad boss.

These comments provide a snapshot about what employees believe makes a bad boss. Listen and learn or listen and commisserate. For the full flavor of the comments - I can't capture them in a summary - please visit the original "comments" thread about bad bosses.

Ready to Leave Your Really Bad Boss?

These resources will assist you to move on - or not.

If your supervisor reminds you of that pointy-haired character in the Dilbert comics, then you may have a problem. (Especially if he has the same haircut.)

signs of a bad boss

  • Doesn't trust employees
  • Doesn't respect employees
  • Doesn't give/take feedback
  • Doesn't involve employees in tough processes
  • Is rude to employees
  • Intimidates employees
  • Doesn't believe in work/family balance
  • Gives too many tasks and impossible-to-meet deadlines

    Find out which category your boss falls under, and learn how to deal with him.

    The Un-manager

    Some managers simply don't have a clue as to what they're doing. This kind of negligent boss may seem like a dream at first, but lack of meat and substance will leave you empty-handed whenever you inquire about a task. A qualified supervisor should be able to perform all office tasks in the occurrence of his subordinates' absence, but this clueless manager can't even change the toner on the network printer.

    He may have been working for years in the company, and suddenly got promoted to a new position because the company couldn't find anyone qualified enough from the outside, or simply because it wants to promote in-house employees. Whatever.

    Is your boss a dictator?

    The Delegator

    This manager might be the most efficient one on paper, but when it comes to social skills, he straight-out fails. He might be very good at delegating tasks and piling up your desk, but come 4:59pm, he's the first one out the door.

    He's very good at passing work along to his subordinates, letting them do the work unsupervised, and accepting the accolades for it. And if the work doesn't make him look good, then he'll just have you do it over. It's that simple for him.

    Snatching glory from his workers is something he's very good at... and enjoys doing. No matter how much you're praised for the job, he'll be one step ahead, claiming his merit for the work.

    The Dictator

    opposites don't attract

    Of course, finding a perfect boss/employee match is quasi-impossible, unless both parties are willing to adapt to the setting. You have to work on each other's flaws and strong points to complement your work methods.

    consequences of a bad boss

    Employee loyalty is important in any work setting, but this is likely to disappear with a bad boss. As a general rule, employees don't necessarily want to be managed, but rather mentored . It's simply a matter of perception, but important nonetheless.

    Staff morale might suffer from the situation in which the employees may experience "sucky supervisor syndrome". Bad management might result in an employee parting with the company, and more importantly, taking intellectual and training investments with him. The collateral effect of this is a decrease in staff morale and productivity.

    But what can you do to improve the situation and make things dandy? Set up regular progress reports. On a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly), sit down with your boss and bring him up-to-date on projects. The effect? Developing the boss/employee relationship, which will ultimately make working together more favorable.

    Focus on the problem, not the boss. Perhaps the boss isn't the problem; maybe you just can't get a good communication flow going. Don't be shy to pull him aside when something doesn't go your way. Talk things over and don't take it personally.

    Work with your boss, not against him. Doing joint work will promote chemistry between you and your manager. Be proactive and let him take some credit for your good work, so long as he's aware of the source of it.

    Go over his head. If you see that you're going nowhere fast, then consider talking to his supervisor. Being productive is far more important than pleasing your boss, at the expense of the company.

    Plan an out-of-office meeting. Do you keep trying to catch your boss for two minutes to pitch him a new idea, but he doesn't have time? Invite him for a quick drink after work to discuss some things. This encounter will serve the dual purpose of showing you take your job to heart and want to better your boss/employee relation.

    Change departments, or quit. If all else fails, ask to be transferred to another department if you work in a big enough firm -- or simply hand in your resignation letter. Only you know your own worth, and if you don't feel respected, motivated and so on, then move on.

    career tip of the week

    Keep in mind that getting a job is not an easy thing to do, and keeping it also requires a great deal of work -- just like any relationship. So if the only culprit at work is your boss, learn to play the cards you're dealt and make the most of what you don't have.

    See you up the corporate ladder.

    Stop Toxic Managers Before They Stop You
    by Gillian Flynn

    You've been there. We've all been there. The manager who bullies, threatens, yells. The manager whose mood swings determine the climate of the office on any given workday. Who forces employees to whisper in sympathy in cubicles and hallways. The backbiting, belittling boss from hell. Call it what you want -- poor interpersonal skills, unfortunate office practices -- but some people, by sheer, shameful force of their personalities, make working for them rotten. We call them toxic managers. Their results may look fine on paper, but the fact is, all is not well if you have one loose in your workforce: It's unhealthy, unproductive and will eventually undo HR's efforts to create a healthy, happy and progressive workplace.

    Why are some managers toxic -- and why should HR care?

    The looming question surrounding toxic managers is: Why are there so many? In these days of enlightened management, with so much emphasis on communication, interaction and valuing people, why does this breed still exist? In large part, it's because our bottom lines allow it. Companies often don't have a means of rating managers outside of productivity. If a supervisor is churning out the widgets, the questions are kept to a minimum.

    "The biggest single reason is because it's tolerated," says Lynne McClure, a Mesa, Arizona-based expert on managing high-risk behaviors and author of Risky Business (Haworth Press, 1996), a book on workplace-violence prevention. She believes if a company has toxic managers, it's because the culture enables it -- knowingly or unknowingly through plain old apathy (see sidebar, "Eight Toxic-Manager Behaviors -- and the Cultures That Nurture Them").

    Certain work situations foster toxic managers. When a company has gone through downsizings, pay freezes or other financial crises, negative management tends to thrive. The emphasis is often on get-tough turnaround, and as such higher-ups often turn a blind eye to crude management as long as the numbers are good. Similarly, employees are less likely to speak up about their rotten bosses -- they don't want to sound like whiners or risk their jobs.

    Of course, some people are just going to be miserable to work for no matter what. Yet they end up as managers because they're good employees whose companies lack another way of rewarding them. "There are some people who simply should not be promoted to management," says Deb Haggerty, head of Orlando, Florida-based Positive Connections, a consulting firm that teaches employees how to deal with personality differences. "Just because someone is a brilliant engineer doesn't mean they'll be a brilliant manager. Yet that's too often how a company demonstrates status."

    So a person is difficult to work for -- is that really an HR concern? Of course it is, and for several reasons. At the very least, there's the morale issue. Bad managers tend to infect their departments with bad attitudes. It's like a disease: They spread despair, anger and depression, which show up in lackluster work, absenteeism and turnover. Workplace guru Tom Bay has written an entire book about how ideas and moods can aid or sabotage the workplace, Change Your Attitude: Creating Success One Thought at a Time (Career Press, 1998). He believes it's toxic managers -- and the cultures that enable them -- that are at the core of today's job-hopping phenomenon. "Turnover is the highest it's ever been," he says. "Employees don't feel appreciated."

    Obviously, turnover, absenteeism and uninspired work cost a company money, even if a department's output remains level. But there are other dangers of toxic management. Intense bullying over a period of time can cause emotional damage to employees. Says Haggerty: "In addition to being problems in themselves, toxic behaviors create a hostile work environment and can easily escalate to real violence, harassment and intimidation -- all of which end up landing a company in court." And you can imagine how sympathetic a jury would be toward a company that allowed its employees to be terrorized in order to keep a tidy bottom line.

    So how does HR address the situation? Help those that can be helped, and excise those who can't -- or won't. But first comes what's often the tricky part: finding them.

    Every company has them: Identify the bad apples

    Toxic managers don't always stand atop your building, wearing a black hat and holding a placard telling you they're the bad guys. HR has to do a little detective work, particularly when employees are often loath to complain about personality differences, no matter how justified. Certainly, there are some warning signs. Check for instance, turnover in every manager's department -- are employees transferring or quitting a particular area? If so, that's cause to ask further questions.

    "Being communicative and being observant is vital," says Bay, also a former HR director. "Don't wait for massive turnover, that's like realizing you've had a heart attack after you've died." At the first increased trickle of turnover or transfers, Bay says, start asking employees what's happening.

    Have discussions both individually for those who need privacy to speak their minds and in groups to appeal to employees who like peer support. Listen for key words or notions; don't expect employees to explicitly say they hate their boss. Do ask follow-up questions. For instance, one common flag is for an employee to say their job is fine, but that they're under a lot of strain or pressure. Ask them why -- it's often an interpersonal problem, and a good way for you to get more information.

    At Wescast Industries Inc. in Brantford, Ontario, Wayne Phibbs, vice president of HR, uses a monthly "report card" meeting for employees, designed to measure their job satisfaction. "Picture a union person frustrated with his boss -- he's not listening, he's not helping," says Phibbs. "Every month there's this opportunity to force your leader to be honest. He can't go in there and buffalo people; it won't work." Phibbs thinks such open talks and constant forums contribute to his workforce's high satisfaction level -- even among the Canadian Auto Workers Union, a group notorious for its scrappy members.

    Of course, not all employees are going to be publicly forthcoming. So keep the lines of communication open in as many venues as possible. "Exit interviews are helpful, but they're too late," says McClure. "I wouldn't stop doing them, but you need to do other things."

    Anonymous hotlines are helpful, and can be set up as cheaply as dedicating one phone line with voice-mail or, more elaborately, through an outside agency that refers issues to HR or an EAP, depending on which is appropriate. "HR has to be careful not to get into counseling issues, and that's hard because we know how fuzzy that line is," admits McClure. HR can also encourage employees to send email. Employees need not use their work account; many Internet sites offer free email with anonymous user names (, for instance).

    Using multisource performance reviews, in which employees can give feedback on their bosses anonymously, is also enormously helpful. At Spring Engineering Corp. in Livonia, Michigan, Tim Tindall, president in charge of HR issues, instituted a 360-degree survey based around "servant leadership," the theory that the best managers are those who serve their employees. In that mode, the questionnaire covered qualities like listening, empathy, awareness and healing. "The culture in this area is somewhat adversarial between labor and management. It's a long tradition and one that's hard to break, so this helped us get at some issues." Tindall included himself in the reviews, which were discussed openly, and used to plot next steps.

    One word of warning about multisource reviews: These don't need to wait for a manager's yearly review, but they do need to be given to all managers in a department. It's key, says Haggerty, not to target one particular supervisor, even if turnover and comments have identified that person as problematic.

    Finally, talk to your supervisors, says Bay. When you ask a manager how things are going in his or her department and you hear a lot of "I" rather than "we" or a lot of blame being dispensed, that can be a flag. So can constant griping about employees in general. Finally, keep your ear to the ground, even if a manager doesn't strike you as toxic. Says Sharon Keys Seal, a Baltimore job coach: "They're not going to treat you the way they treat their workers."

    Put your managers into detox

    So now you know who -- and what -- you're dealing with. What do you do next? First comes the confrontation: Sit down with this person, and tell him or her about the problem. Be as specific as you can. Don't couch it in vague terms, like saying the manager has "interpersonal issues." If the manager is perceived as a bully, say that. If she tends to explode at employees, tell her that. Then explain that it must be stopped and why. Don't come down too hard: This may be the person's first whiff of a problem. However, do be firm, and tell the manager that future performance will be noted.

    Also set a time period for improvement. "Addressing this during a goal-setting session might be good," advises Haggerty. "It really has to be done in a positive fashion, because those kinds of individuals tend to take criticism and harbor it and nurture it."

    After the intervention comes training. In many cases, the manager simply doesn't have the correct tools, particularly if the person's background is field-specific rather than managerial. "You have to give them alternatives for their behavior," says McClure. "Say not only 'You can't do this,' but 'You have to do this.'" If that means they need to go to seminars on employee relations, that's what they need to do. If the person is a poor manager simply because he's in over his head, give him some educational opportunities. Collaborate with the supervisor -- ask her what she thinks the problem is and what might help. There are seminars and classes for everything from anger management to accounting. Also offer EAP counseling -- sometimes a person's main issues are emotional, alcohol or drug related, and a good therapist can help.

    If, after the intervention and follow-up period, the behavior hasn't changed, HR must decide what to do. If the person has skills useful to the company and is a good worker, you may consider transferring him out of a managerial position but keeping him at the company. Some people just don't work well with others, but may blossom when working in a more narrow sphere of interaction.

    If that's not the case -- if you actually need to terminate the manafor personality issues. You need to define those issues as work-related performance problems, says Harold M. Brody, chair of the Los Angeles labor and employment practice of Proskauer Rose LLP. That means you don't just say a person is a bully, but that the person's bullying management techniques thwart productivity in the department. Once it's defined in this manner, you can discharge the person the way you would for any other performance problem. Keep a record of the incidents, document that you've given the employee time for change and make the termination. This is actually one case in which, if it should reach a jury, the employer has an advantage. "You get this rare opportunity, if you have the right record, to show you had the guts to go to a manager who's producing the widgets but driving everyone crazy, and saying, 'You can't do that, and if you do, you're going to lose your job,'" says Brody.

    Prevent future problems

    Once you've addressed your current toxic managers, you have to make sure more don't sprout up. To begin with, make sure job descriptions include treating employees in a dignified and appropriate manner. Include behaviors that won't be tolerated and hold them accountable for turnover. This not only makes the company's stance very clear, it also emphasizes the importance of treating people well. "Behavior has to become part of the job description," says McClure. "That way you can no longer say that manager X is a great manager because they really produce, but they're terrible with how they treat their people. That way, manager X can no longer by definition be called a great manager."

    Once the job description includes behavior, HR can effectively reward or discipline managers through performance reviews. "Tell them they're going to be evaluated, compensated and possibly disciplined based on their ability to effectively meet HR objectives -- relating to employees and managing them in positive ways," says Brody. Although Phibbs of Wescast says he uses performance ratings more as a discussion tool than as a punitive pay measurement, if a manager gets poor reviews and doesn't improve, he'd take the next step. "If someone kept messing up, we wouldn't give them an increase." Adds McClure: "Make it a pocketbook issue; that gets their attention."

    Finally, make sure management isn't the only way to advance in your company. Build in pay increases or title changes to reward good work without forcing people to assume positions they're not suited for and won't enjoy.

    You've been there. We've all been there. But if you're in HR, you have the power to help toxic managers, their employees -- and ultimately, your company.

    Reprinted from Workforce Online (, August 1999.

  • [May 12, 2005] Remediating Toxic Managers II: Better Solutions By Jeff Angus

    In a previous column, I discussed how to identify toxic managers using tools from Jean Lipman-Blumen's insightful book, "The Allure of Toxic Leaders."

    If you still can't recognize a Toxie, I strongly recommend seeing the film "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," a documentary about a company that, while it wasn't even close to the most toxic work environment of the last decade, has gotten the widest publicity.

    Having recognized a Toxie-typically a manager who manipulates others to their detriment for his own aggrandizement-what should you do about it?

    Lipman-Blumen lays out a set of choices including some perfectly reasonable ones I understand but don't recommend. In the face of toxic leadership that has some control over your work or personal life, you have to take action-doing nothing is, in itself, a choice, and the worst possible one.

    Here are her five options:

    Things you can do alone

    You can counsel the leader-mentor him or her. Lipman-Blumen includes an example from her experience where a not-for-profit organization with highly dedicated staff had an executive director who appeared great during the interview process but turned out to have poor people skills and a habit of disparaging the past good works of the agency.

    One of the key contributors finally made it her mission to save the agency and the leader's tenure by meeting with the executive director to bring up the issues. Through persistent contact and buffering between the executive director and the staff, she was able to make the arrangement functional.

    The author has met and researched more Toxies than I have, but I've never met one who could be reformed. If you're going to try this method, be extra careful; don't even consider it unless the Toxie is a truly irreplaceable talent (think Barry Bonds, not someone who is a legend in his own mind).

    Another approach, to quietly subvert the Toxie, is an innately toxic move itself, although intended for a greater good. As the author asks: "When, if ever, is toxicity deserving of counter-toxicity?" She does not provide a satisfying answer.

    The structural problem inherent in undermining a Toxie relates to Angus' Eighth Law: All human organizations tend to be self-amplifying. While unhealthy organizations already tend to reward toxic behaviors and promote Toxies, the benefit of trying to leverage that to make the organization "better" is short-term at best. Peers see that toxicity works and the message gets reinforced. Best to leave this approach alone unless you are quite disempowered and have no alternatives.

    You can leave-get out of dodge, do what people in teen horror movies foolishly never try to do until it's too late. This is a real option and, I suggest, a decent one, even if you have to take a pay cut to get out. Organizations that tolerate or reward toxic behaviors are heading for an inevitable fall. The way they fall is variable but usually don't involve golden parachutes for many; they usually implode very quickly, with a lot of bloodshed, à la Enron. Sudden implosions leave little wiggle room for the individual who chooses to leave only when forced to and not before.

    And as I stated in my previous column, if you do decent work, no unhealthy organization deserves you and any organization willing to let the toxics win isn't one you need to be in.

    Lipman-Blumen argues well and has persuaded me that Toxies just get stronger with every unsuccessful attempt to correct them or push them aside, adding defensive techniques to their repertoires. Plus, they already excel at isolating out an individual for torment or targeting.

    She suggests joining with others to confront the leader. Just as a baseball team in a slump won't fire all the players, the bigger your coalition, the harder it is to erase at one stroke. The Toxie's counter-approach is to try to fracture the coalition by firing some individuals or buying off a few. A confrontation, too, leaves the leader-reformed behavior or not-in place. That, in my opinion, is a poor idea.

    When you have no alternative, this is a workable approach as long as you invest heavily in building and maintaining the coalition - it needs to be nurtured every hour because the Toxie is going to try to smash it and its members.

    Lipman-Blumen's final approach is the one I generally favor: Join with others to overthrow the leader by meeting with him or her overtly. Again, the author believes that this only happens with a coalition with multiple constituencies (perhaps outsiders like customers or board members). And, I re-assert, you need to invest heavily in building and maintaining the coalition to survive the counter-assault.

    Let me add an important lagniappe to the author's advice: Don't hire Toxies, and if you have them, don't promote them.

    Most organizations are not healthy enough to have natural immunity to Toxies. I urge you to stop them in the two spots where it's easiest and least expensive in resources and casualties.

    Don't hire them in the first place. Create whatever mechanisms you need to prevent them from getting in the door. One of my client companies was a very clever West Coast distributor of components. They were smart about people, but they liked to hire the "best" salespeople-those who were the best closers.

    They knew they were taking some risk by hiring people who cared more about winning now than long-term relationships, but they had sophisticated technology to track accounts and felt they could control the reaction. They were wrong. One saleswoman stole some accounts and set up her own business (which failed), and a regional sales manager figured out how to spoof the tracking system to reward himself and select reps he had hired who kicked back some pelf to him.

    I'll say it again: Unless you have no choice, don't hire someone you believe doesn't understand a shared fate-that in the long-term not only does he need to win, but the organization does too, equally.

    Repair the flawed process that allows Toxies to advance

    Don't promote them. You probably already have Toxies in the ranks of employees or even managers. Unless you are at death's door and have no other alternatives, do not promote them. If you can't move them out, you will have to invest resources constantly in keeping them from advancing to a wider span of control. Don't forget, they are very seductive as well as ruthless-the Ted Bundys of organizational development.

    Whatever you do, though, don't wait for everything to turn ugly before you act.

    Stop Toxic Managers Before They Stop You by Gillian Flynn

    You've been there. We've all been there. The manager who bullies, threatens, yells. The manager whose mood swings determine the climate of the office on any given workday. Who forces employees to whisper in sympathy in cubicles and hallways. The backbiting, belittling boss from hell. Call it what you want -- poor interpersonal skills, unfortunate office practices -- but some people, by sheer, shameful force of their personalities, make working for them rotten. We call them toxic managers. Their results may look fine on paper, but the fact is, all is not well if you have one loose in your workforce: It's unhealthy, unproductive and will eventually undo HR's efforts to create a healthy, happy and progressive workplace.

    Why are some managers toxic -- and why should HR care?

    The looming question surrounding toxic managers is: Why are there so many? In these days of enlightened management, with so much emphasis on communication, interaction and valuing people, why does this breed still exist? In large part, it's because our bottom lines allow it. Companies often don't have a means of rating managers outside of productivity. If a supervisor is churning out the widgets, the questions are kept to a minimum.

    "The biggest single reason is because it's tolerated," says Lynne McClure, a Mesa, Arizona-based expert on managing high-risk behaviors and author of Risky Business (Haworth Press, 1996), a book on workplace-violence prevention. She believes if a company has toxic managers, it's because the culture enables it -- knowingly or unknowingly through plain old apathy (see sidebar, "Eight Toxic-Manager Behaviors -- and the Cultures That Nurture Them").

    Certain work situations foster toxic managers. When a company has gone through downsizings, pay freezes or other financial crises, negative management tends to thrive. The emphasis is often on get-tough turnaround, and as such higher-ups often turn a blind eye to crude management as long as the numbers are good. Similarly, employees are less likely to speak up about their rotten bosses -- they don't want to sound like whiners or risk their jobs.

    Of course, some people are just going to be miserable to work for no matter what. Yet they end up as managers because they're good employees whose companies lack another way of rewarding them. "There are some people who simply should not be promoted to management," says Deb Haggerty, head of Orlando, Florida-based Positive Connections, a consulting firm that teaches employees how to deal with personality differences. "Just because someone is a brilliant engineer doesn't mean they'll be a brilliant manager. Yet that's too often how a company demonstrates status."

    So a person is difficult to work for -- is that really an HR concern? Of course it is, and for several reasons. At the very least, there's the morale issue. Bad managers tend to infect their departments with bad attitudes. It's like a disease: They spread despair, anger and depression, which show up in lackluster work, absenteeism and turnover. Workplace guru Tom Bay has written an entire book about how ideas and moods can aid or sabotage the workplace, Change Your Attitude: Creating Success One Thought at a Time (Career Press, 1998). He believes it's toxic managers -- and the cultures that enable them -- that are at the core of today's job-hopping phenomenon. "Turnover is the highest it's ever been," he says. "Employees don't feel appreciated."

    Obviously, turnover, absenteeism and uninspired work cost a company money, even if a department's output remains level. But there are other dangers of toxic management. Intense bullying over a period of time can cause emotional damage to employees. Says Haggerty: "In addition to being problems in themselves, toxic behaviors create a hostile work environment and can easily escalate to real violence, harassment and intimidation -- all of which end up landing a company in court." And you can imagine how sympathetic a jury would be toward a company that allowed its employees to be terrorized in order to keep a tidy bottom line.

    So how does HR address the situation? Help those that can be helped, and excise those who can't -- or won't. But first comes what's often the tricky part: finding them.

    Every company has them: Identify the bad apples

    Toxic managers don't always stand atop your building, wearing a black hat and holding a placard telling you they're the bad guys. HR has to do a little detective work, particularly when employees are often loath to complain about personality differences, no matter how justified. Certainly, there are some warning signs. Check for instance, turnover in every manager's department -- are employees transferring or quitting a particular area? If so, that's cause to ask further questions.

    "Being communicative and being observant is vital," says Bay, also a former HR director. "Don't wait for massive turnover, that's like realizing you've had a heart attack after you've died." At the first increased trickle of turnover or transfers, Bay says, start asking employees what's happening.

    Have discussions both individually for those who need privacy to speak their minds and in groups to appeal to employees who like peer support. Listen for key words or notions; don't expect employees to explicitly say they hate their boss. Do ask follow-up questions. For instance, one common flag is for an employee to say their job is fine, but that they're under a lot of strain or pressure. Ask them why -- it's often an interpersonal problem, and a good way for you to get more information.

    At Wescast Industries Inc. in Brantford, Ontario, Wayne Phibbs, vice president of HR, uses a monthly "report card" meeting for employees, designed to measure their job satisfaction. "Picture a union person frustrated with his boss -- he's not listening, he's not helping," says Phibbs. "Every month there's this opportunity to force your leader to be honest. He can't go in there and buffalo people; it won't work." Phibbs thinks such open talks and constant forums contribute to his workforce's high satisfaction level -- even among the Canadian Auto Workers Union, a group notorious for its scrappy members.

    Of course, not all employees are going to be publicly forthcoming. So keep the lines of communication open in as many venues as possible. "Exit interviews are helpful, but they're too late," says McClure. "I wouldn't stop doing them, but you need to do other things."

    Anonymous hotlines are helpful, and can be set up as cheaply as dedicating one phone line with voice-mail or, more elaborately, through an outside agency that refers issues to HR or an EAP, depending on which is appropriate. "HR has to be careful not to get into counseling issues, and that's hard because we know how fuzzy that line is," admits McClure. HR can also encourage employees to send email. Employees need not use their work account; many Internet sites offer free email with anonymous user names (, for instance).

    Using multisource performance reviews, in which employees can give feedback on their bosses anonymously, is also enormously helpful. At Spring Engineering Corp. in Livonia, Michigan, Tim Tindall, president in charge of HR issues, instituted a 360-degree survey based around "servant leadership," the theory that the best managers are those who serve their employees. In that mode, the questionnaire covered qualities like listening, empathy, awareness and healing. "The culture in this area is somewhat adversarial between labor and management. It's a long tradition and one that's hard to break, so this helped us get at some issues." Tindall included himself in the reviews, which were discussed openly, and used to plot next steps.

    One word of warning about multisource reviews: These don't need to wait for a manager's yearly review, but they do need to be given to all managers in a department. It's key, says Haggerty, not to target one particular supervisor, even if turnover and comments have identified that person as problematic.

    Finally, talk to your supervisors, says Bay. When you ask a manager how things are going in his or her department and you hear a lot of "I" rather than "we" or a lot of blame being dissolating out an individual for torment or targeting.

    She suggests joining with others to confront the leader. Just as a baseball team in a slump won't fire all the players, the bigger your coalition, the harder it is to erase at one stroke. The Toxie's counter-approach is to try to fracture the coalition by firing some individuals or buying off a few. A confrontation, too, leaves the leader-reformed behavior or not-in place. That, in my opinion, is a poor idea.

    Let me add an important lagniappe to the author's advice: Don't hire Toxies, and if you have them, don't promote them.

    Most organizations are not healthy enough to have natural immunity to Toxies. I urge you to stop them in the two spots where it's easiest and least expensive in resources and casualties.

    Don't hire them in the first place. Create whatever mechanisms you need to prevent them from getting in the door. One of my client companies was a very clever West Coast distributor of components. They were smart about people, but they liked to hire the "best" salespeople-those who were the best closers.

    They knew they were taking some risk by hiring people who cared more about winning now than long-term relationships, but they had sophisticated technology to track accounts and felt they could control the reaction. They were wrong. One saleswoman stole some accounts and set up her own business (which failed), and a regional sales manager figured out how to spoof the tracking system to reward himself and select reps he had hired who kicked back some pelf to him.

    I'll say it again: Unless you have no choice, don't hire someone you believe doesn't understand a shared fate-that in the long-term not only does he need to win, but the organization does too, equally.

    Repair the flawed process that allows Toxies to advance

    Don't promote them. You probably already have Toxies in the ranks of employees or even managers. Unless you are at death's door and have no other alternatives, do not promote them. If you can't move them out, you will have to invest resources constantly in keeping them from advancing to a wider span of control. Don't forget, they are very seductive as well as ruthless-the Ted Bundys of organizational development.

    Whatever you do, though, don't wait for everything to turn ugly before you act.

    Toxic Organizations - Welcome To The Fire Of An Unhealthy Workplace

    Toxic Organizations

    We can think of organizations as falling on a continuum. One end is anchored by organizations that function well. In the middle quivalent to what one finds in dysfunctional families. As a result, toxic organizations can cause long term damage to employees and managers. In some cases this damage can last for years after people leave the toxic organization.

    What Does A Toxic Organization Look Like?

    Toxic organizations feel and function differently than healthier ones. On a gut level, employees and managers may consistently feel that they are:

    In terms of function and results, toxic organizations also look different. They may have some or all of the following characteristics: In short, a toxic organization creates a high degree of distress, and eliminates any possibility that the organization can accomplish much.

    Conditions For Toxicity

    Toxic organizations develop when certain conditions occur. First, the toxic organization is most often a relatively small work unit where there is considerable face-to-face interaction amount the work unit members. This is because it is the inter- personal relationships that are at the core of the sick organization. If there is a low level of interaction, it is unlikely that a toxic organization will emerge.

    In addition, the toxic organization requires most of the following:

    Finally, the most important contributor to the toxic organization is the manager or director of the organization. Toxic organizations cannot develop when there is a strong, mentally healthy leader.

    The "Toxic Leader"

    For every toxic organization, there is a toxic leader, a leader who, by virtue of his or her own problems, creates an environment that drives people crazy. Toxic leaders are much like poor parents, in that they exhibit certain behavior patterns that confuse and paralyze others who depend on them.

    Emotionally, toxic managers tend to be very cold and distant, or overly reactive and emotional. In both cases they behave this way because they lack the emotional maturity to deal with others in a constructive, supportive way. Often you will find that a toxic manager may swing from one emotional extreme to another, in unpredictable ways.

    The toxic manager is also inconsistent. He or she says one thing and behaves differently. Behavior and words don't match. Decisions and direction can change suddenly and without apparent rationale. At the core of the toxic manager is the sending of mixed messages so that employees never know what is expected, or what will be punished.

    The toxic manager is, usually an avoider. He or she avoids situations that may be emotionally charged, such as conflict, or discipline, and reacts poorly to being challenged. Or, the toxic manager avoids decision making until crises develop.

    In short, the toxic manager confuses subordinates, uses very subtle ways of punishment for real or imagined transgressions, creates a high degree of dependence, and is internally conflicted.

    The Underlying Problem

    Having made some comments about the role of the leader in a toxic organization, we also need to understand that the leader is also helpless. Captive to his or her own emotional problems, there is an inability to recognize the problem, or in fact, to understand what is happening. Most often, the toxic manager does not realize how bad things are, and is also confused and extremely distressed. In a sense the toxic manager is also a victim.

    This unawareness is the major block towards turning a toxic organization around. In fact, a toxic leader may read this article and see no relevance to his or her situation. Because of this, in extreme situations, there is no hope of turning a toxic organization around while the toxic leader remains. However, it is still possible, in less extreme cases, for toxic leaders to break the toxic cycle provided they are willing to look at their own health and behavior very carefully.


    We have discussed the toxic organization, and the role of the toxic leader. If you are a manager we suggest that if you find that there are some indications that your organization may be becoming toxic, we urge you to look at yourself in an honest way. Remember that toxic organizations destroy people, and that if you are developing a tendency towards toxic leadership, that you will pay a huge price in terms of personal health, and your career.

    [May 3, 2005 ] Recognizing Toxic Management and Crushing It By Jeff Angus

    May 3, 2005

    Opinion: It takes a lot of decent managers to create a good organization. But it only takes one talented, toxic manager to ruin an organization.

    With the job market a little healthier in most regions than it has been in four years, it's time to gird your loins and participate in a dangerous but useful workplace sport: purging the toxic waste among you.

    While only a small minority of all the managers in large American organizations, the presence of Toxies (toxic people) in leadership positions is far more common than it should be, and dealing with the situation can be a bloodbath.

    The word toxic has taken on a lot of meanings, and more widespread use of it has made its definition fuzzy-a dangerous precursor to not being able to quickly identify and deal with it.

    There are a lot of tools management consultants use to recognize it, but I have a new favorite, which is in a book that came out last year that was reviewed by Paul Brown.

    Most people know that a toxic manager is one who manipulates others for his own aggrandizement.

    What most seem not to know, though, is that the behaviors and actions of the toxic manager actually degrade the quality of work, morale and even the stability of an organization.

    It's not just unpleasant, it undermines workplace productivity and inevitably the bottom line, too.

    Jean Lipman-Blumen's "The Allure of Toxic Leaders" - except for the usual business-book publisher-enforced padding and C-level name dropping-is remarkably insightful on the species.

    Much of what gives the volume value is that it's as much about recognizing the motivations of the people who follow or tolerate toxic behaviors as it is about the toxic wasters themselves.

    Original Insights

    That's a useful balance, because to actually do anything about a toxic manager, people have to recognize why they allow themselves to be paralyzed or even hornswoggled by charming incompetents who gut an organization's prospects for their own gratification. That's the first step; they still have to follow up with forceful action.

    Forceful action against toxic people, especially those in leadership positions, is almost as risky to the actor as not doing anything, which is why I mentioned the job market.

    While healthy organizations have ways of dealing with and controlling toxic people, unhealthy organizations (the vast majority) don't.

    Absent those controls, toxic people are more likely to ascend into leadership positions or be allowed to build political bulwarks to protect themselves from those who would protect the organization.

    That makes it somewhat more likely the Toxies will triumph and those who would put them in their place will need to find alternative employment.

    That doesn't mean, of course, one shouldn't plan and execute the operation.

    To the contrary, if you do decent work, no unhealthy organization deserves you and any organization willing to let the toxics win isn't one you need to be in.

    In a "getting-by" job market, you have alternatives that are better than either refusing to take on the Toxies while suffering their consequences for them or putting up resistance and losing.

    A getting-by job market makes the benefit/cost ratio much higher for acting than it does for cowering. A decent one makes it a slam-dunk.

    Recognizing the Toxic Ones

    Because the vernacular has absorbed the adjective "toxic" and smudged up the definition, just recognizing who is and who isn't toxic has become difficult for most people.

    One of the valuable tools in the Lipman-Blumen book is a clear list of the destructive behaviors of toxic leaders and wannabes. Here are my top 10, culled from her longer list:

    Degrading: They ignore incompetence or promote incompetent people, undermining those who provide their paycheck, in order to buffer their own position.

    Replicating toxicity: They build dynastic cadres of equally toxic adherents, promote them within the Toxie's own department or help them get promoted in other departments.

    Immobilizing: They immobilize the careers of anyone who might help the organization because they view others' success as potentially competitive.

    Illusion-casting: They consciously feed their followers' illusions that enhance the toxic leader's own power and impair the autonomy of their staff.

    Wasting: They erode the quality of life and career prospects of others, by intimidating, seducing, demeaning, disenfranchising and especially undermining their work product or careers.

    Violating: They violate the basic human rights of people who allow them to do it, even if those people are their own followers.

    Stifling: They build a set of reinforcements that make questioning or even suggesting improvements in the toxic leader's ideas a career-threatening move.

    Subverting accountability: They use the rules to constrain others' operational flexibility and work when it's convenient to reinforce their will but subvert the process whenever it's not.

    Scapegoating: They invent scapegoats, torment them and seduce others into following their lead. Since they need scapegoats, they rarely act to fix a problem before it becomes one. To make this more effective, they are also constantly showing favoritism and shower certain people with temporary praise to give staff the illusion that there are safe spots close to the Toxie.

    Booby-trapping: They design defensive arrangements structured so the costs of moving them aside will trigger the downfall of the organization. (Remember the Dynegy guy who told employees if they didn't lie for him, he'd make sure they went down first?)

    What's interesting to me about Lipman-Blumen's list is if you ask these questions to judge whether someone is toxic or not, it's been my experience in consulting and on staff that there are almost no grey cases.

    You'll honestly find individuals either fit zero to two of these destructive behaviors, or virtually all of them. I've never worked with or for someone who displayed half or two-thirds of them.

    You can use the insightful "Allure of Toxic Leaders" model to identify not only toxic leaders but, more importantly, people who hold the potential for toxicity, before they get into a position where they wield significant power.

    Preventing those people from advancing is the single highest reward/risk move you can make in controlling the organizational damage Toxies can spray around.

    Lipman-Blumen has tools for responding to the toxic manager, and in the next column, I'll describe them so you will be armed for some of the most necessary and important fights of your career.

    It's never too soon to start planning the removal of human toxic waste.

    Jeff Angus is a management consultant and has been working with IT since 1974. He has held IT management positions in user interface design, marketing, operations and testing/analysis. Look for his book, "Management by Baseball: A Pocket Reader." Jeff's columns have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Baltimore Sun.

    [Mar 29, 2005] 5 Tips How to manage your manager

    Advice is somewhat naive. Take it with a grain of salt...

    NEW YORK (CNN/Money)

    It's only Wednesday and you can't wait for the weekend. The boss is driving you crazy. You don't know if you can make it through the day without an outburst. You feel lost in the corporate maze. Abandoned by your boss. Out of control of your career. Or maybe he's breathing down your neck so often you could scream.

    Sound all too familiar? You're not alone: 43 percent of workers say they do not feel valued by their employers, according to In today's five tips, learn how to manage your boss to make your career work for you.

    1. Ask: what's the problem?

    Get down to the nitty gritty. What exactly is it about your boss that drives you crazy? Is she a micromanager? According to Katherine Spencer Lee, the executive director of staffing firm, Robert Half Technology, this type of boss is controlling, overly involved, and needs to develop more confidence in you.

    Your solution is to prove you're capable. Start asking for complete control over small tasks to prove you're able and keep asking for more.

    Maybe your boss is a non-manager? You know: the kind that's indecisive, hesitant, and vague. You need to guide this type of boss. Instead of giving open-ended questions, offer answer choices. Be specific with your requests.

    For example, "I'd like to meet with you at 9 am on Thursday to discuss the way we do Q-reports, I have some ideas about how we can become more efficient." When he is vague, ask for clarification.

    If your boss is an unreasonable manager that overloads you with work, ask him what his priorities are and for options to deal with what you can't handle. Maybe even ask for a part-timer's help.

    2. Have regular meetings.

    Some of the major frustrations employees have with their bosses are due to a communication breakdown.

    "Employees worry when bosses go behind closed doors, 'Are you talking about me?'" says Spencer Lee.

    The paranoia won't be there if you feel part of the action. Spencer Lee advises you to set up regular meetings with your boss -- beyond your semi-annual review or quarterly update. You want to tell your boss your career goals and what you think you need to get there.

    Also, ask them about their career goals, and what you can do to help them get there. Remember, your manager also needs support from you to succeed.

    You read it: support your manager. Be his buddy. It might be painful, but every boss wants his people to be on his side, according to John Hoover, author of "How to Work for an Idiot." Hoover says the best way to accomplish that is to learn "idiot speak," or basically speak your boss' language. If your boss loves hockey, talk about hockey, even integrate hockey analogies into your proposals to the boss. It's one way to really get his attention.

    3. Toot your own horn.

    Everyone wants a boss that will promote him, improve him, and go to bat for him. But unfortunately not everyone is so lucky. If your boss doesn't want to get to know you as an employee or a person, force them to see you.

    John Challenger, of outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says you have to make sure your boss knows your accomplishments, the extra work you put in, and a bit about your personal life. It will help them see they need to reward your hard work and give you the vacation time you requested to spend with your family.

    If you're getting no love from your boss, toot your horn to others in the food chain, advises Hoover. You can't hold expectations over your boss to accelerate your career: ultimately, it's your responsibility. "Any expectation is resentment waiting to happen. And resentment you can't hide," he says.

    4. Learn from it.

    Do things feel unbearable? Stop and think for a moment if your attitude could also be feeding into that feeling. Try to be more flexible; you may find others will try to be more flexible with you. While it might be hard to swallow your pride, you need to at least try to make it work. Ask yourself and your boss what you could be doing differently.

    "Every circumstance is probably not going to last forever and is a learning experience," says Spencer Lee, "With every boss you have, learn something from them. What to do, what not to do." Chances are you're going to become a boss one day, so keep in mind what you think makes a good one.

    5. Know when to bail.

    Sometimes, there is just no way to make it work. Maybe you and your boss have repelling personalities or work styles. Maybe you're in a dead-end position.

    "If you can look yourself in the mirror and say, 'In this environment, I am stagnant. There is no career development here, I am not learning anything, I can see that opportunities for promotion are non-existent, and it's not completely my issue.' Think: I should look elsewhere,'" Spencer Lee says.

    If you're dealing with a larger issue than just career frustrations, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, or privacy invasion, you want to get your human resources friends involved.

    For additional advice on these situations, check out, which offers a how-to on dealing with all types of bad bosses.

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