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Article
Publication date: 11 January 2016

Clive Roland Boddy and Robin Croft

The purpose of this paper is to make a contribution to knowledge by examining what happens to marketing in a time of toxic leadership, embodied in a corporate psychopath

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to make a contribution to knowledge by examining what happens to marketing in a time of toxic leadership, embodied in a corporate psychopath, in response to a call for marketers to seek a broader understanding of how marketing operates within organisations.

Design/methodology/approach

Commentators have suggested that concepts outside the usual marketing domain may aid in the gaining of an intra-organisational understanding of how marketing operates. Here, the concept of corporate psychopathy was used to identify a psychopathic UK board director and chief executive officer (CEO) via a constructivist approach to research involving six in-depth interviews. A CEO and a main board director who were measurably psychopathic were studied via these reports.

Findings

The paper examines how corporate psychopaths, as archetypal toxic leaders, are detrimental to marketing. Overseeing the marketing function within the UK part of an established and well-branded multi-national services company, corporate psychopaths capriciously dismantled the marketing initiatives that were in place and needlessly abandoned future marketing plans. Marketing services, marketing ethics, product quality and corporate reputation declined. Good marketers left.

Practical implications

The research demonstrates the dangers to marketing of toxic leadership. The paper also suggests that marketing may be uniquely qualified to deal with toxic leaders because it can, through research, identify them through their effects and behaviour. The results illustrate the value of longitudinal qualitative market research in investigating complex organisational situations.

Originality/value

The paper makes a unique contribution to the marketing field by empirically investigating, for the first time, the influence of a corporate psychopath director and a psychopathic CEO on the marketing function and practice. The research was conducted longitudinally using qualitative market research techniques via in-depth interviews over a two-year period. Longitudinal research aids in establishing causality, and this was evident in this research, as the negative influence of psychopathic leadership was monitored over time.

Details

Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, vol. 19 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1352-2752

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Article
Publication date: 9 May 2016

Clive R. Boddy

The purpose of this paper is to present evidence to examine the possible psychopathy of Robert Maxwell, a notorious figure in UK business history.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present evidence to examine the possible psychopathy of Robert Maxwell, a notorious figure in UK business history.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents research which retrospectively applied a tool to measure whether leading figures in twentieth century business history could be classified as being corporate psychopaths. As background to this idea, psychopaths and corporate psychopaths are defined. A measure of corporate psychopathy is explored as an aid to identifying corporate psychopaths in business history. This measure is then used in relation to senior corporate executives who have been nominated as potential corporate psychopaths and to Robert Maxwell in particular.

Findings

The paper concludes that at least some ethical scandals and failures such as those at The Daily Mirror have been characterized by the presence of CEOs who scored highly on a measure of corporate psychopathy. Maxwell’s fraudulent raiding of corporate pension funds crossed ethical and legal borders. Furthermore, Maxwell’s fraudulent looting of those pension funds crossed generational boundaries; stealing from older people’s pension funds and thereby leaving younger people/investors with less to inherit. Maxwell also had an international business empire and so his fraud had effects which crossed geographic borders. The paper concludes that using an historical approach to the study of potential corporate psychopaths illuminates what types of organizational outcomes corporate psychopaths may eventuate.

Originality/value

The paper is the first to use an historical approach to the study of potential corporate psychopaths.

Details

International Journal of Public Leadership, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-4929

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Article
Publication date: 5 September 2016

Clive Roland Boddy and Ross Taplin

The purpose of this paper is to investigate job satisfaction and workplace psychopathy.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate job satisfaction and workplace psychopathy.

Design/methodology/approach

Job satisfaction has previously been seen as a function of various constructs. The authors take one step back from the literature to re-examine the relationship not just between job satisfaction, workplace conflict, organizational constraints, withdrawal from the workplace and perceived levels of corporate social responsibility, but also between all of these constructs and the presence of corporate psychopaths.

Findings

The authors find that there is a direct link between corporate psychopaths and job satisfaction. There are also indirect links through variables such as conflict, since corporate psychopaths influence conflict and other variables.

Originality/value

Importantly, the research establishes that psychopathy is the dominant predictor of job satisfaction.

Details

International Journal of Manpower, vol. 37 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0143-7720

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 8 July 2021

Clive R. Boddy

The study of corporate psychopaths has gone from something which some academic peers found somewhat incredible, and even laughable, in 2005, to an area where an increasing…

Abstract

The study of corporate psychopaths has gone from something which some academic peers found somewhat incredible, and even laughable, in 2005, to an area where an increasing amount of research is taking place across many disciplines. The paradigmatic view in 2005 was that psychopaths were criminal and, therefore, to be found in prisons and not in ‘respectable’ corporations. That chapters like this on corporate psychopaths and destructive leadership are now invited in 2020 for inclusion in academic management books that illustrates how relatively quickly the idea that psychopaths are found in corporations has gained acceptance. Nonetheless, destructive, unethical and psychopathic leadership is, by and large, still unexpected in the workplace, and this magnifies its impact as employees struggle to know how to deal with it. Such destructive leadership is also jarring and quite often traumatic for the employees concerned as well as being damaging to the organisations involved. This chapter examines psychopathic leadership and outlines its importance. This subject has been covered before in books and other chapters which describe psychopaths as organisational destroyers and producers of a climate of fear. Therefore, an aim of this chapter is to present some of the most up-to-date findings on corporate psychopaths and how they influence their environment via abusive supervision involving discrimination, ridicule and lowered job satisfaction. Abusiveness and unfairness lead to employees experiencing workplace stress and reduced mental health. The implications of corporate psychopathy for corporate legal responsibility are only just being considered as lawyers, ethicists and philosophers engage with this difficult subject.

Details

Destructive Leadership and Management Hypocrisy
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-180-5

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 30 August 2021

Clive Roland Boddy, Ross Taplin, Benedict Sheehy and Brendon Murphy

Influential research has posited that empirical investigation provides no evidence for the existence of white-collar/successful psychopaths. The purpose of this current…

Abstract

Purpose

Influential research has posited that empirical investigation provides no evidence for the existence of white-collar/successful psychopaths. The purpose of this current paper is to review evidence for their existence and report on new, primary research that examines ethical outcomes associated with their presence.

Design/methodology/approach

Leading psychopathy researchers called for research using samples of white-collar workers to explore workplace psychopathy. Therefore, the authors undertook a two-stage research process to examine this. Firstly, a structured literature review sought evidence for “corporate psychopaths”, “white-collar psychopaths” and “successful psychopaths” in existing literature. Secondly, original research was undertaken among 261 Australian workers to examine this further.

Findings

Findings indicate that white-collar psychopaths exist. Where they have been found not to exist, investigation reveals that the samples used were inadequate for the purpose of attempting to find them.

Practical implications

Although there is an inconsistent nomenclature, white-collar, industrial, successful, organisational, workplace or corporate psychopaths do exist and are found in white-collar workplaces.

Social implications

Their existence is important because findings indicate that they have a significant, ethically malign and long-lasting impact on employee well-being and organisational ethical outcomes.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is perhaps the first paper to specifically examine the literature for evidence of whether white-collar psychopaths exist. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is also the first paper to determine that corporate psychopaths are linked with aggressive humour, gender discrimination, fake corporate social responsibility and reduced communications integration.

Details

Society and Business Review, vol. 17 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5680

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Article
Publication date: 16 November 2015

Clive Roland Boddy

This current paper reviews the theoretical speculations concerning psychopaths in the workplace that were originally presented in a paper published in this journal in…

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Abstract

Purpose

This current paper reviews the theoretical speculations concerning psychopaths in the workplace that were originally presented in a paper published in this journal in 2006. The 2006 paper was called: “The Dark Side of Management Decisions: Organisational Psychopaths”.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a review of the literature on workplace psychopaths since 2006.

Findings

This current paper determines that while many of these prior speculations about workplace psychopaths have since been supported by evidence, several others remain unexplored. This finding suggests that several important avenues for further research remain in this important area. In particular, links between corporate psychopaths, bullying and lowered corporate social responsibility have been established. On the other hand, links between corporate psychopaths, career advancement, fraud, and corporate failure as exemplified in the 2007 global financial crisis, have been under-explored.

Social implications

Corporate psychopaths are worthy of further research because of their impact on society, for example on corporate social responsibility and their willingness to dump toxic waste material illegally.

Originality/value

The paper provides an extensive review of research into corporate psychopaths to date and highlights areas where further investigation would be potentially rewarding.

Details

Management Decision, vol. 53 no. 10
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0025-1747

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Article
Publication date: 3 October 2016

Kim Klarskov Jeppesen and Christina Leder

The purpose of this paper is to analyse auditors’ experience with corporate psychopaths in their client management.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse auditors’ experience with corporate psychopaths in their client management.

Design/methodology/approach

The research was conducted as a survey among Danish state-authorized auditors, to which 179 auditors responded, representing 9 per cent of the total population.

Findings

Of the participating auditors, 69 per cent had experienced corporate psychopaths in their client management and 70 per cent of these had experienced more than one case. In addition, 43 per cent of the auditors who had experienced psychopathic managers reported that they had committed fraud. The vast majority of cases were detected in the execution and completion phases of the audit and resulted in increased professional scepticism, the use of more experienced auditors and the requirement for more and better audit evidence.

Research limitations/implications

The findings confirm that corporate psychopaths actually exist and are a phenomenon worthy of research attention in areas such as accounting, auditing, internal control, fraud investigation, performance management and human resource management.

Practical implications

As auditors are likely to come across corporate psychopaths from time to time in their careers, awareness of this type of risk needs to be increased and better integrated into the risk assessment in audit planning. Auditing standards relating to fraud also need to be updated according to the latest developments in fraud theory.

Originality/value

This is the first research to address auditors’ experience with corporate psychopaths. It adds value by confirming the relevance of the topic for practice and research.

Details

Journal of Financial Crime, vol. 23 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1359-0790

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Article
Publication date: 2 July 2019

Dallas Hill and Hannah Scott

Many of the characteristics embodied by successful psychopaths, such as superficial charm, cool decisiveness and a grandiose self-worth, are often treated synonymously…

Abstract

Purpose

Many of the characteristics embodied by successful psychopaths, such as superficial charm, cool decisiveness and a grandiose self-worth, are often treated synonymously with corporate leadership qualities. Consequently, it is possible that successful psychopaths are actively being selected for corporate positions as they exemplify the perfect candidate. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether or not the recruitment for positions of higher social status are inadvertently seeking out individuals with psychopathic tendencies to run their companies using similar characteristics in their job advertisements.

Design/methodology/approach

The current study will provide a deeper understanding of successful psychopaths whilst exploring the role of the “Westernized” corporation in recruiting successful psychopaths into their businesses through character descriptions in 25 executive career advertisements using Wexler’s (2008) psychopathic Personality Dimensions And Positively Reinforced Corporate Labels.

Findings

The results demonstrated that corporations are seeking out characteristics that are synonymous to Factor 1 psychopathic personality traits, which could increase the propensity of successful psychopaths in the workplace.

Research limitations/implications

Although the sample was representative for the current study, the sample size is minimal. Further, most companies in the sample were taken from the public sector. Given the implicit sample bias, the results and conclusions must be interpreted with caution. Future research should expand the relationship between psychopathic personality traits and corporate labels in a broader context.

Practical implications

The results also allude to potential protective factors that could be put in place by corporations during their hiring process. These factors include measures for empathy and emotional IQ. Beyond the hiring process, it is suggested that incentive-based promotions should be lessened and replaced with incentives that promote care and respect for one another.

Social implications

Whilst the inability for the public to conceptualize white-collar crime as a true form of crime conducted by powerful individuals is apparent, it is suggested that change should begin with public awareness and academia. With additional research on psychopathy in the field of criminology and organizational psychology, public awareness can be amplified.

Originality/value

The current study allows for an interdisciplinary perspective towards the concept of successful psychopathy by highlighting the increased potential for corporate scams and white-collar criminality. Specifically, the current study introduces a psycho-social criminological perspective.

Details

Journal of Financial Crime, vol. 26 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1359-0790

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Article
Publication date: 14 November 2016

Clive Roland Boddy

The purpose of this paper is to re-open a debate as to whether candidates for public leadership should be screened for psychopathy.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to re-open a debate as to whether candidates for public leadership should be screened for psychopathy.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper which examines the diffuse literature concerning psychopaths in public leadership positions.

Findings

Psychopathy researchers have been divided as to whether psychopathic individuals should be screened out of leadership positions in public and corporate life. Recent evidence from bullying research and historical research into psychopaths in politics sheds new light on this issue.

Practical implications

There is increasing evidence that psychopaths are detrimental to the organisations they work for, to other employees, to the environment and to society. Screening for psychopathy should therefore be considered. This may help to prevent governments entering into illegal wars and committing crimes against humanity. Screening in the corporate sector may also help prevent the worst excesses of greed and fraud that were evident in collapses like Enron and the Mirror Group as well as in the events leading up to the global financial crisis of 2008.

Originality/value

The paper makes a contribution to the literature on public leadership by bringing together the diverse reports on the effects of psychopaths in public organisations like the National Health Service, publicly listed corporations, academia and politics. The paper uses historical and corporate examples to illustrate the initially favourable impression that psychopathic leaders can make but the ultimately disastrous outcomes they engender.

Details

International Journal of Public Leadership, vol. 12 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-4929

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Article
Publication date: 3 October 2008

Mark N. Wexler

This paper aims to explore how and why the emerging literature in clinical psychology on the “successful psychopath” precedes the escalating middle class framing of the…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore how and why the emerging literature in clinical psychology on the “successful psychopath” precedes the escalating middle class framing of the contemporary corporation as a monster and points towards an increasingly credible version of systemic psychopathy.

Design/methodology/approach

Discourse analysis is used to isolate three distinct but interrelated argument forms in which the basic assertion is that “the corporation is a psychopath”. All three argument forms insist that the corporation lacks a conscience and point to a toxic schism on the boundary between the organization and its stakeholders or publics.

Findings

In Argument Form I, successful psychopaths enter and rise to prominence in the flexible, hypercompetitive context of the contemporary corporation. Once ensconced within the corporation, in Argument Form II, the psychopath creates the conditions for a scam which, when detected, gives rise to a flurry of breathless and very public corporate scandals. Argument Form III follows from II. In it the rogues and scoundrels – those increasingly caught in the high beams of a corporate scandal – once in positions of power and authority seek out allies, stifle those who would oppose them and begin to legitimize their scams as “business as usual.” Systemic psychopathy emerges when the appeal to “business as usual” conceals scams and supports conscienceless behavior.

Originality/value

This paper explains why increasingly, members of the middle class, those who in the past stood behind the corporation, are less than shocked to hear it characterized as a psychopath. The paper concludes with the implications of the intensifying portrayal of the dark side of the corporation for researchers studying the changing relationship between society and business.

Details

Society and Business Review, vol. 3 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5680

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