In 2022 we’re going to be looking at some industry “top 10’s”.
We’ll cover everything from the jobs that give the most satisfaction and time off, through to more serious matters to bear in mind. But firstly, the top 10 careers most likely to attract psychopaths…
The DSM-5 (the shorthand for the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines someone with a psychopathic personality type as having an inflated, grandiose sense of themself, along with an ability to manipulate (or charm, some might say) other people. It is of course a broad church, and diagnosis isn’t necessarily straightforward or easy. However, one thing psychopaths often have in common is the careers they gravitate towards.
We’ve all heard talk of psychopaths being in leadership positions, thought to be because of their ruthlessness, charisma, fearlessness and their ability to make decisions, often quickly. But they tend to steer clear of other professions where a need for empathy is highly sought after, such as nursing and teaching.
For context, between 0.5% to 1% of the population could be psychopaths.
According to SIFER, the Norwegian Centre for Research & Education in Forensic Psychiatry, it’s estimated 0.5% to 1% of the population could satisfy the criteria, and it’s considerably higher amongst prison inmates, around 20% in fact. Despite what the movies and TV will tell us, they aren’t lurking behind every corner. Various personality traits are often confused with psychopathy.
Kevin Dutton, a British psychologist and writer, who specialises in psychopathy, made a list in his book “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” of the roles most likely to attract a psychopath. Dutton describes them as “functional psychopaths” who differ from their murderous counterparts, who use their skills to blend into, and thrive within mainstream society.
And now for those Top 10
10) Civil Servants – a civil servant is the 10th most popular career choice for psychopaths, according to Dutton. In fact, in 2014, the UK Government considered recruiting psychopaths specifically “to keep order,” because they are “very good in crises”. Their skills would be particularly useful, following, for example, a nuclear attack, the Independent reported. What better way to restore order?
9) Chef – most psychopaths have no interest in harming others, we’re told. But they can be extremely stress resistant and also enjoy a chaotic environment. Such as a busy kitchen. Gordon Ramsey once said “all chefs are insane”. Often working extreme hours, 100 hours a week is not unheard of, creating an intense atmosphere on purpose. So suddenly a kitchen sounds like a good place for a psychopath to find themselves.
8) Clergy – this comes down to organisational design. Joe Navarro, an FBI veteran, wrote that they can provide a convenient infrastructure in which to operate. We often automatically afford such institutions our respect and trust, and they can provide access to information someone with a lack of conscience may exploit. Especially if they strike at a moment of weakness, when someone seeks help from say, their church.
7) Police – psychopaths don’t necessarily have ulterior motives. One of their traits is being very cool-headed under stress. A study by D. Falkenbach found that male officers were more likely to show traits. Some traits include coldness, tendency to get bored easily and good under stressful situations. But they don’t necessarily have to be channelled towards criminal activities, just look at fictional character Sherlock Holmes. The 1995 film Heat, starring Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, depicted the real-life relationship between 1960’s detective Chuck Adamson and notorious criminal Neil McCauley. They not only shared a professional fascination with one another, they once met to discuss their shared traits.
6) Journalist – Dutton lists some of the traits of psychopaths as charm, focus, mindfulness, ruthlessness, and action — all possibly in order to get the story they want.
5) Surgeon – let’s be honest, it’s a pretty stressful environment to find yourself in and one we wouldn’t want to find ourselves in. Literally having someone’s life in your hands. A study by the Royal College of Surgeons found that they score higher on the scale than the general public, but franklyI we like that they are able to make quick and effective decisions under huge stress. Stress immunity is apparently the overriding personality trait of doctors.
4) Sales – shameless self promotion, stealing other people’s contacts, a relentless desire to earn the most money, and an inability to be a team player. Depending on how your organisation works, this could either be your worst nightmare, or the dream sales candidate. Let’s be honest, if the sales are coming in, and no rules or laws were being broken, would you ask too many questions? Well, we would, we’d want more detail, but it stands to reason certain personalities thrive in a sales environment.
3) Media / TV / Radio – some psychopaths also exhibit narcissism, which is arguably useful in a job that requires a lot of public focus. The popularity of this career choice for psychopaths could also be because being a TV anchor, or radio personality, also requires you to be calm in the face of pressure as well as requiring you to often be the centre of attention.
2) Lawyer – In “Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding In Plain Sight,” author M. E. Thomas, a self-proclaimed sociopath, claims being a sociopath helped her be a better attorney. In a blog post for Psychology Today, attorney Ruth Lee Johnson says that although psychopathic traits like self-confidence, cold-heartedness, and deceitful charm may be handy for lawyers, it’s simplistic to say these traits alone are enough. Losing your job in law, or the ability to be a lawyer, is a very real risk, professional standards are enforced. Working in law isn’t as dramatic or as hostile as it seems on TV, imagine for example your specialism was dealing with international transactions? Dynamic would not be the first word you’d choose. So, it’s of course the case that most lawyers are thankfully, kind, honest and have your best interests at heart. But occasionally a ruthless arrogance can help, just look at Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men.
1) CEO – One of the key traits associated with psychopaths is a “resilience to chaos”. Keeping calm in the face of great pressure or stress might be the first thing you think of, but it can also mean creating situations that cause the chaos in the first place for other people around them. Imagine if someone used this to climb the ladder in their organisation, all the way to the top. Research suggests around 1 in 5 bosses share some of the traits, which is broadly in line with prison inmates. Having some of the traits associated with being a psychopath lends itself to short term success, in line with many CEO’s (by no means all) that move after a period of time with an organisation. Flamboyancy and charisma might make it easier to be a success in the short term, but it may be “purchased at the expense of long term failure” according to a study from Atlanta’s Emory University.
Roughly 1 in every 100 people have the traits. But I don’t want to hire a psychopath?!
You don’t have to. Talk to us about all kinds of assessment which includes everything from psychometric through to personality testing. If you’re worried about hiring Dexter then we can help, but also think about the way your business is structured. Organisations often resemble silos, where behaviour that’s not in line with your culture is harder to expose. The key here is to avoid hiring a psychopath in the first place, albeit statistically unlikely.
- Ask candidates about their personal plan, psychopaths aren’t life planners. Can they articulate a believable narrative about an erratic work history?
- Listen to how they describe co-workers, bosses and junior employees. Do they describe them as humans with achievements or like cogs in a wheel?
- Do they tell consistent stories? Examine how candidates interact with different interviewers at different stages. If you spot discrepancies or inconsistency, scrutinise it.
- Embrace technology and screen effectively. Conduct thorough background checks and use the right assessment tools to inform decision making.
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