Bosses more likely to be psychopaths, study says

Industry News & Insights Management Mean yelling man

Maybe you’ve had a bad boss. But what about one that’s downright evil? Turns out that bosses are actually more likely to be psychopaths.

Same goes for lawyers, surgeons and chefs. (Yes, there are actually industries that are most likely to have a psychopath in charge.)

A number of studies in recent years have found that bosses are significantly more likely to display the symptoms of a true psychopath. How is that defined? We all associate psychopathy with a lack of a conscience or empathy, and that’s true, but psychologists note that psychopaths are often charming, charismatic, and skilled manipulators.

One famous study took a sample of people in management and found the incidence of psychopathy to be about 3%, which is significantly higher than the 1% rate within the general population. (Coincidentally, the incidence in the prison population is estimated at about 15%). In other industries estimates are higher; some say that 1 in 10 on Wall Street may classify.

British psychologist Oliver James released a book this year called Office Politics, and his theory is that workplace culture as we know it actually encourages deviant behaviour – not only through psychopathy, but people in power also tend to be narcissists, and have a Machiavellian streak.

“Whether you get promoted and how much you get paid depends largely on the subjective valuation of your boss. That means that office politics becomes more important. Making your boss like you, and encouraging them to believe you are doing a good job, is as important as actually doing a good job,” said James said in an article to Fast Company.

So which industries are most likely to have psychopaths at the helm?

Highest Rates of Psychopathy:

1. CEO

2. Lawyer

3. Media (Television/Radio)

4. Salesperson

5. Surgeon

6. Journalist

7. Police Officer

8. Clergy person

9. Chef

10. Civil Servant

Lowest Rates of Psychopathy:

1. Care Aide

2. Nurse

3. Therapist

4. Craftsperson

5. Beautician/Stylist

6. Charity Worker

7. Teacher

8. Creative Artist

9. Doctor

10. Accountant

* Source: