Implications of Psychopathy for the Workplace: Menace, Miracle, or Both? Open Access

Smith, Sarah Francis (2013)

Permanent URL:


The implications of psychopathy for the workplace remain poorly understood (Babiak & Hare, 2006; Smith & Lilienfeld, 2013). Although most investigators have focused on maladaptive correlates (e.g., Boddy, 2011), scattered research suggests that psychopathy is associated with some adaptive leadership behaviors in business settings (Babiak, Neumann, & Hare, 2010). In this paper, I examine the adaptive and maladaptive implications of psychopathy and its subcomponents, including boldness, disinhibition, and meanness, for workplace behavior. Community participants (N = 312) completed the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R; Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005), Triarchic Psychopathy Measure (TriPM; Patrick, 2010), Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (LSRP; Levenson, Kiehl, Fitzpatrick , 1995), a self-report measure of counterproductive workplace behavior (CWB; Bennett & Robinson, 2000), the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire, Form 6-S (MLQ-6S; Avolio & Bass, 1992), and a measure of leadership activities. Boldness was positively associated with engagement in leadership activities and adaptive leadership styles (e.g., transformational and transactional leadership) and non-significantly associated with counterproductive workplace behaviors and passive leadership styles (e.g., Laissez Faire leadership). In contrast, disinhibition and meanness were unassociated with leadership activities but negatively associated with adaptive leadership styles. Disinhibition and meanness were positively associated with CWB but non-significantly associated with passive leadership styles. These findings indicate a differential pattern of workplace correlates for psychopathy's components. More importantly, the results suggest that strong statements regarding the supposed toxic influence of psychopathic traits in business settings should be tempered. At least some components of psychopathy (e.g., boldness) appear to be related to adaptive workplace correlates.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1 Business Psychopathy: Clinical Lore 2
Successful Psychopathy 5

Psychopathy: The Triarchic Model 6

Psychopathy and Maladaptive Workplace Correlates 8

Psychopathy and Ethical Decision Making 8

Psychopathy, Aggression and Organizational Crime 10

Pscyhopathy and Counterproductive Workplace Behavior 13

Psychopathy and Leadership Theory 15

Hypotheses 23 Method 24 Participants 24 Procedure 24 Measures 25 Results 31

Psychopathy and Counterproductive Workplace Behavior 32

Psychopathy and Leadership 34 Discussion 40 Limitations 44

Future Directions 47

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files