This article explains who Corporate Psychopaths are, and some of the processes by which they stimulate counterproductive work behaviour among employees. The article hypothesizes that conflict and bullying will be higher, that employee affective well-being will be lower and that frequencies of counterproductive work behaviour will also be higher in the presence of Corporate Psychopaths. Research was conducted among 304 respondents in Britain in 2011, using a psychopathy scale embedded in a self-completion management survey. The article concludes that Corporate Psychopaths have large and significant impacts on conflict and bullying and employee affective well-being; these have large and significant impacts on counterproductive work behaviour. There is no difference between male and female degrees of negative reaction to the presence of managers who are Corporate Psychopaths.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abdel-Halim, A. A. (1978). Employee affective responses to organizational stress: Moderating effects of job characteristics. Personnel Psychology, 31(3), 561–579.
Allio, R. J. (2007). Bad leaders; how they get that way and what to do about them. Strategy and Leadership, 35(3), 12–17.
Alper, S., Tjosvold, D., & Law, K. S. (2000). Conflict management, efficacy, and performance in organizational teams. Personnel Psychology, 53(3), 625–642.
Ambrose, M. L., Seabright, M. A., & Schminke, M. (2002). Sabotage in the workplace: The role of organizational injustice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 89(1), 947–965.
Andersson, L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452–471.
Babiak, P. (1995). When psychopaths go to work: A case study of an industrial psychopath. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 44(2), 171–188.
Babiak, P., & Hare, R. D. (2006). Snakes in suits when psychopaths go to work (1st ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Baillien, E., & De Witte, H. (2009). Why is organizational change related to workplace bullying? Role conflict and job insecurity as mediators. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 348–371.
Baillien, E., Neyens, I., De Witte, H., & De Cuyper, N. (2009). A qualitative study on the development of workplace bullying: Towards a three way model. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19(1), 1–16.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.
Bandura, A. (2006). Social learning theory of aggression. Journal of Communication, 28(3), 12–29.
Biron, M. (2010). Negative reciprocity and the association between perceived organizational ethical values and organizational deviance. Human Relations, 63(6), 875–897.
Blau, P. (1964/1986). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.
Bloodgood, J., Turnley, W., & Mudrack, P. (2010). The influence of ethics instruction, religiosity, and intelligence on cheating behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 1(1), 1–15.
Board, B. J., & Fritzon, K. (2005). Disordered personalities at work. Psychology, Crime & Law, 11(1), 17–32.
Boddy, C. R. (2005). The implications of corporate psychopaths for business and society: An initial examination and a call to arms. Australasian Journal of Business and Behavioural Sciences, 1(2), 30–40.
Boddy, C. R. (2006). The dark side of management decisions: Organisational psychopaths. Management Decision, 44(9/10), 1461–1475.
Boddy, C. R. (2010a). Corporate psychopaths in Australian workplaces: Their influence on organizational outcomes. Perth: Curtin University of Technology.
Boddy, C. R. (2010b). Transforming managers by teaching marketing ethics and morals, in Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Conference 2010, Academy of Marketing, Coventry.
Boddy, C. R. (2011a). Corporate psychopaths, bullying and unfair supervision in the workplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 100, 367–379.
Boddy, C. R. (2011b). Corporate psychopaths: Organisational destroyers. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Boddy, C. R. P., Ladyshewsky, R., & Galvin, P. (2010). Leaders without ethics in global business: Corporate psychopaths. Journal of Public Affairs, 10(3), 121–138.
Bowling, N. A., Burns, G. N., Stewart, S. M., & Gruys, M. L. (2011). Conscientiousness and agreeableness as moderators of the relationship between neuroticism and counterproductive work behaviors: A constructive replication. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 19(3), 320–330.
Brown, M. E., Treviño, L. K., & Harrison, D. A. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97(2), 117–134.
Bruk-Lee, V., & Spector, P. E. (2006). The social stressors—counterproductive work behaviors link: Are conflicts with supervisors and coworkers the same? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11(2), 145–156.
Buchanan, D. A. (2008). You stab my back, I’ll stab yours: Management experience and perceptions of organizational political behaviour. British Journal of Management, 19, 49–64.
Cangemi, J. P., & Pfohl, W. (2009). Sociopaths in high places. Organization Development Journal, 27(2), 85–96.
Clarke, J. (2005). Working with monsters. How to identify and protect yourself from the workplace psychopath. Sydney: Random House.
Clarke, J. (2007). The pocket psycho. Random House Australia: Sydney.
Cleckley, H. (1941/1988). The mask of sanity (5th ed.), Private Printing for Educational Use by Emily Cleckley 1988 (Formerly first published by C.V. Mosley Co.in 1941). Augusta: Georgia.
Coid, J. W., & Yang, M. (2008). The distribution of psychopathy among a household population: Categorical or dimensional? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(10), 773–781.
Cooke, D. J., & Michie, C. (2001). Refining the construct of psychopathy: Towards a hierarchical model. Psychological Assessment, 13(2), 171–188.
Cooke, D. J., Michie, C., & Hart, S. D. (2004a). Cross-national differences in the assessment of psychopathy: Do they reflect variations in raters’ perceptions of symptoms? Psychological Assessment, 16(3), 335–339.
Cooke, D. J., Michie, C., Hart, S. D., & Clark, D. A. (2004b). Reconstructing psychopathy: Clarifying the significance of antisocial behavior in the diagnosis of psychopathic personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders, 18, 337–357.
Cooke, D. J., Michie, C., Hart, S. D., & Clark, D. (2005). Assessing psychopathy in the UK: Concerns about cross-cultural generalisability. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2005(186), 335–341.
Cropanzano, R., & Mitchell, M. S. (2005). Social exchange theory: An interdisciplinary review. Journal of Management, 31(6), 874–900.
Decker, P. J. (1986). Social learning theory and leadership. Journal of Management Development, 5(3), 46–58.
Dierickx, C. (2004). The bully employee: A survival guide for supervisors. SuperVision, 65(3), 6–7.
Djurkovic, N., McCormack, D., & Casimir, G. (2004). The physical and psychological effects of workplace bullying and their relationship to intention to leave: A test of the psychosomatic and disability hypotheses. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior, 7(4), 469–497.
Dunlop, P. D., & Lee, K. (2004). Workplace deviance, organizational citizenship behavior, and business unit performance: The bad apples do spoil the whole barrel. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25(1), 67–80.
Eagly, A. H. (2005). Achieving relational authenticity in leadership: Does gender matter? The Leadership Quarterly Authentic Leadership Development Getting to the Root of Positive Forms of Leadership, 16(3), 459–474.
Emerson, R. M. (1976). Social exchange theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 2, 335–362.
Estes, B., & Wang, J. (2008). Integrative literature review: Workplace incivility: Impacts on individual and organizational performance. Human Resource Development Review, 7(2), 218–240.
Ferrari, P. (2006). Rotten at the top: What’s really going on? Can you say sociopath?: Why do bad leaders happen to good firms? Two observers offer their theories’. The Atlanta Journal—Constitution, October, B1.
Fowler, K. A., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2007). The psychopathy Q-sort: Construct validity evidence in a nonclinical sample. Assessment, 14(1), 75–79.
Garner, R. (2005). The joy of stats: A short guide to introductory statistics in the social sciences. Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd.
Giacalone, R., & Promislo, M. (2010). Unethical and unwell: Decrements in well-being and unethical activity at work. Journal of Business Ethics, 91(2), 275–297.
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25, 161–178.
Gruys, M. L., & Sackett, P. R. (2003). Investigating the dimensionality of counterproductive work behavior. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 11(1), 30–42.
Gudmundsson, A., & Southey, G. (2011). Leadership and the rise of the corporate psychopath: What can business schools do about the ‘snakes inside’? E-Journal of Social & Behavioural Research in Business, 2(2), 18–27.
Hare, R. (1994). Predators: The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us. Psychology Today, 27(1), 54–61.
Hare, R. (1999). Without conscience: The disturbing word of the psychopaths among us. New York: Guildford Press.
Hare, R. D., Hart, S. D., & Harpur, T. J. (1991). Psychopathy and the DSM-IV criteria for antisocial personality disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100(3), 391–398.
Harris, P. (2000). Sampling and statistics. In R. J. Birn (Ed.), The handbook of international market research techniques (2nd ed., pp. 43–85). London: Kogan Page.
Harvey, M. G., Buckley, M. R., Heames, J. T., Zinko, R., Brouer, R. L., & Ferris, G. R. (2007). A bully as an archetypal destructive leader. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 14(2), 117–129.
Hauge, L. J., Skogstad, A., & Einarsen, S. (2009). Individual and situational predictors of workplace bullying: Why do perpetrators engage in the bullying of others? Work & Stress, 23(4), 349–358.
Heilman, M. E. (2001). Description and prescription: How gender stereotypes prevent women’s ascent up the organizational ladder. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4), 657–674.
Hercz, R. (2001). Psychopaths among us: Dr. Robert Hare claims there are 300,000 psychopaths in Canada, but that only a tiny fraction are violent offenders like Paul Bernado and Clifford Olson. Who are the rest? Saturday Night, 116, 22–28.
Hodgson, B. J. (2001). Michalos and the theory of ethical theory. Journal of Business Ethics, 29(1), 19–23.
Janssen, O. (2001). Fairness perceptions as a moderator in the curvilinear relationships between job demands, and job performance and job satisfaction. Academy of management journal, 44(5), 1039–1050.
Jennings, M. M. (2004). Incorporating ethics and professionalism into accounting education and research: A discussion of the voids and advocacy for training in seminal works in business ethics. Issues in Accounting Education, 19(1), 7–26.
Jones, D. A. (2009). Getting even with one’s supervisor and one’s organization: Relationships among types of injustice, desires for revenge, and counterproductive work behaviors. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(4), 525–542.
Kelloway, E. K., Turner, N., Barling, J., & Loughlin, C. (2012). Transformational leadership and employee psychological well-being: The mediating role of employee trust in leadership. Work & Stress, 26(1), 39–55.
Kinnear, P. R., & Gray, C. D. (2000). SPSS for Windows made simple (10th ed.). Hove: Psychology Press.
Kisamore, J. L., Jawahar, I. M., Liguori, E. W., Mharapara, T. L., & Stone, T. H. (2010). Conflict and abusive workplace behaviors: The moderating effects of social competencies. Career Development International, 15(6), 583–600.
Kuenzi, M., & Schminke, M. (2009). Assembling fragments into a lens: A review, critique, and proposed research agenda for the organizational work climate literature. Journal of Management, 35(3), 634–717.
LaVan, H., & Martin, W. (2008). Bullying in the U.S. workplace: Normative and process-oriented ethical approaches. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(2), 147–165.
Lilienfeld, S. O., & Andrews, B. P. (1996). Development and preliminary validation of a self-report measure of psychopathic personality traits in noncriminal populations. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66(3), 488–524.
Lim, S., & Cortina, L. M. (2005). Interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace: The interface and impact of general incivility and sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(3), 483–496.
Mahaffey, K. J., & Marcus, D. K. (2006). Interpersonal perception of psychopathy: A social relations analysis. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25(1), 53–74.
Morse, G. (2004). Executive psychopaths. Harvard Business Review, 82, 20–22.
Mount, M., Ilies, R., & Johnson, E. (2006). Relationship of personality traits and counterproductive work behaviors: The mediating effects of job satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 59(3), 591–622.
Nathanson, C., Williams, K. M., & Paulhus, D. L. (2006). Predictors of a behavioral measure of scholastic cheating: Personality and competence but not demographics. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 31, 97–122.
Neumann, C. S., Vitacco, M. J., Hare, R. D., & Wupperman, P. (2005). Reconstructing the “reconstruction” of psychopathy: A comment on Cooke, Michie, Hart and Clark. Journal of Personality Disorders, 19(6), 624–640.
Nord, W. R. (1969). Social exchange theory: An integrative approach to social conformity. Psychological Bulletin, 71(3), 174–208.
Norland, E. V. T. (1990) Controlling error in evaluation instruments. Available http://www.joe.org. Accessed 11 April.
Oppler, E. S., Lyons, B. D., Ricks, D. A., & Oppler, S. H. (2008). The relationship between financial history and counterproductive work behavior. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 16(4), 416–420.
Pamental, G. L. (1991). The course in business ethics: Why don’t the philosophers give business students what they need? Business Ethics Quarterly, 1(4), 385–393.
Pearson, C. M., & Porath, C. L. (2005). On the nature, consequences and remedies of workplace incivility: No time for "nice"? Think again. The Academy of Management Executive, 19(1), 7–18.
Pech, R. J., & Slade, B. W. (2007). Organisational sociopaths: rarely challenged, often promoted. Why? Society and Business Review, 2(3), 254–269.
Penney, L. M., & Spector, P. E. (2005). Job stress, incivility, and counterproductive work behavior (CWB): The moderating role of negative affectivity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(7), 777–796.
Penney, L. M., Hunter, E. M., & Perry, S. J. (2011). Personality and counterproductive work behaviour: Using conservation of resources theory to narrow the profile of deviant employees. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(1), 58–77.
Poff, D. C. (2007). Duties owed in serving students: The importance of teaching moral reasoning and theories of ethical leadership in educating business students. Journal of Academic Ethics, 5(1), 25–31.
Porath, C. L., & Erez, A. (2007). Does rudeness really matter? The effects of rudeness on task performance and helpfulness. Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), 1181–1197.
Porter, S., Woodworth, M., Earle, J., Drugge, J., & Boer, D. (2003). Characteristics of sexual homicides committed by psychopathic and nonpsychopathic offenders. Law and Human Behavior, 27(5), 459–470.
Radhakrishna, R. B. (2007). Tips for developing and testing questionnaires/instruments. Journal of Extension, 45(1). Accessed online at http://www.joe.org at 6.23 pm Western Australian Time on 11th April 2008.
Ramamoorti, S. (2008). The psychology and sociology of fraud: Integrating the behavioral sciences component into fraud and forensic accounting curricula. Issues in Accounting Education, 23(4), 521–533.
Ray, J. J., & Ray, J. A. B. (1982). Some apparent advantages of subclinical psychopathy. The Journal of Social Psychology, 117(1), 135–142.
Roscigno, V. J., Hodson, R., & Lopez, S. H. (2009). Workplace incivilities: The role of interest conflicts, social closure and organizational chaos. Work, Employment & Society, 23, 747–773.
Rotter, J. B., Chance, J. E., & Phares, E. J. (1972). Applications of a social learning theory of personality. Oxford: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Schminke, M., Ambrose, M. L., & Neubaum, D. O. (2005). The effect of leader moral development on ethical climate and employee attitudes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97(2), 135–151.
Skeem, J. L., Polaschek, D. L. L., Patrick, C. J., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). Psychopathic personality: Bridging the gap between scientific evidence and public policy. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12(3), 95–162.
Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2010). Counterproductive work behavior and organisational citizenship behavior: Are they opposite forms of active behavior? Applied Psychology: An International Review, 59(1), 21–39.
Spector, P. E., & Jex, S. M. (1998). Development of four self-report measures of job stressors and strain: Interpersonal conflict at work scale, organizational constraints scale, quantitative workload inventory and physical symptoms inventory. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 3, 356–367.
Spector, P. E., Fox, S., Penney, L. M., Bruursema, K., Goh, A., & Kessler, S. (2006). The dimensionality of counterproductivity: Are all counterproductive behaviors created equal? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(3), 446–460.
Spinney, L. (2004). Snakes in suits. New Scientist, 183, 40–43.
Stout, M. (2005a). The ice people: living among us are people with no conscience, no emotions and no conception of love: welcome to the chilling world of the sociopath. Psychology Today, January, 72–76.
Stout, M. (2005b). The Sociopath Next Door. Broadway Books: New York.
Tang, T., & Chen, Y.-J. (2010). Intelligence vs. wisdom: The love of money, machiavellianism, and unethical behavior across college major and gender. Journal of Business Ethics, 1(1), 1–26.
Taplin, R. (2008). Don’t believe all you read–A statistician’s perspective on justifying conclusions’. In Proceedings of the 2008 Doctoral Students Colloquium. Curtin University Business School, Perth, Western Australia.
Tepper, B. J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of management journal, 43(2), 178–190.
Todd, B., R., Bieber, S. L. & Grandjean, B. D. (2004) Confirming the reliability of a theory-based questionnaire. American Journal of Health Studies. Accessed online at http://www.encyclopedia.com at 6.44 pm Western Australian Time on 11th April 2008.
Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32(6), 951–990.
Van Katwyk, P. T., Fox, S., Spector, P. E., & Kelloway, E. K. (2000). Using the Job-Related Affective Well-Being Scale (JAWS) to investigate affective responses to work stressors. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(2), 219–230.
Webster, R. L., & Harmon, H. A. (2002). Comparing levels of machiavellianism of today’s college students with college students of the 1960s. Teaching Business Ethics, 6(4), 435.
Westerman, J. W., Bergman, J. Z., Bergman, S. M., & Daly, J. P. (2012). Are universities creating millennial narcissistic employees? An empirical examination of narcissism in business students and its implications. Journal of Management Education, 36(1), 5–32.
Widom, C. S. (1977). A methodology for studying noninstitutionalized psychopaths. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45(4), 674–683.
Wilson, M. S., & McCarthy, K. (2011). Greed is good? Student disciplinary choice and self-reported psychopathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(7), 873–876.
Wornham, D. (2003). A descriptive investigation of morality and victimisation at work. Journal of Business Ethics, 45(1), 29–40.
Wright, T. A., & Bonett, D. G. (2007). Job satisfaction and psychological well-being as nonadditive predictors of workplace turnover. Journal of Management, 33(2), 141–160.
Wright, T. A. & Cropanzano, R. (1997) Well-being, satisfaction and job performance: Another look at the happy/productive worker thesis. in Academy of Management Best Papers Proceedings, Academy of Management, pp. 364–368.
Wright, T. A., & Cropanzano, R. (2004). The role of psychological well-being in job performance: A fresh look at an age-old quest. Organizational Dynamics, 33(4), 338–351.
Wright, T. A., Cropanzano, R., Bonett, D. G., & Diamond, W. J. (2009). The role of employee psychological well-being in cardiovascular health: When the twain shall meet. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(2), 193–208.
Wu, J., & Lebreton, J. M. (2011). Reconsidering the dispositional basis of counterproductive work behaviour: The role of aberrant personality. Personnel Psychology, 64(3), 593–626.
Yoo, B., & Donthu, N. (2002). The effects of marketing education and individual cultural values on marketing ethics of students. Journal of Marketing Education, 24(2), 92–103.
About this article
Cite this article
Boddy, C.R. Corporate Psychopaths, Conflict, Employee Affective Well-Being and Counterproductive Work Behaviour. J Bus Ethics 121, 107–121 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1688-0
- Corporate Psychopaths
- Counterproductive work behaviour
- Toxic leadership
- Employee well-being