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Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work

Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work
Author: Paul Babiak - Robert D. Hare
ISBN 13: 9780061147890
ISBN 10: 61147893
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: HarperBusiness
Publication Date: 2007-05-08
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
List Price: $17.99

Let's say you're about to hire somebody for a position in your company. Your corporation wants someone who's fearless, charismatic, and full of new ideas. Candidate X is charming, smart, and has all the right answers to your questions. Problem solved, right? Maybe not.

We'd like to think that if we met someone who was completely without conscience -- someone who was capable of doing anything at all if it served his or her purposes -- we would recognize it. In popular culture, the image of the psychopath is of someone like Hannibal Lecter or the BTK Killer. But in reality, many psychopaths just want money, or power, or fame, or simply a nice car. Where do these psychopaths go? Often, it's to the corporate world.

Researchers Paul Babiak and Robert Hare have long studied psychopaths. Hare, the author of Without Conscience, is a world-renowned expert on psychopathy, and Babiak is an industrial-organizational psychologist. Recently the two came together to study how psychopaths operate in corporations, and the results were surprising. They found that it's exactly the modern, open, more flexible corporate world, in which high risks can equal high profits, that attracts psychopaths. They may enter as rising stars and corporate saviors, but all too soon they're abusing the trust of colleagues, manipulating supervisors, and leaving the workplace in shambles.

Snakes in Suits is a compelling, frightening, and scientifically sound look at exactly how psychopaths work in the corporate environment: what kind of companies attract them, how they negotiate the hiring process, and how they function day by day. You'll learn how they apply their "instinctive" manipulation techniques -- assessing potential targets, controlling influential victims, and abandoning those no longer useful -- to business processes such as hiring, political command and control, and executive succession, all while hiding within the corporate culture. It's a must read for anyone in the business world, because whatever level you're at, you'll learn the subtle warning signs of psychopathic behavior and be able to protect yourself and your company -- before it's too late.

Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Cold-Blooded And Without A Conscience
Despite what many are led to believe, psychopaths don't just wield meat cleavers - they also don Armani power suits and carry Cabrelli Italian leather briefcases. Popular culture has placed the image of Ted Bundy and Bret Easton Ellis' Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) into the public's mind, when really, a number of psychopaths simply want wealth, power and a corner office.

Where do these individuals go? They often enter the corporate world and steadily climb their way to the top, stepping on the backs of whomever necessary and often ruining other colleagues' careers without a blink of an eye.

Into the Corporate Snake Pit
Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert Hare are both highly qualified to present a study of the psychopath in the corporate landscape; Babiak is an industrial and organizational psychologist, while Hare is the author of Without Conscience and the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy.

According to Hare, not all psychopaths are criminals, and not all criminals are psychopaths, leading to the discussion of psychopathic individuals making it into the upper echelons of the corporate workplace. According to the authors, their book was created to fill the gap of knowledge about "what constitutes psychopathic manipulation and deceit among businesspeople." It has been this absence of knowledge that previously allowed corporate cons to wreak havoc almost undetected in some instances.

Snake Handling
In Snakes in Suits: When Corporate Psychopaths Go to Work, Babiak and Hare are quick to remind readers not to use the book as a tool to discern whether or not senior management or coworkers are psychopaths - that is a judgment that must be made by trained psychologists.

However, the book is helpful in enlightening the average person about what sort of traits and mannerisms to be aware of, and most importantly, how to protect oneself in the workplace from the corporate psychopath. A frightening fact that Babiak and Hare present early in the text is that "the number of people with psychopathic personalities suggests that most of us will come across at least one psychopath during a typical day."

How to Spot a Snake
According to the authors, psychopaths tend to be more predatory in nature. This applies to the corporate psychopath, who will do anything from laying on the charm to threatening and bullying a coworker in order to get whatever he or she wants.

Babiak and Hare warn: "Psychopaths are skilled at social manipulation, and the job interview is a perfect place to apply their talents." Often they are able to provide a well-rounded resume displaying the traits of the perfect job candidate, able to charm even the most seasoned of interviewers in HR.

Once entering the job, they quickly blend into the corporate environment, becoming "social chameleons" as they figure out all the angles and quickly begin their manipulation to the top. Known for their self-centeredness, once comfortably employed, psychopaths move into a three-stage behavior pattern of assessment, manipulation and abandonment.

Unfortunately, many do not see this pattern for what it is and mistake some of the traits as the individual's attempt to become an ideal employee and leader.

Why We Like This Book
Babiak and Hare present well laid out facts and case studies, while working around the narrative thread of the character Dave as an example of the psychopath within the corporate environment. The reader is able to follow Dave and the effects that his destructive actions have on the lives of his coworkers from start to finish. Readers are given a thorough explanation as to how the psychopath operates in the corporate world, from the time of the interview to his or her destructive climb up the corporate ladder. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries