University of Toledo Snakes in Suits Book Review Book reviews will be 1,000-1,200 words. An essential feature of a good book review is the reviewer’s abili

University of Toledo Snakes in Suits Book Review Book reviews will be 1,000-1,200 words. An essential feature of a good book review is the reviewer’s ability to write concisely so that a comprehensive evaluation of the book can be obtained from a brief reading. So, do not write more, write more concisely — find creative ways to communicate your critical evaluation of the book in a short essay. The point of a scholarly book review is not to summarize the content of the book, but to situate the theoretical and practical merit of the book and to evaluate critically the author’s purpose, thesis, contentions, and methods of analysis. Hence, the bulk of the body of one’s review essay will be an evaluation of how convincing was the author’s presentation of his/her ideas, and a commentary on the book’s contribution and application. Please turn in an electronic copy to the Blackboard dropbox. *You may not choose the Ethical Executive for this assignment. SNAKES IN SUITS
When Psychopaths Go to Work
Paul Babiak, Ph.D., and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.
In memory of Cheryl, and Paul
Act I, Scene I – Grand Entrance
1. Nice Suit. Would a Snake Wear Such a Nice Suit?
2. Who Are These People?
Act I, Scene II – Off and Running
3. What You See May Not Be What You See
Act II, Scene I – Hail-Fellow-Well-Met
4. Psychopathic Manipulation: How Did He Do That?
Act II, Scene II – Plucking the Apple
5. Enter the Psychopath, Stage Left
Act III, Scene I – Panic Time
6. Pawns, Patrons, and Patsies: Roles in the
Psychopath’s Drama
Act III, Scene II – An Honest Mistake?
7. Darkness and Chaos: The Psychopath’s Friends
Act III, Scene III – Let’s Do Lunch
8. I’m Not a Psychopath, I Just Talk and Act Like One
Act IV – Doubts Dance Away
9. Enemy at the Gates
Act V, Scene I – Circle the Wagons
10. Hot Buttons and Weak Spots: Personal Self-Defense
Act V, Scene II – Unraveling the Puzzle
11. The Fifth Column: Psychopaths in Our Midst
Act V, Scene III – The Rise and the Fall
About the Authors
Other Books by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.
About the Publisher
Most workers are honest, loyal, law-abiding citizens, concerned with
making a living, contributing to society, and raising a family in a fair
and just world. Others, though, are more selfish, concerned only
about themselves with little regard for fairness and equity. Unfortunately, there are some individuals in the business world who allow
the responsibilities of leadership and the perks of power to override
their moral sense. A rise in the number of reports of abuse in major
corporations should not be a surprise, given the increased access to
unrestricted power, resources of startling proportions, and the erosion of ethical standards and values.
Some who have faltered may have experienced a weakened moral
sense of “right” in the face of excessive temptation and easy access to
power. Others may feel justified in reaping the rewards in proportion
to the size of the organization they lead, arguing that their extravagances seem excessive only to those who have little hope of being so
rewarded. Still others have embraced the self-serving mantras that
“greed is good” and that success at any cost to others is justifiable and
even desirable. But another group exists, one whose behaviors and attitudes are potentially much more destructive to the organization and
its employees than those noted above who are motivated by greed or
big egos. This group, the subject of this book, displays a personality
disorder rooted in lying, manipulation, deceit, egocentricity, callousness, and other potentially destructive traits. This personality disorder, one of the first to be described in the psychiatric literature, is
A dozen or so personality disorders have found their way into the
psychiatric nomenclature. What makes psychopathy unique is that
its defining characteristics and traits often lead to behaviors that
conflict with the generally accepted norms and laws of society. Some
people with psychopathic personalities are in prison because of their
crimes against people and property. Others are in prison for committing economic or white-collar crimes, such as fraud, embezzlement,
or stock manipulation. These are crimes against businesses and institutions, as well as the employees who work in them.
In addition to the problems their abusive behaviors cause to
spouses, friends, and family members, individuals with a heavy dose
of psychopathic traits are potentially harmful to professional relationships. For example, their grandiosity, sense of entitlement, and
lack of personal insight lead to conflict and rivalry with bosses and
coworkers, and their impulsivity and “live in the moment” philosophy lead them to keep repeating these and other dysfunctional,
antisocial behaviors, despite performance appraisals and training
programs. Many experts believed that these traits alone make it difficult for psychopaths to have successful long-term careers in industry. At least that was the conventional wisdom until we did our
One might think that conning or bullying traits in a job applicant would be so obvious to employers that such candidates would
not be hired for important jobs, especially those where the ability to
get along with others is critical. One might also think that abusive,
deceitful behavior toward coworkers would eventually lead to disci-
plinary action and termination. But, based on the cases we have reviewed, this often is not the case.
There are four possible reasons for this. First, some core psychopathic personality traits—we might call them talents—may seem
attractive in job applicants, and contribute to their success at being
hired. For example, psychopaths can be very charming, able to talk
their way past even the most seasoned interviewers. When it is to
their advantage, they can display a charisma that can disarm and beguile even the most wary individuals. Just as those who have unwittingly married a psychopath find themselves trapped in a web of
deceit, abuse, and pain, so too can a company make a faulty hiring
decision and find itself with a serious problem on its hands down the
road. Psychopaths are skilled at social manipulation, and the job interview is a perfect place to apply their talents.
Second, some companies quite innocently recruit individuals with
psychopathic tendencies because some hiring managers may mistakenly attribute “leadership” labels to what are, in actuality, psychopathic behaviors. For example, taking charge, making decisions, and
getting others to do what you want are classic features of leadership
and management, yet they can also be well-packaged forms of coercion, domination, and manipulation. Failing to look closely beneath
the outer trappings of stereotypical leadership to the inner working of
the personality can sometimes lead to a regrettable hiring decision.
Third, the changing nature of business itself is also a contributing factor to the increase in psychopathic persons being hired. “Bureaucracy” as a business model evolved early in the last century to
address the problems inherent in coordinating and optimizing the
efforts of large numbers of people who were performing many interrelated job functions. As business competition became more sophisticated, these support systems became more complex, and their
supporting infrastructure grew in size. As a result, bureaucracies typically employed a large number of people, had multiple processes
and procedures, and were expensive to run. These characteristics
earned them a reputation for being almost too big to be effective.
Since then, organizational structures and processes have evolved
considerably, with the most dramatic changes taking place during
the early 1970s and 1980s, the beginning of what may be called “the
organization wars.” During this time corporate takeovers, acquisitions, mergers, and breakups led to great social and financial upheaval in the business world. The desire to create sleek, lean, efficient
companies was a good one, and long overdue in many industries.
Eventually, in order to survive, many companies shed their old-style,
bureaucratic policies and structures for a flatter, more free-form,
faster-paced organizational environment. During the 1990s, this
new, “transitional” organizational style—fewer layers, simpler systems and controls, more freedom to make decisions—became the
norm. In fact, change became a matter of business necessity and economic survival. Competing successfully now required the quick generation and movement of new information. Speed and innovation
were now more important than keeping track of what was already
old news.
With the need to embrace change came a switch from hiring
“organization men and women” who would maintain the status quo
to hiring individuals who could shake the trees, rattle cages, and get
things done quickly. This hiring switch inadvertently led to the
selection of some individuals with psychopathic traits and characteristics. Unfortunately, the general state of confusion that change
brings to any situation can make psychopathic personality traits—
the appearance of confidence, strength, and calm—often look like
the answer to the organization’s problems. Yet, hiring individuals
with these traits seemed like the right thing to do. Egocentricity, callousness, and insensitivity suddenly became acceptable trade-offs in
order to get the talents and skills needed to survive in an accelerated,
dispassionate business world.
Fourth, psychopathic individuals, known for ignoring rules and
regulations, coupled with a talent for conning and manipulation,
found these new, more flexible organization structures inviting. The
temptation for someone with a psychopathic personality to join a
new, fast-paced, competitive, and highly effective “transitional” organization, especially one with few constraints or rules, is too great, and
the personal rewards too significant, to be ignored. The effect of
these things is that psychopaths are more attracted to work for businesses that offer fast-paced, high-risk, high-profit environments.
It is very important to understand how and why the psychopath
so readily manipulates people and organizations, given the increasing
financial and social risk to companies wishing to survive in a chaotic
business environment filled with uncertainty, constant change, and
increasing regulation. In addition to financial harm to a company
and its shareholders, there are also personal dangers to coworkers.
There is the risk to the careers of those subjected to the emotional or
physical abuse of a psychopathic coworker. For example, senior executives may find their authority and security severely compromised by
the “high-potential” management candidate moving up the ranks.
Covert attacks and defensive maneuvers waste valuable time and energy that could otherwise be focused on creativity, productivity, and
profitability. In addition, bruised leadership egos and lowered morale
are much harder to measure but can lead to large declines in organizational performance.
Unfortunately, even an organization with sophisticated hiring
and promotion practices would find it challenging to defend itself
against these “corporate cons.” Even loyal coworkers—firsthand witnesses to much of the psychopath’s machinations—do not always
understand what is happening. And, when some do raise the red flag,
they may find that no one at the top responds to it.
This book evolved out of our growing realization that lack of
specific knowledge about what constitutes psychopathic manipulation and deceit among businesspeople was the corporate con’s key to
success. The scientific literature on the behavior of criminal psychopaths is extensive but geared to the forensic scientist and clinician. We hope to close some of the gaps in the current understanding
of psychopaths among the business readers by using nontechnical
language and case studies. We want to provide the reader with the
experience of working next to a corporate psychopath by presenting
the kinds of real-life situations we’ve encountered in our work. Because a psychopathic coworker can harm your career in seen and unseen ways, we hope that this knowledge will prepare you to defend
yourself in the future.
The premise of this book is that psychopaths do work in modern
organizations; they often are successful by most standard measures
of career success; and their destructive personality characteristics are
invisible to most of the people with whom they interact. They are
able to circumvent and sometimes hijack succession planning and
performance management systems in order to give legitimacy to their
behaviors. They take advantage of communication weaknesses, organizational systems and processes, interpersonal conflicts, and general stressors that plague all companies. They abuse coworkers and,
by lowering morale and stirring up conflict, the company itself. Some
may even steal and defraud.
This book will help you peel back the layers covering the psychopath’s personality. We will approach this task in several ways,
leading the reader toward an understanding of what makes psychopaths tick and what behaviors can be observed in the office that
might provide clues as to their true nature. We will follow the exploits of “Dave,” one of the first corporate psychopaths documented
in the scientific literature, as he weaves his web of deceit. His ability
to present himself as a rising star and corporate savior, all the while
abusing his coworkers and eventually the company, will be made
transparent. We will also explain in some detail what the current
thinking is about psychopathic behavior in organizations, illustrating
specific traits with examples and short case histories taken from real
life. This book will introduce you to the way these “snakes in suits”
manipulate others; it will help you see through their games and give
you pointers on how to protect yourself, your career, and your
We consider it important to caution the reader that, although
the topic of this book is psychopathy in the workplace, not everyone
described herein is a psychopath. The “snakes” we describe are not
based on actual persons, and any resemblance to such persons, living
or dead, is purely coincidental. Rather, they are profiles of generic
psychopaths based upon composites of psychopathic characteristics
derived from published reports, the news media, and our own research about such personalities. While we do at times refer to actual
persons, such as in the sidebars, we do so only because the person’s
behavior is either consistent with the concept of psychopathy or illustrates a key trait or behavior that is typical of the disorder. While
these individuals may or may not be psychopaths, their reported behavior provides a useful vehicle for elaborating the various traits and
behaviors that define psychopathy. The reader should not assume that
an individual is a psychopath simply because of the context in which he
or she is portrayed in this book.
ACT I, Scene I
One could imagine he was arriving at a GQ photo shoot, judging by
his smooth, strong, and confident entrance. As interview suits went,
his was the finest. His smile was broad and toothy, his shirt crisp and
white, and, well, the whole package was perfection.
“Hi, I’m Dave. I’m here to see Frank,” he said to the receptionist, who had already noticed him, as had the other young women
who had positioned themselves unobtrusively in the lobby. “I’ll ring
him, sir. Please have a seat,” she replied. “It’s good to see you again,”
she smiled. And it certainly was, she thought, as she smiled to herself
and glared at her competition.
“Hi, Dave, good to see you again,” rang Frank’s voice, beaming
from across the room as he approached Dave. “How was the trip in?”
“Fine, pleasant,” stated Dave as he gave a firm handshake.
“We have a couple more interviews for you today,” said Frank.
“Just some human resources folks, and a meeting with my boss, our
vice president, and then lunch and a tour of the surrounding community.”
“Great, I’m ready to get started,” Dave said.
Garrideb Technologies was one of those high-tech companies,
born in a garage in the Midwest, that had skyrocketed to success beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. Because of the company’s incredible growth, changes to the organization were sorely needed, not
the least of which was the need to hire more staff. The management
team went for the best talent available to keep up with the growing demands for their products and services. Few candidates had résumés with
the specialized education and experience they needed, but Dave did.
The HR interviews went better than these interviews usually go.
HR types tend to probe more deeply into the motivations of people
than do the department interviewers, and ask for too many details
about past jobs and references, but Dave was polite. “I’ll stay as long
as you need me,” he said, smiling, “so whatever you need, please,
that’s why I’m here.” After they were through, the HR assistant escorted Dave to the executive wing.
“Welcome, Dave, I’m glad to finally meet you,” stated John, the
vice president of new products, noting the attractive tie against
Dave’s starched shirt. “How was your trip in?”
“Excellent,” stated Dave, “this is a beautiful part of the country.
I can’t wait to take a better look around. Your facilities are extraordinary; I’ve never seen such architecture.”
“Thanks,” responded John. “We try to make it comfortable for
our staff. Success has its rewards, and we don’t skimp on creature
“I’ve heard a bit about your strategic plan from Frank, and I’ve
read the company brochure, but I’d like to get the details from you,
as the major strategist of the company’s success. How did you do all
of this?” inquired Dave. Pleased with Dave’s interest in the company’s future, he took some slides from a binder on his bookshelf to
Grand Entrance
show Dave some graphs. John launched into his exposition on his
plan. “Unbelievable! You really have done a great job orchestrating
everything,” exclaimed Dave.
John was pleased to interact with someone who, despite his age,
understood so well the intricacies of building a business. He pushed
aside the suggested interview questions HR had prepared for him
and asked Dave to tell him about himself. Dave obliged eagerly by
describing his work history, giving plenty of examples reflecting
John’s respect for hard work and diligence. The extent of Dave’s experience was—at age thirty-five—impressive, documented by a résumé and a portfolio most would work a career to achieve.
The interview with John went exceptionally well. As the interview ended, Dave extended his hand, smiled, and said, looking
straight into John’s eyes, “Thank you so much for your time. I look
forward to working closely with you; I know I can help you realize
your strategic vision.”
“The pleasure was mine; I hope to see you again,” answered
John. John’s secretary escorted Dave back to the lobby to wait for
Frank. One could not ask for a better candidate, thought John as he dialed up Frank with his approval.
Frank grabbed his jacket, but as he reached the door of his office
on his way to pick up Dave for lunch, his phone rang, “I’d like us all
to get together later today to discuss Dave’s candidacy,” said the HR
“Oh, Melanie, that won’t be necessary. John and I just agreed to
offer Dave the job; I’m going to take him to lunch and make him the
“But we agreed to get all the interviewers together to discuss each
candidate thoroughly; and we wanted to bring back Tom, the guy
from New York, for a second look also,” she reminded Frank.
“That won’t be necessary; clearly, one could not ask for a better
candidate than Dave,” he said as he hung up. Frank was happy to
have found someone with the right fit for both the job and the organization, and he didn’t want this one to get away.
Over lunch, Frank made the offer to Dave. Dave pushed back at
the original salary offer, which was actually high in the range, and
Frank agreed to sweeten the pie with a sign-on bonus and review in
six months.
Frank was very pleased when Dave accepted the enhanced offer.
Seeing leadership potential in him, Frank knew that Dave’s style, intelligence, and technical expertise made him an …
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