Caution: Psychos at Work
By Jonathon Keats

(Business 2.0) – Hannibal Lecter might have greater career potential than the man in the gray flannel suit. So say industrial psychologist Paul Babiak and famed forensic psychologist Robert Hare. Their groundbreaking research on psychopathology, presented in Snakes in Suits (Regan Books, May), shows that the percentage of psychopaths in business vastly exceeds the proportion in society at large--and psychopaths routinely damage the companies for which they work.

Hare, the creator of what has become the standard clinical test of psychopathology, says the psychopath's lack of emotion dovetails with contemporary business practice. An organizational structure with no rigid chain of command is attractive to psychopaths. It gives them irresistible opportunities to manipulate co-workers and game the system. Disregard for consequences makes these people unusually adept at the ruthless risk taking necessary in a cutthroat marketplace. But these impulses can derail the internal workings of a company to a greater extent than they increase competitiveness.

So how to root out these people? The authors say casual diagnosis is impossible. The book is more a critique of modern corporate life than a primer for identifying the cannibals among us.