There's A 20% Chance Your Boss Is A Legit Psychopath — How To Tell For Sure

Plus: how to tell if your boss is actually a psychopath.

professional person sitting on desk Jasen Wright/ Shutterstock

If you've ever thought "My boss is a total psychopath" there's a one in five chance that you're right. 

In a 2017 study by Nathan Brooks, a forensic psychologist working out of Bond University, over 20% of the 261 CEO participants in their study had traits that could be defined as "psychopathic". Yes, that's one in five. 

So what makes a person a psychopath? The characteristics associated with being a psychopath are insincerity, superficiality, and an inability to empathize.


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Psychopaths can feel fear, but they lack the ability to recognize true danger. 

Based on what he found in his study, Brooks thinks that employers should start screening potential employees based on their personality type rather than just their specific skill set.


Because personality type isn't factored into how places hire staff it has allowed, in Brooks' estimation, for "successful psychopaths" to achieve high-ranking levels of success. Unfortunately being a psychopath also means that you're more like to engage in illegal or unethical behaviors as long as it benefits you. 

Roughly 1% of the overall population right now is made up of psychopaths, so how are so many psychopaths becoming people's bosses?

Well, for one thing, certain jobs tend to attract more psychopaths than other jobs.

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Their personality type is well suited to the field of politics, extreme sports, and business. (Yay for blogging! Fewer psychopaths!) 


This is because many psychopaths can be extremely charismatic and charming, and have personality traits that ultimately abandon them the longer they stay in one particular role. 

Brooks says that the businesses he studied and the CEOs who ran them were the most interesting in that they mimicked the infrastructure of a prison.

Yeah, that's right. So the next time you have a bad day and you're telling people how your boss is a psychopath and your job is like serving a life sentence you've got the science to back up your statements. It's not hyperbolic in the slightest! 

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I don't know about you, but I've definitely had my share of bosses who fit the bill for being a psychopath as described by Brooks in this study.

I once had a boss who made everyone spend the night in the building because he wanted to make sure we'd all be on time the next day when the city was due to be hit with a massive snowstorm. 

That said, I've definitely lucked out too, working primarily in publishing in the arts.


While those fields definitely attract their own breed of crazy, it's a much more approachable kind of madness than having to deal with an unethical tyrant. 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is an editor, freelance writer, former Senior Staff Writer for YourTango, and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek. Her bylines have appeared in Fatherly, Gizmodo, Yahoo Life, Jezebel, Apartment Therapy, Bustle, Cosmopolitan, SheKnows, and many others.