Do corporations and their higher-ups exhibit psychopathic traits?

In the mass media these days, psychopathy has been vilified to no end. Using examples such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, the media has managed to convince people that being a psychopath is contemporaneous with having an intrinsically malevolent personality. However, this could not be further away from the truth. Psychopathy is, in fact, simply an alternate way of being, not the thing that defines killers such as the aforementioned Dahmer. In fact, after having carried out extensive research about the matter over the past week, I have concluded that some of the most successful people in the world of business have psychopathic characteristics. Before I expand on my reasons for believing this, I would like to thank Mr. Matthew Gaffney for putting the proverbial seed in my mind to write about this matter. I would also like to say that these are simply my opinions and they are not to be taken as fact, or as definitive proof that any person or the companies mentioned are psychopathic in the slightest.

I will use some of the criminal psychologist Professor Robert Hare’s criteria to determine psychopaths in this blog post. The first trait I will examine is having a tendency to lie, or pathological lying. If a person is a pathological liar, this means that they lie in an extreme way, which I take to mean destructive, rather than constructive or “white” lies, which cause other people distress in some way. This trait was shown in its entirety by Coke last year, when they blatantly lied about their so called “Pomegranate Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices” a drink which contained just 0.3% pomegranate juice. Coke blatantly using false advertising in order to increase profits was indubitably to the detriment of their consumer base, meaning that Coke, did, indeed, show the trait of pathological lying when they blatantly did not tell the truth about the actual type of beverage that it was. This means that, without a doubt, some of the higher-ups at Coke must have seen this as a good thing to do, which does indicate a degree of psychopathy.

Psychopaths are also defined by another trait, which is to show a lack of remorse. What this means is that after having done something bad, a person does not feel bad about doing it and is not empathetic with the victims of whatever he or she has done. An example of this was not recherché at all, as it took me the best part of half a minute to find this article, detailing how Walmart fired 2200 employees due to “plumbing problems”. Walmart doing this just hours before stores closed shows an unequivocal lack of remorse on their part, as it shows that they were not empathetic in the slightest to the employees or their families. Again, some higher-ups in the corporation must have made the decision to make so many employees redundant at the same time, which shows this psychopathic trait has been exhibited by this corporation’s higher-ups.

According to Professor Hare’s test, a tendency to boredom is also exhibited by psychopaths. This is shown clearly when we look at the scenario of RBS executive Mr. Rory Cullinan leaving the company after complaining of being “bored” at work. Even after having such a presumably high-paying jobs, complete with the glamour of being in such a high position that we see on our television screens so much, Mr. Cullinan was bored of his life at RBS and so decided to leave. This fits in perfectly with the trait of a tendency to boredom, which shows that Mr. Cullinan was psychopathic to a degree in this regard. Being in such a high position, one can only wonder how many company decisions he may have influenced, which also must have added to the psychopathy of the company as a whole. This is also only one example, and one only has to wonder how many famous departures are not due to issues over pay and the like, but over the genuine boredom that a psychopath frequently experiences.

The final two psychopathic traits that I will examine in this article is a grandiose sense of self worth and sexually promiscuous. This means that people have an inflated ego, which leads them to believe that they are worth more than what they actually are and are somehow “special”, when it fact it may not be so. This trait could also perhaps lead to the sexually promiscuous behaviour mentioned before, as these individuals may think that they are too “good” to only keep to one partner. This is perhaps best shown by the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, who is described as a “serial womaniser” in the article, which talks about him buying a $15 million Manhattan penthouse. This article shows both of the psychopathic traits mentioned earlier in Schmidt, as not only is he buying himself such a large penthouse, which it could be argued that he does not need, but is also a “serial womaniser” and cannot stick to one partner, perhaps due to the aforementioned grandiose sense of self-worth. As such, it can be argued that Schmidt is indeed a psychopath to some degree, which may have been transferred in some part to the company he works for, Google.

In this blog post, I have examined five of the twenty traits that define a psychopath, and have shown how companies themselves and also their higher-ups exhibit these characteristics, whether it be through buying luxury penthouses or through falsely advertising pomegranate juice. Sometimes, these psychopathic traits can be good for a company, for example when a firing needs to happen and the psychopathic individual in question is only worried about the best thing for the company, and not the welfare of the individual being fired or his or her families. However, some of the arrogance displayed by these CEOs can and does give these companies a bad image. Regardless, this blog post has indeed proven that psychopathy is not also exclusive to serial killers such as Ted Bundy, but even the most successful individuals that we live up to display it as well. It is far more commonplace than the general populous think, and even the best of us are not free from its hold.

By Shrey Srivastava

A finance and economics enthusiast, and someone who wants to share his views with the world.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this take on psychopathy vis-à-vis corporations and corporate movers and shakers. I think it’s valid to infer that, if a corporation could pursue profits without public oversight, it would amount to a so-called scorched-earth policy. Profits equate with self-interest to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Only a steady, tight rein on corporations——which are a necessary and efficient component of a vibrant capitalist system——can counter the negative effect of a corporation’s innate narcissism, lack of empathy, and remorselessness.

    Like wild animals, we might be able to train corporations as one trains a circus lion or tiger with a whip, but we will never, ever be able to tame them. Corporations are legal constructs. They are without souls, without consciences, and capable of great evil, particularly when their great power seduces humans to act in ways they would never, ever have acted had they been without the power huge corporations wield. Such power tends to possess leaders, particularly those of flawed and questionable integrity.

    “Power mad” is a valid term, because executives who assume corporate power inevitably mistake it for “authority”——a human flaw that has plagued mankind ever since Adam recognized that he had the power to bite into the apple and mistook that power for authority to bite into the apple.


    1. Thank you so much for the comment Mr. Gaffney. I completely agree with the points you have presented regarding why we will “never, ever be able to tame” corporations and why we need to keep corporations on a tight leash. You are absolutely correct in saying that humans have been self granting themselves authority since the days of old. In my opinion, things will only get worse as corporations grow to wield more and more power and people grow more and more “power mad”, as you succinctly put it. Thank you again for the comment!


  2. Interesting take indeed. Since its all over facebook I wanted to understand. I think the lack of feeling for others is the most worrying part of it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed or even having multiple partners (as long as you are honest about that and good to people around you) but if its done in a manner that is only serving you even at the expense of others, thats a different thing. Most people want to succeed but do not want to make others suffer for it. They want to succeed and want others to succeed as well. I feel like a lot of the definitions are being focused on the need to succeed .. and thats just.. jealousy and fear, I think.. But the difference is in the not caring about others. But not wanting to succeed, is also burdening others with the need you’d have for others to take care of your well being? Interdependence is healthy but codependency is not. I don’t know, sometimes it seems like succes is demonized with the rest of it like you can’t be like that and don’t get frowned upon but on the other side its the same, because when you do not succeed, you are doomed as well. So what does a person need to become in this world, that would mean you can be both good and succeeding? Or is it going to be like the succeeding ones opposed to the rest? I mean, if its that scary to succeed, being labeled as bad, or the other way around which also sucks.. I’m just.. tired of trying to get a grasp on anything and I think I will ignore. Because people might say there is a way, but apparantly people hate, judge and label, and no matter what you do or choose, they always will react that way because they aren’t that capable (most?) to actually be happy for anyone or so it seems, so lets just go on and make each other suspects of great evil, that will probably make your own life Soooooo much better (or maybe it won’t). And don’t stop at succes you know… Make the homeless frowned upon (are just a cost blah, no, they are people), the workers frowned upon. (stupid and do not deserve a normal wage, really?? then fix your own damn toilet, because you know, those people fixing it aren’t good people), middle class is complaining all the time about usually nonsense so lets get away with them as well (you know like 80% of most countries, would be a strange effect, they actually do some usefull stuff too..) and then there are the ones high up there, who get the most fear and rage of the feeling less of themselves… Lets just give EVERYONE a label, admit that we are, apparently, all crazy, or maybe no one, because that would kind of be the same, if everyone is, no one is.. But damn, getting tired of this psychobabble culture seriously.. It seems like its intended to make everyone and everything wrong. I seriously CANNOT think of ANY small little behavioural act that isn’t bashed with some serious negative implications by big psy. Stop it, just be human, love, have fun. If there is a warning sign every second, about every damn thing, warning signs lose effect..


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: