Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 24 Jan 2018 'Psychopaths' could ...

'Psychopaths' could benefit under abusive bosses, new study reveals

Published Jan 24, 2018, 7:53 pm IST
Updated Jan 24, 2018, 7:53 pm IST
Sound bizarre? Here's what researchers have found.
 'Psychopaths' could benefit under abusive bosses. (Photo: Pexels)
  'Psychopaths' could benefit under abusive bosses. (Photo: Pexels)

Washington: Flourishing under a rude,abusive boss? You may be a psychopath, a study suggests.

In the workplace, employees respond differently to abusive management styles, in part due to their varying levels of psychopathy, researchers said.


Certain types of "psychopaths" actually benefit and flourish under abusive bosses, according to the study which appears in the Journal of Business Ethics.

"There are primary and secondary dimensions of psychopathy. Both consist of high levels of antisocial behaviour; however, people who score high in primary psychopathy lack empathy and are cool-headed and fearless," said Charlice Hurst, assistant professor at University of Notre Dame in the US.

They do not react to things that cause other people to feel stressed, fearful or angry. Secondary psychopaths are more hot-headed and impulsive.


"We found that primary psychopaths benefit under abusive supervisors. Relative to their peers low in primary psychopathy, they felt less anger and more engagement and positive emotions under abusive supervisors," said Hurst.

Researchers conducted two studies with 419 working adults. In one study, participants were asked to react to profiles of managers depicted as constructive or abusive. There were no differences in anger between high and low primary psychopathy participants, but the participants high in primary psychopathy reported feeling happier after imagining themselves working for an abusive manager.


In the second study, participants rated how abusive their own supervisors were. They were asked about behaviours such as rudeness, gossip about employees, not giving proper credit for work, invasion of privacy and breaking promises.

Those high in primary psychopathy reported feeling less angry, more positive and engaged. The research underscores the many ways that enabling managers to abuse employees can be harmful.

"It may reward and retain exactly the kind of people who are likely to perpetuate abusive cultures," Hurst said. "Psychopaths thriving under abusive supervisors would be better positioned to get ahead of their peers," she said.