How to screen for psychopaths

How to screen for psychopaths

Dealing with workplace bullying is often seen as an issue to manage once it becomes apparent in the workplace.

But what if recruitment processes could screen for those people programmed to cause emotional harm to fellow employees?

There are certain personalities who deliberately inflict harm or lack the ability to understand the harm they are doing to others. These personalities fall within a category that psychologists call the ‘Dark Triad’, which comprises three sub-personalities: Machiavellianism, sub-clinical narcissism and sub-clinical psychopathy, JD Supra Business Advisor reports.

“The Dark Triad share a number of overlapping features including social malevolence, callousness, aggression, manipulative behaviour, duplicity, a lack of empathy and a tendency towards self-promotion,” the reports reads.

“Studies have shown a strong correlation between psychopathy and bullying behaviour and these studies have indicated that psychopaths are fairly well-represented in leadership positions.”

While many companies use psychometric testing during the recruitment process, few test for indicators of social malevolence.

There are various assessment tools that have been developed in studies aimed at identifying both bullies and Dark Triad traits, ranging from basic questionnaires to more sophisticated tools that require administration by a qualified clinician under scientifically controlled conditions.

“Access to these can be costly, but when you consider the collateral damage that can occur from a psychopath in the workplace, who then ascends to management, and causes harm to other employees and the business, it might be worth the investment,” says the report. 

A study showing six out of ten employees have witnessed or suffered from workplace bullying, backs this theory, along with instances such as a "ballistic" HR manager sued by a former employee for bullying. 

Comments (1)

  • Greg Turner
    Greg Turner
    Thu, 14 Apr 2016 1:02pm BST
    Psychometric tools will only ever indicate a persons potential pre-disposition towards a behaviour trait. They can't tell you what will happen, they can only tell you what might happen. Since everyone has free will, it would be ethically very questionable to not hire someone because their profile said there was a high, higher, better than average (OK so what is the threshold for elimination - you see the problem), chance of them being a bully.

    You don't need a psychometric tool to tell if someone is a bully. It's pretty bloody obvious. The problem is that too few companies do anything about it.

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