Nathan Brooks was interviewed by the The Advertiser newspaper on 10 June 2014 discussing the complex and emerging problem of psychopathic personalities in the workplace.
The following is the interview:
THE Wolf of Wall Street’s single-minded approach to power and fortune is lurking among Adelaide business leaders, according to forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks.
Mr Brooks was in Adelaide speaking to business leaders about destructive workforce personalities like those seen in the Hollywood blockbuster.
He said emerging research showed large numbers of high flyers showed psychopathic traits of self-obsession and a lack of conscience or empathy.
This was leading to issues of bullying and victimisation “that is also a financial cost to a company”.
Mr Brooks said latest figures showed one in 100 people showed psychopathic traits in the general population but was 1 in 25 in the upper echelons of business – and 1 in five in the prison system.
Mr Brooks, psychologist and forensic registrar at Bond University in Queensland, had been working with companies, particularly in the United States, to introduce screening processes to weed out problem personalities in job interviews.
Companies dealing with individuals showing “intense emotions and rage when they don’t get their own way” wanted help in creating “harmony in the workforce”.
Some key traits of a psychopathic personality were: playing people off against each other, jumping the hierarchy, making life “about them, they don’t care about what it takes, it’s all about how they can improve their status, power and money”.
And there was also the ability to be “very charming, very manipulative, confident with a high self-esteem”.
Mr Brooks was in Adelaide speaking to human resources and corporate managers at audit and accountancy firm BBDO’s Psych @ Work series for clients.
Scott Way, BDO’s director of Organisation Development, said employers needed to be more aware of the issue “because of the profound effect on office morale, productivity and staff retention”.
“These personalities can hide more easily in larger organisations and they can be hard to pick,” he said.
Mr Brooks urged Adelaide companies to introduce their own screening of employees using tests on loyalty, trustworthiness, honesty and integrity.
For those dealing with the problem in the workforce, “first of all, don’t label them and if they are your manager the best thing to do is document everything, they will be making sure they don’t get caught out”.
As this personality trait was driven by self-motivation Mr Brooks advised managers to take an approach similar to the “gold star chart with children”.
Mr Brooks, who provides forensic assessment services for criminal and civil matters in the Queensland court system, said the number of males versus females showing the traits was evenly split.
“Men will exploit females in the workforce they see as vulnerable and females will use their emotional skills to captivate men and that’s a way to move through the hierarchy,” he said.
“They are very, very good at finding weaknesses and vulnerabilities in others.”
Mr Brooks is currently completing his PhD examining the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills of psychopathic individuals with a particular focus on corporations.
For the full interview, access The Advertiser newspaper online – Psychologist warns against Wolf of Wall Street employees (link opens in new window)