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Centre for Risk Research

How Risk Research Can Help to Manage Corporate Psychopathy

Published: 21 February 2014

In a new paper to be published in the prestigious Journal of Business Ethics, Alasdair Marshall and other staff at the Management School explain how organisations can better manager the risks presented by corporate psychopathy. The significance of this topic is reflected in the current status of the journal, which is ranked 18th on the Financial Times top 45 list of Business School journals.

In the paper entitled "Corporate Psychopathy: can ‘search and destroy' and ‘hearts and minds' military metaphors inspire HRM solutions?", the authors have offered new insights for both educators and Human Resource Managers concerned with this important topic.

Educators may value how the paper makes it easier to situate the corporate psychopath's excessive risk-taking within broader psychological context. It does this by reducing corporate psychopathy to a ‘general problem' of ‘imprudence', 'corruption' and ‘concealment'.  IMPRUDENCE refers to a lack of concern with longer term outcomes. More fully, of course, prudence is a risk term  traceable back through Tomas Aquinas to the ancient Greeks - which the authors think should be used much more in risk scholarship. CORRUPTION refers to  materialistic self-seeking through the bending or breaking of ethical and other social norms, which of course produces what is viewed as recklessness from longer term perspectives. CONCEALMENT refers to  patterns of dramaturgical skill, sycophancy towards superiors and bullying/ blame-shifting towards subordinates, through which corporate psychopaths often manage to get away with their various excesses.

Human Resource Management practitioners, in particular, may value how the paper suggests corporate psychopathy should be tackled. The military has for decades striven to balance ‘search and destroy' and ‘heart and minds' strategies when dealing with terrorist and guerrilla insurgency. The paper argues a similar balance may hold the key to tackling corporate psychopathy. The former approach makes sense for small numbers of ethically irredeemable psychopaths, particularly those in prominent corporate positions; the latter makes sense when we consider that entire corporate cultures need to be better designed to ensure they do not promote psychopathy.

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