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Psychopathic Organizations

February 27, 2006 - Corporate responsibility researchers have found that many large organizations display the criteria psychiatrists use to classify people as psychopaths. New research from the Turku School of Economics in Finland, to be published in the next edition of Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management suggests that organizations showing evidence of psychopathic behaviour would benefit from a 'Prince of Virtues' approach to awake them from a '100-year sleep'.

Psychopathic characteristics in organizations

The article matches the personality characteristics of psychopaths (shown in bold) with some examples of organisational behaviour:

  1. Unconcern for others' feelings - harsh treatment of employees, customers and partners - sudden terminations of employment contracts and business contracts
  2. Inability to maintain human relations - transferring business operations from country to country in order to minimize production expenses - constant change of employees and partners
  3. Disregard for others' safety - products and production methods endangering human health and the environment - dangerous working conditions
  4. Dishonesty and lying to one's own advantage - keeping silent about the risks of hazardous products and production methods, covering them up and denying their existence - deceiving employees, customers and partners
  5. Inability to feel guilt - when exposed of wrong-doing, asserting innocence (denial), blaming others (projection) and justifying one's action (rationalisation)
  6. Inability to observe the laws and norms of society - breaking human rights, labour, contract and environmental laws and agreements when it is economically more beneficial than observing them

The author of the report, Dr. Tarja Ketola considers that managers and employees working in large companies that employ psychopathic practices which breach people's basic values carry a huge mental burden. However, she argues a solution can come from using ethical principles employed by individuals in their personal lives.

"According to the natural law (lex naturae) all people all over the world share the same sense of morality, irrespective of their religion and background," says Dr. Ketola.

"Why then, should people keep their personal values separate from their work values? If key individuals or the majority of personnel within psychopathic companies realise that the same ethical principles they use in their personal life also apply in business life, the 'spell' will be broken and they will overcome organisational resistance to genuine corporate responsibility."

She believes that these results suggest that 'psychopathic' organizations can move towards ideal responsibility by developing their economic, social and ecological responsibilities in harmony on the basis of virtue ethical values.

Tarja Ketola notes, "If these companies can stop schizophrenically separating their staff's personal values from their professional values, allowing people in organizations to integrate them into a natural harmonic unity, the corporate responsibility '100-year sleep' could be over."

* Ketola, T: From CR-Psychopaths to Responsible Corporations: Waking Up the Inner Sleeping Beauty of Companies, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management. 2006. DOI: 10.1002/csr.113. Volume 13, issue 2, 2006



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