Posts Tagged ‘grievance’

Enterprise Risk and Psychopathic Employees

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

 

Star employee or Psychopath?

Star employee or Psychopath?

 

 

 

A  German[1] study has highlighted similarities in brain function between convicted and certified psychopaths, and traders.   Interestingly the traders were more concerned with reward and, “spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents”, compared to the prisoners.  Whilst the study was relatively small (27 traders and 24 psychopaths),[2] it would seem to be backed up by anecdotal evidence from, and recent events in, the banking sector.[1] 
 

We understand the attraction of trading to those who may show psychopathic tendencies.  It is an impersonal activity – a matter of spread sheets and automatic execution into anonymous markets.  It offers all the excitement of gambling and computer gaming, with the real risks of the gamble being taken by the employer and apparently mediated by risk management software.   It doesn’t require EQ skills.

However, we don’t agree that every trader fits this profile[3].  People who are extremely numerate may not have good EQ.  Corporate cultures may reward and encourage what could be described as selfish behaviour[4].  Similarly the effort that went into destroying internal competitors may be the consequence of a failure of performance management.  The real risk management issue is not purely individuals (or trading teams).  It is both how the organisation assesses and manages performance, and the impact of the prevailing organisational culture on the development and display of these traits.   

Psychopathic behaviour damages organisations.   Sabotaging colleagues destroys team working, creating a hostile environment with an internal rather than market focus.  The consequences include increased churn, with the real talent leaving.  Once the realities of working in the organisation are known, attracting good candidates for employment becomes difficult.   Promoted into management the damage is worse.  Productivity of other teams will plummet as internal competition ‘hots up’, more talent will leave and actions for bullying and harassment will eventually surface.  The inevitable resulting internal focus compromises competitive advantage and the organisation’s future.   

Fortunately, the psychopath’s ability to blag and charm does not stand scrutiny from effective performance review.  A key part of this is the review and feedback process itself. Ironically those who are best qualified to deal with the technical competencies in this population are unlikely to have the interpersonal skill sets to do so, and will feel most challenged by it.  Given the risks, it is important that your managers are competent in their interpersonal performance management skills.  Talk to us now about how to ensure your managers have the essential interpersonal skill sets to thrive at this challenging task.

 

[1] University of St Gallen: authors Pascal Scherrer and Thomas Noll

[2]The brain chemistry/mechanism that could be at play has been evidenced by  research published by the University of Vanderbilt  http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2010/03/psychopaths-brains-wired-to-seek-rewards-no-matter-the-consequences-109865/

[3] Psychopathic tendencies do not automatically mean that an individual becomes a psychopath.  The difficulty is semantic, the association with criminality.  As we have noted elsewhere, psychology and neurobiology are useful sciences to inform our interaction in the real world which is where organisations operate. 

[4] See our ‘Hard Wired to Fail?’ www.theperformancepractice.co.uk/ideas-blog May 2011


‘One out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic* ‘

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Is your Boss a psychopath?
Is your Boss a psychopath?

What a great headline and timely – we’ve all worked with bosses from hell, and at times of turbulence when people are very stressed, these stories have a particular resonance. But the headline is a gross simplification.  **1 in 25 out of small sample of 200 individuals – that’s 4% of a really small population. 

Many of the skills sets required to be a good boss could easily be confused with those described as psychopathic traits.  Doing business means that we are not always authentic in our emotional response to situations.  Appropriate senior management behaviours include:

·         Always outgoing and charming in public, (even if you’ve just lost a major contract).

·         Knowing when not to engage at an emotional level, and even when to ignore individuals (and how not to give offense when you do not).

·         Staying adult, (whatever the provocation), with staff, and customers.

·         Maximising time to useful contacts; minimising time given to those who are not useful – and making assessments about the ‘usefulness’ of the people concerned.

·         Firing people  – even if they have families to support and there is no other employment for them.

·         Making political accommodations and contracts with people and companies you do not ‘admire’.   

Consider also entrepreneurs?  Individuals who succeed against the odds – be it in commercial or not for profit sectors tend to have different psychological traits to those of the general population.  Some of these traits are not very attractive.

Here is how to protect your organisation from psychopaths:

1                    Know your business – it’s hard to fake when managers are knowledgeable about their business. 

2                    Manage performance – manage performance against objective criteria and agreed timelines.  To underline the point, business plans usually come with numbers and dates. 

3                    Have robust hiring systems.

4                    Inform everyone one of and apply relevant processes (including informal networks) to stamp out bullying.

5                    Ensure the Organisational Values are alive, not just written on a piece of paper – which means including them in performance management.

 

 Talk to us, in confidence and without obligation about helping your managers develop the competence and confidence to manage effectively.  Solutions that engage, motivate and fit around, rather than disrupt the business.

*The Guardian newspaper and other media sources.

**The study was conducted by Dr. Paul Babiak, you will find more – including a (n interesting) check list of psychopathic traits at http://aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org.

Intelligent, articulate, resourceful and angry….

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Tribunals are damaging enough in distraction and cost, however, the damage inflicted by Paul Moore, (Ex-Head of Group Regulatory Risk, HBOS) is in a different category. Moore’s evidence to the House of Commons Treasury Committee is interesting reading. Has the practice of ‘buying off’ employees with an accompanying confidentiality clause made organisations lazy? With the downturn making it hard for employees to move on, the financial and reputational risks of mishandling staff concerns are greater. With markets so challenging, why do organisations increase their costs and reduce their agility and customer focus by failing to nip potential problems in the bud?

? How functional is your performance management framework? Form heavy, impact light? Everyone assessed as mid to high?

? Do your team managers avoid ‘the soft stuff’?

Next steps

  • Talk to us about how to improve delivery of the hard ‘soft’ stuff – practical performance management skills.  And about improving the use and impact of your existing appraisal system.  performance@theperformancepractice.co.uk

Further thoughts – You might also be interested in:

The text of Paul Moore’s memo to the committee – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fca6a706-f81d-11dd-aae8-000077b07658.html

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