Some People have an Inherent Propensity to be Unethical
The two mental health classifications most relevant to “unethical” persons are
Antisocial personality (sometimes termed “psychopathy” or “sociopathy”), and
Narcissistic personality disorder
Antisocial = not prosocial (i.e., the “mean bonobo”
(Not clinical) Doesn't mean someone that isn't wanting to be social
It is estimated that 5.8% of males and 1.2% of females will exhibit antisocial personality traits over a lifetime (to me this seems high, but if you include the prison population, etc, maybe not).
Narcissism is more common: 2-16% of population
A) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
Previous classifications also included charm in the list, and many feel it should be put back in, because the ability to charm/lie effectively is a component of much antisocial behavior.
The individual is at least 18 years of age.
C) There is evidence of Conduct disorder [i.e., getting into trouble] with onset before age 15.
D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance 2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love (megalomania) 3. believes they are "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, people (or institutions) who are also "special" or of high status4. requires excessive admiration 5. has a sense of entitlement 6. is interpersonally exploitative 7. lacks empathy 8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her 9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Crime and These Personality Traits
Not a clinical (DSM) diagnostic term, but often used as a personality trait to describe people
A much milder issue, not a personality disorder, although could still lead to really bad behavior
The Mach-IV test was developed by social psychologists to test Machiavellianism, which is the propensity to use others for personal gain
Although there is a correlation among them, Mach, anti-social personalities, and narcissism are distinct constructs (i.e., not perfectly correlated).
Some Machiavellian beliefs
1. Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so.
2. The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear.
5. It is safest to assume that all people have a vicious streak and it will come out when they are given a chance.
8. It is hard to get ahead without cutting corners here and there.
12. Anyone who completely trusts anyone else is asking for trouble.
13. The biggest difference between most criminals and other people is that
criminals are stupid enough to get caught.
Are People with These Conditions Ever Cured/Changed?
How Can You Recognize them?
How to Recognize, cont.
When you first start to realize what the person is all about, you feel as if you yourself are crazy.
(I have heard this time and again from victims of sociopaths in the workplace)
Sociopaths will use the “pity play.”
“When deciding whom to trust, bear in mind that the combination of consistently bad or egregiously inadequate behavior with frequent plays for your pity is as close to a warning mark on a consciousless person’s forehead as you will ever be given.” Martha Stout
What to Do When you Encounter Someone Like This
Trust your instincts! We all have the “gift of fear.”
Do not blindly follow authority for the sake of following authority.
Practice the “Rule of Threes” (From The Sociopath Next Door): “One lie, one broken promise, or a single neglected responsibility may be a misunderstanding instead. Two may involve a serious mistake. But three lies says you’re dealing with a liar, and deceit is the linchpin of consciousless behavior. Cut your losses and get out as soon as you can.
Although they are rare, there are psychological conditions and traits that lead directly to unethical behavior.
You cannot fix someone with these traits and people with these traits are happy to lead everyone around them into unethical territory without a thought for anyone else’s welfare.
Furthermore, these people often are especially charming, confident, and charismatic.
Sometimes, ironically, they fit our stereotype of the “successful business leader.”
Beware, run away if you can.