What do prisoners and CEOs have in common? The answer isn't the punchline to a joke, but the finding of an Australian study out of Bond University that says about 20% of chief executives are psychopaths, the Telegraph reports. The results—presented Tuesday at the Australian Psychological Society Congress and to be published in the European Journal of Psychology—find that of 261 high-level US execs in the supply chain management arena, 21% had "clinically significant levels" of psychopathic traits, including a lack of empathy and egocentrism, per Becker's Hospital Review. Prisoners exhibit a similar rate, while the rate among the general population is about one in a hundred. "For psychopaths, it [corporate success] is a game and they don't mind if they violate morals," says study author Nathan Brooks, who also worked with researchers from the University of San Diego.
Brooks tells ABC.net.au that his team looked at around 1,000 top executives, but it was the supply chain management group that was the "most interesting," with those CEOs seeming to be able to robotically make decisions in the best interest of the company. "Ruthlessness is a big [trait]," Brooks says, per Becker's. "They're very calculated." So how do these types of people end up in such high positions in the first place? Brooks says that when companies recruit, they're often hyperfocused on skills, not personality—and the "chaos" the new bosses cause often comes to light only after they've started. Brooks says he's working on a tool that will help companies weed out candidates with psychopathic tendencies, including a closer look at their problem-solving skills, followed up by a probation period to see how well they play with others. (Here's one way you might be able to tell if your co-worker's a psychopath.)