FROM Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada to Jennifer Aniston's character Julia in Horrible Bosses, scary managers have been a staple in movies for decades.
But many exist in the real world too – and they could be a lot worse.
Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University say that some bosses are so manipulative that they should be classed as "corporate psychopaths".
This select group of people are driven by money, power and control – and are willing to do anything to get it, the experts explained.
So, is your boss a corporate psychopath?
There are an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 of them living in Britain- so there's a chance one could be lurking in your office.
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However, until now, little research been done on psychopaths in work settings.
According to lead researcher Dr Clive Boddy, many are likely to hold senior positions in business and finance, "largely because of their apparently social personality traits".
"However, their ruthlessly self-serving behaviour has the potential to bring down entire sectors in extreme cases," he added.
The experts are calling on the financial sector, which hold enormous responsibility, to spot these individuals before they damage the economy and wider society.
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"Firms without corporate psychopaths in them are more likely to be viable, sustainable, and less likely to collapse," Dr Clive explained.
To understand whether corporate scandals and bankruptcies tend to feature corporate psychopaths, the team focused on US fraudster Bernie Madoff – the man behind the largest known Ponzi scheme in history.
He admitted to swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.
They examined Bernie's actions at work and in prison after his arrest it in 2008 against two established scales of psychopathy.
These included personality traits such as superficial charm and apparent intelligence; lack of sincerity or truthfulness; a tendency to cheat; a lack of remorse; being emotionally shallow; a lack of self insight; calmness; and apparent rationality.
They found Bernie's actions reflected all of these traits.
"People have often wondered whether Bernie Madoff was in fact a corporate psychopath, and he certainly scored highly on the two measures of psychopathy utilised within this study," the doctor said.
"The findings suggest that Madoff's fraud was an outcome of his personality and that similar personalities such as Robert Maxwell and Ken Lay, have behaved in similar ways."
The team hopes the findings will help businesses identify corporate psychopaths before they rise to the top.
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Findings from research will be presented at the Chelmsford Science Festival on October 23.
The 9 ways to spot a corporate psychopath – and how to handle one
Experts say the key personality traits to look out for are:
- Superficial charm
- Lack of sincerity or truthfulness
- A tendency to cheat
- A lack of remorse
- Being emotionally shallow
- A lack of self insight
- Seeming rationality
There are steps you can take to protect yourself if you report to a psychopath.
If your boss yells at you, sit there and take it, Jack McCullough author of The Psychopathic CEO, said.
"You just listen, you don’t react, let him get it all out," he said.
"It is your reaction that keeps a psychopath fuelled. Know that it’s not personal."
He also urged people to ensure they don't tie their identities to their jobs, just in case they get fired.
"Just assume that every day is a learning opportunity," he told Psychology Today.
And while reporting to a psychopath, make sure you document everything that happens, with an assumption that lawyers will one day be reviewing your records, he added.
Jack also suggested people keep a set of documents on their computer at home. You may need these files if things get hostile, he explained.
You should assume that your boss will eliminate access to your business computer files, he added.
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