Snakes In Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work

by

Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.

Published by HarperCollins

available at fine booksellers, or to order online now, click Snakes In Suits or the photo-link at the bottom of the page.


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Quotes from the book jacket:

 

"The ABCs of the psychopath -- no anxiety, no bonds, and no conscience -- have been in the boardroom and in the news media for decades.  Now we have the primer, destined to become a classis, for understanding this 'intraspecies predator.'"

----- Reid Meloy, Ph.D., forensic psychologist and author of The Psychopathic Mind

 

"Only a fraction of psychopaths are in prison.  the rest thrive in the many target-rich environments that make up society, including business, religious, political, and social organizations, and the Internet.  Snakes In Suits blows their cover and arms the reader with knowledge and insight.  This book is a must read for those in the criminal justice system and will impact economic crime investigations worldwide."

----- Staff Sergeant Matt Logan, Ph.D., criminal and investigative psychologist, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

 

"An important and valuable contribution and a seminal work.  This book reveals how today's fast-paced business climate is often the perfect environment for individuals who can take advantage of the lack of organizational controls in rapidly growing companies."

----- Peter Heinze, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, Ramapo College of New Jersey

 

"Snakes in Suits convinced me that ethical core values and 'foolproof' accountability systems will not protect today's organizations from being duped and plundered if leadership ignores the psychopath, who is ideally adapted to exploit any value, from greed and vanity to altruism and good will.  It's a survival manual for coping with the hidden psychopaths in our midst."

----- Henry Richards, Ph.D., adjunct clinical professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine

 

From Publishers Weekly:

 

Psychopaths are described as incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves; still, spotting a psychopath isn't easy. Babiak, an industrial and organizational psychologist, and Hare (Without Conscience), creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathology, present a study of the psychopath in the corporate landscape. A common description of psychopathology states that subjects "know the words but not the music;" Babiak and Hare state that "a clever psychopath can present such a well-rounded picture of a perfect job candidate that even seasoned interviewers" can be fooled. In between a disposable series of narrative acts that follow a psychopath's progress ("Act I, Scene I - Grand Entrance;" "Act III, Scene II - An Honest Mistake?" "Act V, Scene I - Circle the wagons"), thorough research and anecdotes from a number of sources-current literature, news media, and showbiz among them-to illuminate the power of the psychopath to manipulate those around him, as well as what strategies can be used to identify and disarm him. Clear and complete, this is a handy overview for managers and HR, with enough "self-defense" techniques to help coworkers from getting bit.
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

From Booklist:

 

Babiak, an industrial and organizational psychologist, and Hare, the creator of the standard tool for diagnosing psychopathy, explore the infiltration into today's corporations by psychopaths, or those with destructive personality characteristics that are invisible to many with whom they interact. Their skilled manipulation begins with a perfect interview, as they are attractive job applicants who are confident and charming. They often flourish in fast-paced, changing industries with widespread uncertainty and can inflict considerable damage. Babiak and Hare explain in nontechnical language and real-world case studies how to protect employees and the company from these individuals who take advantage of organizational systems and processes, exploit communication weaknesses, and promote interpersonal conflicts. Babiak and Hare observe, "Companies accelerate their hiring practices to attract, hire, and retain new, high-potential talent before their competitors do. Gone are the days of the painstaking vetting process. Competition is fierce and qualified candidates few." This is an important perspective in the increasingly complicated hiring challenges facing corporate America. Mary Whaley
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

 

 

From PsycCRITIQUES:

 

This book provides a lucid, richly detailed, non-technical guide for corporate business professionals who are seeking to understand how this important and often unrecognized maladaptive behavioral syndrome is acted out in the workplace. Such knowledge is essential if socially responsible and ethical individuals are to protect themselves and their organizations against manipulation. Babiak and Hare analyze the interpersonal strategies that psychopathic individuals frequently use to gain access to positions of power and influence within corporations and other business organizations. Their impersonal, matter-of-fact, predatory social nature allows them to skillfully manipulate, mislead, and defraud others to achieve their own ends. Babiak and Hare are leading authorities on psychopathic personality disorder assessment. They have blended their extensive and complementary corporate and clinical perspectives on the disorder to produce a reference work of great insight and lasting value. This book will be instructive to mental health professionals, corporate managers, and general readers alike for many years to come. Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work is an extremely well-crafted volume that should become a classic of the literature on this disorder. James A. Moses, Jr. 

Copyright (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved

 

 

From Personnel Psychology:

 

This book is a partnership between an I-O psychologist and a clinical psychologist. This book has a very nice balance between clinical perspectives, workplace implications, and case studies that bring the story together. The authors clearly do not expect the reader to have any expertise in either clinical or industrial organizational psychology. We must also take the authors' advice and not throw around labels such as "psychopath" inappropriately, it will be valuable if the book raises our awareness and creates something of a common understanding of the inherent risks in ignoring their existence and power.  David W. Bracken

Copyright (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved
 

 

Reviews and comments from readers:


Good practical information about psychopaths:  Until you have had a working or personal relationship with a psychopath you can not fully appreciate this material in this book. Any form of personal involvement with these types of people is unique and an unforgettable experience. Imagine what it may be like to encounter someone with no forethought of anyone but their own benefit, this person will act so without any regard of how their actions may impact anyone else. A psychopath is incapable of considering anyone else in life. Learning how to cope, and deal with their actions will aide you greatly in surviving your encounter with this type of person.

Babiak does an excellent job of describing different types of psychopaths and their different actions. He does a wonderful job chapter after chapter describing scenarios in which a psychopath destroys the organization they work within, taking out other employees, and sometimes even the business itself. Seeing these different examples is key in understanding the motivation of this type of person. Before you can formulate a plan of action, you need to know the type of person you are dealing with.

Babiak starts the book with describing the characteristics of a psychopath. It is very important to identify this type of person, and to separate it out from someone who has a few bad characteristics. I like that he spends time in checklists, and going over how this type of person may look like. It is important to remember this person above all is generally very charismatic, and will tend to win others over.

Paul Babiak then gives example after example of how actions of this type of person can destroy an organization and/or business. He gives warning signs to look for, and suggests your plan of action is to eliminate this person from your team, or to make sure they are moved to ineffective roles where they can do little or no damage.

This book is invaluable in additional information about psychopaths. Other books about psychopaths tend to range in personal relationships, where your with that person one on one. Unfortunately, many of these people also work, and they do not change their personality when they leave the home to earn their living. If you think you may be involved a working relationship with one of these people, read this book, and decide what you should do next.  (reviewed by Stephanie Manley, an Amazon.com reader)

 


 

A great title for a great book:  The work of psychopath researchers Babiak & Hare has been reviewed in several periodicals over the past year, including Business 2.0, New York Times: Year In Ideas, Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, among others. Babiak is an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist with years of experience in the business world---he was the first to identify the "corporate psychopath"---and Hare is the world renowned author of Without Conscience, a seminal work on psychopaths. Their long awaited book, Snakes In Suits, has finally come out and it was well worth the wait.

Snakes In Suits is a page turner, written in an engaging and entertaining style, all the while conveying lots of new information on the topic. The book is structured in a somewhat unique way, as well, making it both a good book for the general reader as well as a must-have for the business reader. The fact that it is also well indexed is a plus, making it easier to refer back to topics in the future.

The authors make the point early on that "serial killer" psychopaths, those who make the headlines and crime show plot lines, make up only a small percentage of those in society who actually have a psychopathic personality. And, the rest of these people are living and working in the cubicle right next to us. To their credit, the authors carefully avoid the sensationalism that often characterizes books and articles on this topic. Their approach is even handed, balancing scientific evidence with an easy-reading style.

Each chapter begins with a case---drawn from the authors' real-life experience, no doubt---that includes dialog among the players (psychopath and victim alike). The reader becomes the "fly on the wall" watching and listening to what is going on. With the case in the back of my mind, I found the accompanying text much more meaningful. Although the authors do not suggest this, I found that if I reread the case after finishing each chapter, the deep, dark picture of the psychopath became even more chillingly clear. The chapters present the latest knowledge about the psychopath, with sidebars sprinkled throughout for those wanting more technical information or supporting evidence (from research, newspaper articles, comments from judges and criminal justice researchers). [One particular fact I had not heard before was that there are actually 3 types of psychopath: the "manipulator," the "bully," and the "puppetmaster." Their similarities and differences are covered in this book.]

The book starts out with a review of the traits of the psychopath, but unlike other books on this topic, it does not stop there. These authors continue with their own multi-step model of manipulation (3 steps for psychopaths in society, 5 steps for their corporate counterparts) that psychopaths use to manipulate their victims (which fall into the cleverly labeled categories of Pawns, Patrons, and Patsies). I found the model (and their non-technical terminology) very helpful in understanding how people can actually get away with the types of abuse, fraud, and deceit often attributed to psychopaths. In subsequent chapters, they refer back to these steps and offer advice (both personal and business-related) to help identify and deal with potential psychopathic manipulators---or snakes.

Throughout, the authors bring the point home quite clearly that psychopaths are both parasites and predators, and their targets are not only individuals (the rich, the famous, the naive), but also companies (the large, the sophisticated, the uninformed). They explain how psychopathic traits (they call them talents) can make them look like ideal leaders, capable of misleading well-meaning executives who are not familiar with psychopathic manipulation techniques. Part of the problem for companies in our fast-paced world, the authors argue, is the fact that psychopathic manipulation, when layered over with charm and charisma, can look like strong, confident leadership. Thankfully, the book offers advice on how to recognize them before it is too late, and how to beef up hiring and promotion practices in order to protect the company and its employees.

Babiak & Hare are masters of the catchy title with Snakes In Suits (wish I had thought of it). In a chapter titled, "Hot Buttons and Weak Spots: Personal Self Defense" they offer (compassionate) advice to the reader on how to identify aspects of their own personality and life situation that might make them more attractive and vulnerable to psychopaths. Likewise, in a chapter titled, "The Fifth Column: Psychopaths in Our Midst" they suggest things to do if you are dealing with a psychopathic boss, subordinate, or coworker on the job. I found both quite useful.

They also weave among the chapters the case of "Dave." Is he a psychopath, a narcissistic corporate climber, or just what the doctor ordered? I'll leave it up to you to decide.

If you've ever experienced a boss or coworker from "hell" and wondered if he/she had psychopathic tendencies, this book is for you. If you are just interested in the topic of psychopathy, this is a must read as well. I recommend this book; read it once and refer to it often.  (reviewed by psychlone, an Amazon.com reader)

 


 

In Suits, Jeans, or Khakis...   Dr. Babiak and Dr. Hare have done an excellent job with an esoteric, compelling, and potentially volatile subject matter. Their case histories, along with real-life examples, will provide the reader with an educational introduction to psychopathic behavior.

In an era when many jobs are outsourced, and more of us are made to do with less, the hiring decision becomes even more important. "Slow to hire, and quick to fire" might be the mantra of the new world economy. The authors have detailed how hiring managers and HR departments need to access potential employees, and not only for the very small minority who will actually be "psychopathic."

The authors made a salient statement, and I will paraphrase it. "We found that HR departments and interviewers did not prepare enough before the actual interview, and did not have enough questions prepared in advance... Often, items on the resumes and references were not verified until much later, if at all..." With the exception of the excellent book, "Ask The Headhunter," I have not seen the focus thrust back upon the actual hiring authorities.

Practical advice was given how to evaluate talent. This can assist either party during the hiring decision. But most of all, this book, while it addresses a specific personality disorder, teaches us more about human behavior. Hopefully, we will learn more about our own behavioral patterns. This work would be a very good read for someone new to the workforce, along with anyone who wants to survive in our rapidly changing culture. As the authors concisely and adroitly mentioned near the end of the book, "The more we understand and know ourselves, the better we can understand others."

Thank you for the opportunity to review this provocative book.  (reviewed by Steve Amoia, an Amazon.com reader)

 


 

Required reading for people who live in the real world:   If you've ever watched in horror while a charming BS artist methodically tore the guts out of your group, your division, your company (... or your country for that matter) and wondered how on earth they managed to pull it off in broad daylight, this book will help you solve the mystery.

There really are human snakes among us and Babiak and Hare explain in detail what motivates them, how they operate, how to recognize them and, most important, how to neutralize their poisonous effects before it's too late.

No one ever said life was going to be a rose garden and there's a whole breed of individual whose sole function in life seems to be to insure it's not for the rest of us.

Just read the headlines. It's an epidemic: Enron, WorldCom, and their close cousins the neo-cons etc.

When the student is ready, the teachers appear. It looks like it's finally time for our society to recognize these people for what they are, acknowledge that they're not going away and deal with them with something other than wishful thinking and denial.

This book is bad news for the charismatic white collar criminal class. It's about time.  (reviewed by Ken McCarthy, an Amazon.com reader)