What is psychopathy?

Well, it’s probably not Dexter. The first thing to remember about psychopathy is that Dexterpsychopathy is a common usage term for what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), call Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Psychopathy is characterised by a pervasive pattern of callousness, having a lack of empathy and general disregard for the rights of others, as well as remorselessness (Paulhus & Williams, 2002).

When people hear the word psychopathy, they most often think of serial killers. Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, oh my. However research over the last few decades has shown that psychopathy isn’t just present in ‘extreme’ cases of crime and debauchery; signs of psychopathy can also exist in more mundane, day to day experiences, including at work. Think of the nastiest bully you have seen at work. Possibly they are a candidate.

HorribleWorkplace bullies can have a significant impact on organisations. In the workplace, psychopathy has been found to have a large and significant impact on the amount and severity of conflict, bullying (Linton & Power, 2013; O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, & McDaniel, 2012) and employee well-being (Boddy, 2013). Unsurprisingly, workplace bullying is consistently associated with adverse mental health consequences like stress and depression (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002; Vartia, 2001). For the less sensitive readers, bullying and workplace psychopathy also have costly repercussions on the Australian economy; between $6 billion and $36 billion every year (House Standing Committee on Education and Employment, 2012). At any one time, up to 88% of employees experience at least some workplace bullying (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002).

Given what we know from global data, how does the picture look in Australia?

If you are an employee (18 years of age or over) and have worked in Australia for a minimum 6 months, have your say by completing a short anonymous survey online!

You can access the survey by clicking on the link below:


If you know anyone else who is an employee (18 years of age or over) and has worked in Australia for a minimum of 6 months, please forward them the survey link. Feel free to share on Facebook/ Linkedin and other social media.

Image source

Dexter image obtained from the Horrorhomework.com website (2013).

Horrible Bosses image obtained from the Behind the Hype: Are you BtH? website (2011).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563. doi: 10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00505-6

Boddy, C. R. (2013). Corporate psychopaths, conflict, employee affective well-being and counterproductive work behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1688-0

House Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2012). Workplace bullying: We just want it to stop. Inquiry into workplace bullying. Commonwealth of Australia – Parliament of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=ee/bullying/report/chapter1.htm

Linton, D. K., & Power, J. L. . (2013). The personality traits of workplace bullies are often shared by their victims: Is there a dark side to victims? Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 738-743. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.026

Mikkelsen, E. G., & Einarsen, S. (2002). Relationships between exposure to bullying at work and psychological and psychosomatic health complaints: The role of state negative affectivity and generalized self-efficacy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43, 397-405. doi: 10.1111/1467-9450.00307

O’Boyle, E. H. J., Forsyth, D. R., Banks, G. C., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012). A meta-analysis of the Dark Triad and work behavior: A social exchange perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 557-579. doi: 10.1037/a0025679

Smith, S. F., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2013). Psychopathy in the workplace: The knowns and unknowns. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18, 201-218. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2012.11.007

Vartia, M. A-L. (2001). Consequences of workplace bullying with respect to the well-being of its targets and the observers of bullying. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 27, 63-69. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.588

Gina Huisy MAPS (2014).

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