Corporations are legally identified entities that organize groups of people to carry out various tasks designed to support and achieve the goals of the organization. While this discussion focuses on for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations often replicate some of the same problems identified with corporate functions. In a corporation, individual participants are generally separated from the consequences of corporate policies and agendas. As a corporation’s primary responsibility is to deliver profits to shareholders, social and morally responsible concerns become minor in comparison. We presume in general, “as human beings and members of society, all of us are hardwired with a moral and ethical dimension as well as self-interested concerns” (Trevino and Nelson, 2007). In contrast, Noam Chomsky states that corporations are “special kinds of persons, persons who had no moral conscience…which are designed by law, to be concerned only for their stockholders”. Thus, corporations are neither moral nor immoral; they are amoral (Holovat, 2006). The combination of self interest, isolation and defensive behavior by the corporate entity toward attention (especially negative attention) from outside parties, and the mandate to deliver profits without regard for consequences either for individuals within the corporate system or for the community outside the system, all contribute to this synopsis from Mark Achbar’s documentary, “The Corporation”:
To assess the “personality” of the corporate “person,” a checklist is employed, using diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organization and the standard diagnostic tool of psychiatrists and psychologists. The operational principles of the corporation give it a highly anti-social “personality”: it is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. Four case studies, drawn from a universe of corporate activity, clearly demonstrate harm to workers, human health, animals and the biosphere. Concluding this point-by-point analysis, a disturbing diagnosis is delivered: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a “psychopath.”
Corporation environments are especially vulnerable to the machinations of psychopaths as is reported in the following excerpt:
Psychopathic manipulation usually begins by creating a mask, known as psychopathic fiction, in the minds of those targeted. In interpersonal situations, this façade shows the psychopath as the ideal friend, lover, and partner. These individuals excel at sizing up their prey. They appear to fulfill their victims’ psychological needs, much like the grooming behavior of molesters. Although they sometimes appear too good to be true, this persona typically is too grand to resist. They play into people’s basic desire to meet the right person—someone who values them for themselves, wants to have a close relationship, and is different from others who have disappointed them. Belief in the realism of this personality can lead the individual to form a psychopathic bond with the perpetrator on intellectual, emotional, and physical levels. At this point, the target is hooked and now has become a psychopathic victim.
Corporate psychopaths use the ability to hide their true selves in plain sight and display desirable personality traits to the business world. To do this, they maintain multiple masks at length. The façade they establish with coworkers and management is that of the ideal employee and future leader. This can prove effective, particularly in organizations experiencing turmoil and seeking a “knight in shining armor” to fix the company (Babiak & O’Toole, 2012).
To watch the entire documentary of “The Corporation”, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4ou9rOssPg
Babies, P. & O’Toole, M.E. (2012). The Corporate Psychopath. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
Holovat, J. (2006). Profit over People: The Corporate Greed Motive as the Case for CSR. MBA paper: Baruch College.
Trevino, Linda K. and Katherine A. Nelson. (2007) Managing Business Ethics: Straight Talk About How To Do It Right. 4th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.