I confess to not having read the book, which so far has been reviewed mainly in Canada. However, quoting from a recent review on from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix should give a sense of what it's about:
Snakes in Suits (Regan Books/Harper- Collins) examines the phenomenon of white-collar psychopaths.
Most people associate psychopathy with serial murder and other violent crimes, but the majority of psychopaths are non-violent. Psychopathic executives do share common characteristics with thrill-killers, however.
They are manipulative and controlling, lack emotional depth, and care nothing about harm done to others as they go about their business. Often they are charming and likeable, although they're more likely to turn the charm around those who in positions of power, and act ruthlessly to those who are not.
'Think of a psychopath as a social predator who's attracted to areas where there is some sort of advantage to be obtained,' says Hare in an interview.
They go where the action is, and the action is where you can get power and prestige and control.
'If you have somebody who has all the social skills, is fairly intelligent, attractive and raised in the right environment, this person isn't going to rob a bank, he's going to get in the bank.' Hare, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia and president of Darkstone Research Group, states that about one per cent of the general population fit the psychopathy profile.
'It's almost certainly higher than one per cent in the corporate world,' says Hare.
'Many of these psychopathic traits can actually be advantageous and useful in business.'
A psychopath with proper social skills and intelligence and who's reasonably good-looking can easily fake out any personnel manager. It's not very difficult to get in.
'We go by first impressions, and quite often if the impression is very favourable we don't go beyond that.' Psychopaths thrive in chaotic situations.
In business, they do well in companies that have upsized or downsized or restructured, where the rules fall into a grey area.
'When things are changing so rapidly, nobody has a chance to keep track of someone,' says Hare. 'In the old days, you had a stable corporate structure where everyone knew everyone else and you worked your way up. Nowadays, people are parachuted in. There are corporate takeovers. You don't know who's doing what. That's a good environment for (psychopaths).' We hear of those with psychopathic tendencies who have crashed and burned -- Enron executives, for example -- but too often psychopaths continue to thrive.
The chronic instability, chaos and ambiguity of many health care organizations are thus likely to act as a magnet for psychopathic managers. And a high prevalence of psychopathic managers could explain the prevalence of mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and corruption in the leadership of health care organizations that we have often discussed on Health Care Renewal.
The question is whether Hare and Babiak's analyses can help us fix things. I intend to buy the book and find out. If anyone has read it and wants to comment, please feel free.