You are just as likely to come up against a psychopathic boss in your office as you are in the prison population.
New research has found psychopaths are as prevalent in the upper echelons of the corporate world as they are in prisons.
The research shows that one in five prisoners is considered psychopathic. The prevalence of people with the same tendencies in the executive ranks of the corporate business sector is the same, up to 21 per cent.
In the general community, the prevalence of people with psychopathic tendencies is one in 100.
Forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks and research colleagues Dr Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Dr Simon Croom of the University of San Diego looked at the psychopathic traits of people working in the business sector. Their research will be presented at the Australian Psychological Society Congress in Melbourne this week.
The research found that 21 per cent of 261 corporate professionals studied in the supply chain management industry had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits. This rate was comparable to the proportion found in jails.
Dr Brooks said recruiters should place a bigger priority on assessing the personality of job candidates over their skills and qualifications.
He said many companies have their recruitment screening back-to-front.
Recruiters should place a bigger priority on personality over skills and qualifications.
"Too often companies look at skills first and then secondly consider personality features," he said.
"It needs to be firstly about the candidate's character and then, if they pass the character test, consider whether they have the right skills."
The 2008 Global Financial Crisis has prompted researchers to focus on the so-called "successful psychopath" – high-flyers with psychopathic traits including insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, egocentric, charming and superficial.
Mr Brooks said the research has major implications for the business sector because the "successful psychopath" may also engage in unethical and illegal business practices and have a toxic impact on other employees.
"Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other," he said.
The researchers have developed a tool to help businesses assess signs of psychopathic personality disorder during recruitment.
"We hope to implement our screening tool in businesses so that there's an adequate assessment to hopefully identify this problem – to stop people sneaking through into positions in the business that can become very costly," Mr Brooks says.