According to Nathan Brooks, forensic psychologist, 21 per cent of people with power in business have psychopathic tendencies.
As a comparison, this percentage is similar to the proportion of psychopaths found in prisons.
According to Mr Brooks, current recruitment processes allow people with psychopathic traits to enter the workplace.
“Too often companies look at skills first and then secondly consider personality features,” he said.
“Really 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 discovery came about when Mr Brooks observed psychopathic traits as part of his PhD, along with research colleagues Dr Katarina Fritzon of Bond University and Dr Simon Croom of the University of San Diego.
How do you identify a psychopath?
These people can be referred to as 'successful psychopaths', a term that has gained traction since the global financial crisis.
Mr Brooks said the traits that indicate managers are successful psychopaths include insincerity, a lack of empathy or remorse, egocentricity, charm and superficiality.
“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” said Mr Brooks.
His research isn’t just about identifying successful psychopaths, but implementing processes via a tool for businesses to determine who does share psychopathic traits, and how to keep them out of your workplace.
“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 said.