Good People Do Bad Things

bad4It is good to be an optimist. I am sure that optimistic people are happier, more loving and tend to live longer. All of this rings true.

But not everyone is an angel, and not everyone at your company is a “good person.” When we refer to someone as a “good person,” that is our gut instinct speaking about our specific interactions with a person.

So why can so-called “good people” get involved in doing something “bad”?

Now, for my pessimistic side. White-collar criminals, those that will say anything to anyone to advance their own selfish interests are very dangerous people. They are sociopaths. They do not experience remorse, empathy or anything else remotely human about other people. They exist in every organization. If you believe otherwise, you are being naïve.

One out of every 100 people is a sociopath (to one degree or another). Apply that same ratio to your workforce – that is kind of scary, right?

Consider the study released in 2010 that found that 4 percent of CEOs are sociopaths.  Here.

What are the implications of this? Chief compliance officers face enough challenges in the workplace – they do not need to become psychiatrists. But CCOs have to understand the human personality and the way that they think.

I know everyone likes to refer to the so-called fraud triangle to understand the occurrence of fraud or bad behavior. I find it kind of elementary in its approach —  I like to consider the organization as a whole and the people that make it up, and recognize that good and bad people do bad things. That is just human nature.bad3

Most, if not all, people are motivated by their own personal experiences and psychology. White-collar criminals tend to be sociopaths, who feel victimized by the world, and who relish in the attention they can generate – good or bad. If they are the center of the controversy, no matter if it is positive or negative, they are “happy” or satisfied.

Most white-collar criminals if ignored and shunned by everyone suffer extraordinary pain because of the emptiness they feel inside. If Bernie Madoff was left by himself and no one paid any attention to him and his misdeeds, he would shrivel up and vanish in misery. That is the life of a sociopath.

The number of CEOs who may suffer from serious personality disorders is not surprising. As you move up the power ladder, in business or politics, it is not surprising to see insecurity and obsession with public (or corporate board) perceptions.

CEOs who suffer from serious personality disorders are challenging for CCOs (and everyone else). They may be successful but it is difficult, if not impossible, to rely on this type of CEO to “lead” the company and create an optimistic culture of ethics and compliance.

badA successful CEO and leader is a person who can express and experience true empathy. Without such a trait, a CEO is doomed to lead (and live) in a limited fashion. We all know people like this and it is easy to imagine (but hard to accept) that CEOs like this are rewarded and held up as an example of a business leader.

A CCO faces a difficult enough take in managing the company’s culture and minimizing the risks that a manager or employee, who is a sociopath, will engage in “bad” behavior. CCOs cannot “fix” everyone, and they should not even try. Instead, CCOs have to rely on its best control – a Speak Up culture that encourages everyone to report on misconduct and a commitment to promote and sustain a culture of ethics and compliance.

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2 Responses

  1. Very well written on white-collar crime, specifically CEOs. Thank you.

  1. June 15, 2015

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