© Supplied Christopher Walken stars in Seven Psychopaths.
Psychopaths are everywhere. It's a recognised medical statistic that one per cent of the general population is psychopathic.

And they're trendy too, taking centre stage in Jon Ronson's investigative bestseller The Psychopath Test, and a murderous turn in horror movies like American Psycho and Arbitrage.

It's no wonder we're morbidly fascinated with them. The mental disorder is unnerving and enigmatic. If the psychopathic nature is to trick us, we want to uncover them. Just talking about the condition is enough to lead you to think: 'Am I a psychopath...?'

However if you're thinking that, chances are you're not a psychopath, who are defined by their lack of empathy, remorse and chronic irritability in the globally recognised PCL-R test.

© Supplied Richard Gere in Arbitrage.
The "successful" psychopath

Industrial psychologist and author Dr Paul Babiak said psychopathic behaviour often means the person shows a "mask" rather than what lies underneath. They are also renowned for being charming and manipulative. But while the movie versions are nearly always criminal, there is also a "successful" version who lives among us.

"They manage to get jobs in organisations, abuse and demoralise staff and wreak havoc on performance. I've also interviewed many victims whose stories are filled with emotional, psychological and financial abuse. The damage done by psychopaths, be they spouses, family members or coworkers is astounding... and sad," Dr Babiak said.

"Unfortunately, the media portrayal of the psychopath as serial killer or "psycho" has done a lot of harm by misleading the public into thinking you can spot them a mile away and that they are all in prison -- this is simply not the case."

And while it's thought around one per cent of the population are psychopathic, Dr Babiak said in management positions it can be nearly four per cent.

"Corporate psychopaths are motivated by a need for thrills, a desire to play "head games" with people, and won't stop until they win at any cost."

"[They] move up the career ladder and into high power business and management situations because they're so adept at emulating the qualities we'd associate with a great leader," he said.
© SuppliedDaniel Craig (left) and Javier Bardem in Skyfall is a case of psychopath versus psychopath.
How to spot if your boss is a psychopath

Dr Babiak said while most bosses are either "ideal" or "unskilled," psychopath bosses are dangerous for workers.

"They suck up to you to get what he or she wants, stab you in the back, lie to your face, take credit for your work, and blame you for their own mistakes."

© SuppliedJon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test.
"A company that hires a psychopath is almost always thrilled and excited when they first start out as they present themselves as the saviour or knight in shining armour -- ready, willing and able to save the company from the brink of disaster (or so they say)," he said.

However they can also abuse co-workers, ignore rules, take unnecessary risks and undermine the sense of openness and trust.

Dr Babiak said while psychopaths are extremely difficult to manage there are key things you can do to make the situation better for yourself.

Document their behaviour - "Use every available process and system human resources can give you to document their performance and act quickly and decisively to deal with them."

Don't label them - "Remember, it is not illegal to have a psychopathic personality so telling others that someone on your staff is a "psychopath" will not help you and, in fact, will make you sound a bit crazy," Dr Babiak said.

Find the facts - Make a note of pool performance and abusive tactics.

Be aware of politics - Dr Babiak said psychopaths often use the "divide and conquer" method by pulling workers apart. Be aware of this and don't get sucked in.

Lessons you can learn

As difficult as they can be to work with, Dr Babiak said there are valuable lessons in the way psychopaths charm their way into powerful positions.

"Psychopaths excel at building personal relationships with almost everyone they meet and making excellent presentations which win people over to their side," he said.

"I would always spend time building strong relationships, call it an influence network, with co-workers, subordinates and superiors in any job I have, and make sure I share information and keep everyone in the loop.

"This is not only good business practice but will assure that you have a strong support network that rivals the one a psychopath is building against you," he said.

This article originally appeared in Ask Men