People tend to stay away from psychopaths, especially at work where employers think these individuals can sabotage the whole team. However, scientists at the University of Bonn say that some people with psychopathic traits can actually be beneficial in the workplace instead of a liability.

The study, which can be found in the Journal of Management, explains that there are two types of psychopathy: primary psychopathy and secondary psychopathy. The primary psychopaths have a reputation for being cooperative, capable of handling stress, unafraid of consequences and always want to have their way. Having a person of this type in the team is advantageous in the workplace.

On the other hand, those secondary psychopaths are the type of psychopaths that people believe are cold, too egoistic, dishonest and not much of a team player at work. The researchers say that those in this type lack self-control or they are characterized by having self-centered impulsivity. In other words, they do not have consideration for others, a trait that can cause problems at work.


Some people with psychopathic traits are actually good in the workplace. Credit: Office Snapshots

The team studied 161 people, asking these participants about their social skills, personality, and performance at work. Each employee’s behavior was also evaluated by at least two co-workers.

The results reveal that primary psychopaths are seen as pleasant, helpful colleagues. However, Nora Schütte from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bonn asserts that this was only true when primary psychopaths also have good social skills or they make their colleagues feel well about themselves.

Those secondary psychopaths are toxic at work, the report reveals. Other employees claim that people with secondary psychopathy are destructive and have negative consequences in the work environment.

Apart from the clear implications in the work environment, the study shows that not all people with psychopathic traits should be feared. Since they can add something valuable to society, Schütte suggests others to stop stigmatizing individuals with these traits.