by Terri Schlicenmeyer & r & & r & Sbakes in Suits by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o you flipped on the news the other night and there was another story about another executive who got into trouble, yet managed to finagle a "bonus" of several million dollars on his way out. How do things like this happen? How can a CEO sink his fangs into so much money, while the business itself is "failing"?

Maybe he's a psychopath. According to Paul Babiak (an organizational psychologist) and Robert D. Hare (who merely authored the standard psychological tool for diagnosing psychopaths, and therefore ought to know), people who genuinely lack a conscience are increasingly drawn to the high-stakes, free-wheeling world of corporate America. Some executives, in other words, may have the just the kind of toxic personality that sets them on a course toward undeserved riches.

While it takes all kinds of people to make a workplace, every now and then an employer finds a candidate who appears simply too good to be true. If you've been on the hiring side of the job, you know the type. He comes for an interview, almost over-prepared. He's charming, confident, and his resume is stellar. It seems as if this guy was tailor-made for the position that's open. He's hired on the spot.

In his first few days, he makes friends easily. Everybody likes him. But beneath the surface, the new employee is scheming and subtly undermining his co-workers. He manipulates, he's quick to lay blame, and he tells lies. Often he's not caught until it's too late.

Snakes in Suits is a fascinating study that's helpful for both employers and their employees. Part of it is easy-to-understand psychology, with detailed explanations of tests, diagnoses, and profiles. The other part is a series of cautionary tales that will make you squirm with discomfort.

Babiak and Hare, while thorough, are unfortunately also a little stuffy -- and they don't scale their data back one bit. Employers and co-workers are wisely cautioned, however, not to be too quick in labeling someone as a psychopath. If there's a reptile in the next cubicle, Snakes in Suits offers suggestions for protecting yourself from those career-killing fangs.

If you wonder what might behind those business stories on the evening news, or if you have a job you want to protect, pick up a copy of Snakes in Suits. You may never meet a slimy psychopath, but just knowing what to do when faced with aberrant behavior is reason enough to buy this book.

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