KARMA IN BUSINESS
Everybody has a desire to accrue wealth – we all want more money for our families and for ourselves. But the vast majority of us would not do anything which is broadly understood to be unethical, in business as well as in our personal lives. Our take is that, far from favouring the psychopath, both business and investments have to be inherently ethical, because you cannot escape from karma.
With its roots in ancient India, karma is essentially the idea that ‘what goes around comes around’. In other words, if you do wrong, you will find this wrong repaid to you. In our view, life is (hopefully) a long term game, and so is business.
THE SUCCESSFUL PSYCHOPATH
There’s a stereotypical image of a businessman (and/or investor) – an avaricious, narcissistic capitalist who wants to exploit others in order to reap as much money as he can. This is perhaps epitomised by the fictional character of Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film Wall Street, a ruthless figure who cares nothing for the lives of those he ruins.
In recent years, much has been made of psychologist Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, which highlights the attributes and behaviours psychopaths display. And while the background rate of psychopathy in the normal population is about 1%, there seems to be from 3% to 21% of top managers with clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits (a figure comparable to prison populations).
These are people who have a lack of empathy for others, habitually lie and have no guilt about any harm they inflict. At the same time they seem very successful in the position they occupy: they are ‘successful psychopaths’. But will they stand the test of time?
Do you need to be a psychopath in order to get ahead in the business? The answer is no – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, if you want your business to last you have to be ethical in all your decisions, from how you hire and treat your employees to your relationship with clients.
In business, if you employ unethical practices and have opportunistic behaviours which have a detrimental effect on others, you will soon gain a very bad reputation for yourself. The word will go round quickly that you are not to be trusted, and before long no one will want to do business with you. Your career as a psychopathic businessman will soon be over. So, rather than embrace the dark side, it’s much better to avoid the threat of bad karma, be an ethical person and run an ethical business.