Organizational Sociopaths: Rarely Challenged, Often Promoted

Great article for some of you in corporations: “Organisational Sociopaths: Rarely Challenged, Often Promoted. Why?” Richard J. Pech and Brett W. Slade, both of the Faculty of Law and Management at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, have keenly analyzed some of the factors for corporate blindness in promoting sociopaths. Here’s an example from the article:

Rewarding and reinforcement of the wrong behaviours occurred at Metropolitan Life, the second largest insurance firm in the USA in the 1990s. In 1993, it was alleged that MetLife agents swindled US$11 million from gullible people who believed that they were purchasing retirement plans. What they thought were savings deposits towards their retirement were actually insurance premiums for insurance disguised as a new type of investment plan. Much of the blame fell on Rick Urso, the Tampa branch manager for MetLife. There were plenty of indicators that Urso’s branch was an anomaly. Its budget for mailing brochures was ten times that of any other MetLife offices and from 1989 to 1993 Urso’s commission-based salary rose from US$270,000 to over US$1 million (Lohse, 1999; Hartley, 2005). Rather than investigating this performance anomaly, MetLife’s response was to award Urso with the Sales Office of the Year Award for two years running, to invite him as a motivational guest speaker at MetLife conferences, and to reward him by promoting him to the position of third highest-paid employee. The organisation was unwilling to see the warning signs and reinforced Urso’s behaviour through rewards and public recognition, creating a culture that encouraged replication of dubious sales techniques, costing MetLife over US$1.7 billion in lawsuit payments in 1999.

Ouch. Surprisingly good reports should be a cause for some skepticism before we pour out the praise.

Hmmm, I wonder if we could get similar problems when it comes to LDS metrics like home teaching stats? Sometimes I worry that praising units with high stats may encourage other units to adopt the same practices. If the great stats come from great efforts to minister to the Saints, that’s wonderful. But in one ward I was in, I once heard a cumulative report for one month’s home teaching that was higher than possible just based on the two or three people I missed that month, and the fact that we weren’t home taught either.

Leaders should not take stats too seriously, but should take pains to understand what is happening in the ward to ensure that the fellowship of the Saints really does include abundant fellowshipping and ministry.

While stats are always a problem, I am grateful that the Church leaders I’ve had in my life have generally been real Christians and not sociopaths trying to work their way up in the Church. Personal character seems to be much more important in the Gospel – thank goodness! – than it is in corporations, though my corporate experiences have also been generally positive as well. But sociopaths, like bad stats, can be found in all arenas. Don’t be shocked that they exist.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

7 thoughts on “Organizational Sociopaths: Rarely Challenged, Often Promoted

  1. A similar phenomenon happened in the church’s missionary system, at least in the past. I hope it’s been eradicated.

    Missionaries who baptized the most, regardless of how legitimate the baptisms (child baptisms without parental consent, baseball/basketball/soccer baptisms, baptisms without the lessons or committment on the part of the “convert”, etc), were promoted to District Leaders, Zone Leaders, and Assistants to the President.

  2. True Story – I was present in the meeting. I was in a bishopric and during one PEC mtg, someone announced that they had tracked down a elderly sister and found out that she’d been dead for three years. The High Priest Group Leader laughed nervously when the Bishop noted that she’d been home-taught the previous month.

  3. have known sociopaths in the church and WAS shocked . . . (silly me!); Heavenly Father has an interesting way to take care of such, though, and he’s often more effective and swift in His techniques than those in the world can be–

    sad thing is, though, when you see the way Father in Heaven can work you feel a tremendous amount of compassion for those who were lately ill-using of you . . .

    while watching them become Christlike–


    sad, but good . . .


    and I served a mission during the time when numbers mattered more than anything–

    it’s amazing to me that so many of *us* survived–

    but there again, Father always has a Plan–in action . . .

    before we get all “upset” even–


  4. In priesthood opening exercises, the bishop commended the brothers on 2 months of 100% home teaching. I raised my hand and commented that that was interesting since my family had not been home taught either of those months. The EQP was my home teacher.

    I hope that lead to an interesting PPI.

  5. Also, the bishop who followed me would overstate the sacrament meeting attendance by reporting the month’s largest sacrament meeting attendance as the average. He justified it by saying that the ward needed the budget funds.

  6. re: budget funds given to wards based on average sacrament meeting attendance.

    I’ve sometimes wondered if we could use that to bribe inactive members, or even non-members to attend. Give them 1/2 the budget money that the ward would receive for their attendance.

    There’s an inner city ward in town where the bishop put his foot down, and required members to attend sacrament (as long as they were physically able to do so) in order to receive church welfare. That boosted sac meeting attendance, but then they all skedaddled as soon as it was over, and didn’t stick around for SS or PH/RS.

  7. There is definitely the “church as a competitive career” phenomenon in LDS culture. I’ve encountered it from time to time among church leadership and it’s often subtle. Bishops, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents who all see simple numbers as “proof” of progress or that things are going as they should tend to get stung in the behind when things actually fall apart. I have seen very good men make decisions based on business sense rather than spiritual promptings when put into leadership positions in the church. The problem is they begin seeing their decisions as completely subject to their own intellectual capacity rather than according to what the spirit directs. The spirit often prompts in ways that seem contrary to good business sense, unfortunately for them.

    We are seeing a major problem with retention of converts in the church because mission presidents have been so heck-bent on just getting high numbers and fostering a competitive “recruitment” atmosphere among young missionaries. They have forgotten that a true “covert” needs much more than a baptism to truly become an active, productive member of the church.

    Anyway, insightful blog entry!

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