Senior Leaders this is what a Psychopath looks like. Please Fire Them.

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

How to spot a psychopath inside a complex bureaucracy.

It is a consistent feature of bureaucracy. Psychopath doctors and senior leaders almost never get walked out of the building despite years of complaints and truly outrageous behavior. When they finally are fired or brought to justice just a small amount of digging reveals National-Enquirer-headline-style shenanigans.

Here is the latest in the healthcare industry press:

Prominent Johns Hopkins physician on leave amid misdiagnosis, bullying claims

You can read the details. They will sound familiar. 

... "multiple comments by pathology physicians and residents stating they did not feel comfortable speaking up regarding 'intimidation' or 'bullying' behavior by a department leader, indicating they were forced to change diagnoses, issue addendums and defer to the leader's wishes over several years, thereby potentially leading to harm to patients."


This is a complete failure of leadership.

They failed to take appropriate actions at any point in a multiple-year history of suspicious, self-serving and dangerous verbal tirades and actions - all occurring in a healthcare workplace.


Failing to take action when the code of conduct is broken harms patients, destroys the workplace culture and burns out doctors and staff.

In our physician burnout coaching practice 1 in 3 doctors must quit their current job and find a new one to recover from burnout. The majority of those job searches are triggered by a psychopath boss.

Early in my coaching career, I worked hard with about 6 clients in a row, searching for a strategy to dislodge the psychopath - rather that let their behavior chase my out of their job. We were agreed on this "one last try" approach. Across those six coaching relationships, we tried a number of different strategic approaches. In each case we kept at it for 3 - 6 months.

Our success record was perfect --- 0 for 6. An unblemished record of failure.

I take that back. We did finally motivate one organization to fire one psychopath for violations of the bylaws and code of ethics. However, my client's reputation was so tarnished in the effort, she had to leave shortly afterward. 


How does this happen?

How does the psychopath manage to defy organizational gravity. There are situations where you witness them do or say something you know you would be fired for, and they get a promotion the next week. 


The Psychopath Super Power

Psychopaths are able to KISS UP and P!SS DOWN the org chart with extreme effectiveness. They cultivate sycophant relationships with one or two senior leaders while they target just a small number of people beneath them down the chain of command for their abusive behavior.



Whenever anyone comes to you and says, "Dr. "X" is making my life a living hell - or - asking me to do something illegal or immoral." and your instinct is to question that statement. Your inner or outer voice may say something like, "Dr. "X" ?? What are you talking about, Dr. "X" is awesome. There must be some mistake."

When the complaints are outrageous (see the link at the top of this article) and you immediately deny them without investigating because, "Dr. "X" isn't that kind of guy."

There is a VERY HIGH LIKELIHOOD you have been groomed by Dr. "X" and he/she is a true psychopath. You are the one this person kisses up to and he is a very good kisser upper.

Investigate that complaint fully.
Talk to anyone who was a witness.
Consider doing a 360 survey of Dr. "X"s leadership and communication skills.



If our psychopath Dr. "X" is also a top producer and a big money maker for your institution
... and your instinct is to defend him because of his contribution to the Profit & Loss Statement
rather than prosecute the behavior
- YOU may be a bit of a psychopath too.




  • Have you seen this behavior?
  • How did your senior leaders respond and how long did it take?
  • Have you ever been targeted by a psychopath at your workplace?



Tags: psychopath in the workplace