(By Daven Morrison, M.D.) As Joe Koletar noted in a recent blog, there is a group dynamic that has been at the heart of our “bad bushel” model since our first explorations of A.B.C. in a paper entitled: “Bringing Freud to Fraud”. The push to be always keeping up with the Jones is often more obvious to those driving through the physical neighborhood than to those that live there. As Koletar notes, this neighborhood has many forms. Some examples include the suburban country club, the private school for “perfecting children” which can be found in the suburbs or the city, or the urban “not-for profit” (quotes intended) boards. All of these are coveted and drive those of wealth and power. Perhaps, the most coveted of all is, as Steve Jobs famously joined when Apple stock skyrocketed, the “B club*”.
So hyper-competitiveness is out there, but for many, like Koletar, the question is “why”?
One of the common challenges we find in executives is being hypercompetitive. As noted in our consultations to senior executives, it is a mindset. The hypercompetitive individual is dominated by a fear of losing and energized by the desire to win, and in particular to beat down an opponent: “show no mercy”. And with this view of the world comes obvious advantages. Those who are in the way of winning are tactically approached and subordinated. Still others are forced or coerced into calculated battles where the targeted victims will lose. Yet clearly there are also disadvantages.
As noted in our book, The A.B.C.s of Behavioral Forensics, we recognize that this hyper-competitiveness likely plays a role in motivation for fraud. GAAP will not get in the way of someone determined to win at all costs. And it can feel good in the moment. But as noted in a previous post, when also fueled by greed, the “winning” is not only never questioned, but it is also never fulfilling. In fact, when driving hard the desire to not be beaten can cause the hypercompetitive person to literally snatch defeat out of the angry jaws of victory. At its core are unresolved factors in the personality that derive from a young age and once served as a healthy defense but are ineffective as adults. They relate to competition for attention and affection and an inability to resolve feelings of ambivalence.
In our experience, being hypercompetitive appears to increase in frequency in the higher organizational levels, although we have not done a study to prove this. This seems intuitive, but it’s important to remember when a person is hypercompetitive, this aspect of their personality can undermine one’s own success as well as the success of others.
BEHAVIORAL FORENSICS GROUP
The Behavioral Forensics Group is a team of professionals with vast experience in detecting fraud, understanding why it occurs, and in recommending steps to mitigate fraud incidence within the corporate workplace, particularly within higher-level (and therefore more costly to the enterprise) executives. The fields of investigation, organizational psychiatry, accounting and behavioral forensics, and law enforcement are represented within the Behavioral Forensics Group. Acting in synergy to help organizations prevent, find, and/or reduce fraud, B4G is a premier, pioneering practice in this field.
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