Business psychologist explains why people like Vasella cheat on taxes
«Narcissistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic»
Business psychologist Christian Fichter knows why people like Daniel Vasella feel too bad about paying taxes. He also knows why it washes such people up again and again.
Published: 22 minutes ago
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Former Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella moved to Monaco in 2013. This enabled him to save high tax payments. However, the tax authorities show that he did not actually live there. And now ask him to checkout.
Silvia ChuiSociety Editor
Christian Fichter (51) is a professor of social and business psychology and head of research at the Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences. He deals with the psychological basis of economic and social behavior and advises companies and organizations.
With assets of at least 400 million francs, ex-Novartis boss Daniel Vasella can easily pay his taxes. Why does he even come up with the idea of cheating on taxes?
Fichter: You have to start the other way around. From research we know that in order to get into such a leadership position at all, some very successful people have a personality structure that we call “dark triad”. Such individuals are narcissistic, Machiavellian, and psychopathic. And represented above average in the management floors.
What do these terms mean?
Narcissism means that you think you are something better and want to be admired by others. A Machiavellian pursues his goals coldly and ruthlessly, putting ends before means when it suits him. A psychopath does this too, but also has absolutely no fear of consequences and feels no compassion for others.
Can you give more precise figures on the distribution?
Exact figures are not yet available, but in the population there are about one percent narcissists and psychopaths. There are twice as many in the management floors. So there are fewer than is claimed by lurid authors. The two percent are enough to cause great damage. Unfortunately, too little is being done about it.
Because it’s incredibly difficult to convince HR departments to test their candidates for the dark triad for top positions. The leadership culture of such a person is toxic, which affects the long-term success of a company. But there is also a reason why people with such personalities get into such leadership positions in the first place.
Their personality is actually fragile, such people constantly have to prove to themselves that they are better than others. To put it bluntly, it is based on a kind of inferiority complex with simultaneous megalomania. And those who constantly have to prove to themselves that they are better than everyone else, because otherwise they would feel completely miserable, constantly give above-average and actually almost superhuman effort.
Many of the super-rich are also generous donors. Vasella has also donated, for example to the Aldava Foundation for disadvantaged children. How does that go together with tax cheating?
That goes very well together: Even when donating, such personalities are concerned with public fame. A small example: Anyone who finances a bench with a view on a hiking trail writes their name on it. So you get something out of it – in the case of people like Daniel Vasella, just on a more visible level. But you don’t pay taxes publicly, there’s no glory in paying them like everyone else.