Exploring the Dark Triad: Understanding Manipulative Personalities in the Office

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, Employee Health, Employee wellbeing, General Psychology, Issue 37, Leaderhsip Development, Occupational Health, Training and Development, Volume 4

Over the last 20 years, there has been a growing fascination among scholars and aware human population in studying “Dark Behaviours”. Many individuals have put their mind in rumination in order to be cognisant about their dark personality and dark traits. One taxonomy of dark traits that has sparkled particular interest is the “Dark Triad”, which consists of three toxic and malevolent tendencies: psychopathy, narcissism, machiavellianism. People who exhibit these characters are ruthless and manipulative, eager to do or say almost anything to satisfy their ego. The Dark Triad, holds significant importance in the realms of organizational behaviour and business research. By comprehending the impact of individuals and groups who possess these traits, organizations can effectively address the negative consequences while utilizing the potential benefits of their behaviour.

The conceptual and practical understanding of Machiavellianism was summarized in the classic book by Christie & Geis (1970), where Machiavellianism has been defined as “a strategy of social conduct that involves manipulating others for personal gain” (Christie & Geis 1970, p. 285; Wilson et al. 1996). Machiavellianism in the workplace can be characterised as the active manipulation of people, circumstances, and group dynamics in order to amass power. Furthermore, they openly display cynicism, sarcasm, and callousness in pursuit of money, power, promotions, and ambition. As a result, Machiavellians are predisposed to unethical and organizationally wanton behaviours.

Narcissism has been studied in multiple theoretical models (such as NEO-FFI, and NPI) spanning applied psychology, personality psychology, and clinical psychology. People who have a higher level of narcissism tend to feel superior to others because they have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. They also have a strong desire for excessive attention and admiration, which can be problematic. Additionally, they may engage in exploitative behaviours and lack empathy towards others. In the workplace, narcissistic individuals are excessively self-centred and constantly seek validation. Their presence can create dissatisfaction among their coworkers, ultimately leading these employees to choose self-preservation and willingly leave their jobs.

The word Psychopathy has recently received quite a attention because of its use in many movies and web series to show us the complex and undesirable side of psychopaths. Psychopathic individuals, as described by criminal psychology researcher Robert D. Hare, are skilled social predators who possess an alluring persona. They exhibit a manipulative and merciless mindset, leaving behind a trail of shattered hearts as they disrupt the lives of those they encounter. Additionally, they lack empathy and concern for others, selfishly acting upon their own desires and emotions without experiencing any guilt or remorse. In the professional world, workplace psychopathy refers to the dominating and controlling behaviour of individuals towards their employees. These individuals tend to take risky actions without considering organizational rules or ethical standards. They are inclined to seek high- level positions within organizations as it allows them to exert control over a larger number of people.

Researchers in the organisational sciences are trying to figure out how the maladaptive behaviours associated with DT personality traits affect organisational, interpersonal, and individual outcomes. The amount of new theoretical and empirical articles tying the DT personality qualities to a variety of themes, such as job performance, leadership, and creativity, demonstrates this heightened interest. In a fascinating study conducted by Guedes (2017), it was discovered that individuals with narcissistic tendencies tend to have a more positive perception of themselves. This finding showed a significant positive correlation between self-rated job performance and narcissism. However, when job performance was measured objectively, this correlation no longer held significance.

In a fascinating study conducted by Reina et al. (2014), a moderated mediation model was used to explore the exciting possibility of CEO narcissism having a positive influence on firm performance. The results revealed that narcissism indirectly affected firm performance, as it was found to be mediated through the behavioral integration of the top management team. This research sheds light on the potential benefits of CEO narcissism in driving firm success. Machiavellianism and psychopathy don’t show any bivariate relationship with job performance.

Exciting research conducted by Volmer et al. (2016) revealed some fascinating findings about the impact of leaders’ personality traits on career success and employee well-being. The study showed that leaders with narcissistic tendencies actually experienced higher levels of objective and subjective career success, without negatively affecting their subordinates’ well-being. On the other hand, leaders with Machiavellian traits reported lower levels of career satisfaction and higher rates of emotional exhaustion. Similarly, leaders exhibiting psychopathic tendencies were found to have a detrimental effect on their subordinates’ job satisfaction.

When it comes to the Dark Triad, many people dismiss it as strange, unbelievable, or insignificant. However, business leaders should not underestimate its importance. This personality type is often associated with negative vibes and difficult individuals, but it is actually a component of our intricate subconscious mind. Looking at it from a neutral standpoint, the Id, Ego, and Superego all function differently depending on the situation.

By implementing comprehensive policies, resources, protocols, and procedures, you can ensure the well-being and safety of your workforce while achieving success in your business. It is crucial to take the necessary precautions against the presence of the Dark Triad in your workplace and foster an environment where everyone feels respected and supported. This is essential for maximizing productivity in the workplace!

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