The Dark Triads and the Workplace

Individuals on the dark dimensions of personalities have both negative and positive qualities and it is possible for some benefits to be derived in the workplace from such personalities.

The question for us to ponder is whether persons on the dark side actually contribute more meaningfully to the success of the organisation although they are believed to be oppressive and manipulative towards co-workers and at times even their superiors? Is it possible then too that employers/managers actually prefer employees who are on the “dark personality triads” because their output within the organisation is significantly more?

And then too, what makes persons on the darker side of the personality traits excel more in the workplace or in life? Could it then also mean that more leaders within our organisation fall within the ‘dark triad’ of personalities?

One such theory that looks at the darker side of the personalities is the Dimensions of the Dark Triad. The Dimensions of the Dark Triad theory includes the following behaviours on spectrums:  Narcissism-Selflessness, Psychopathy-Empathic, and Machiavellianism-Scrupulous. As the names suggests, the behaviours of people can for example range from a dark side of Narcissism (egotism/selfishness) to the preferred or more acceptable spectrum of Selflessness (generosity/self-sacrifice).

For example, there has been extensive research on the dark personality characteristics in leadership, specifically management and supervision obstruction. The association of dark personalities with undesirable outcomes or behaviours is understandable however similar to other personality types, we also need to pay keen attention to the positive contributions that these individuals have within the workplace.

Harms, LeBreton and Spain (2014) are however suggesting that the positive aspects of the dark personalities and their impact on the job (for example a manager who is Narcissistic or Psychopathic). Harms, LeBreton and Spain (2014) noted that previous research would have focused on the drawbacks to having persons within the work environment with dark personalities and for the most part, having such personalities on the job resulted in counterproductive work behaviours.

Using examples from their journal however, Harms, LeBreton and Spain (2014) questioned whether persons on the higher end of Machiavellianism (manipulativeness or callousness) would able to demonstrate the ability to manipulate in negotiations or if Narcissistic (self-centred or an excessive need for admiration ) leaders out of their need to look good will work at garnering advantages and acknowledgment for team provided that they work closely.

Harms, LeBreton and Spain (2014) noted that our understanding of the good and bad consequences of dark personalities may assist us with our understanding of some work situations. Harms, LeBreton and Spain (2014) therefore concluded that dark personalities are only sometimes negative within the work settings and that our understanding of how such personalities may assist us in developing additional theories on individual differences.

Characteristics or features of the dark personalities can also be helpful in explaining several work behaviours some of which are dark and some normal. The obvious question therefore is to what extent these dark personalities within the workplace lead to more counterproductive behaviour or can their dark personalities be beneficial within organisations?

Whilst there may be benefits of having such personalities within the work environment, the challenge is that the characteristics of these dark personalities are so negative that the benefits from same may be insignificant when compared to negative effects of them.

For example, leaders high on psychopathy (antisocial behaviour or impaired empathy) may engage in less corporate social responsibility and do not support others such as fellow managers or their workers. This of course is certainly not good for an organisation to succeed though it may be said that such managers are good at distancing themselves from personal issues in the workplace.

Similarly, Machiavellianism is associated with manipulation and this can result in unethical practices within the organisation which makes such a worker untrustworthy. Is it therefore any good to have someone with a manipulative personality within the organisation?

Can persons with a manipulative or superiority seeking personality be trusted to put forward an organisation or a team and not put themselves first? As it relates to the dark personality of Psychopathy, the big question arises as to which organisation or work situations are ideal for such persons? Are all work situations suitable for persons who can be deemed as having little or no empathy towards others but are thrill seekers?

I would love to read your thoughts in the comments. Until next time…stay calm, cool and collected. Stay C!

© 2021 – 2022, Stacy-Ann Campbell. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “The Dark Triads and the Workplace

  1. Stacy this is such an excellent piece. I believe that I have just completed a well needed study on variations in the workplace.
    Looking forward to more from you.

Happy Reading !