Civil servant Accountant Long-term problems: Studies suggests that psychopathic people tend to struggle as managers, team players, and in overall achievement. AP Photo Impulsive and often aggressive, psychopathic-minded people tend to fly off the handle or offend others just because they feel like it, destroying office morale and, in the extreme, creating a culture of fear. Though effective psychopathic personalities carefully project a winning image to their superiors, eventually their abuse of their peers and subordinates surfaces.
And while some with psychopathic personalities can thrive as long as their interests are aligned with those of the company, their lack of concern for rules or laws makes them likely to commit crimes, possibly even on behalf of the company. The US president was known for his dominant social style his narcissism was also off the charts. The fictional spy created by Ian Fleming is known for his knack for killing and his coolness in the face of danger. The turnaround specialist and former CEO of Sunbeam is famed for firing thousands of employees without warning.
These folks are known for their single-minded, strategic focus on their own goals, a knack for lying to and exploiting others, and disdain for rules. A Machiavellian personality can make for an excellent negotiator and a politically adroit climber. In an intelligent person, a Machiavellian personality can make an excellent negotiator or a politically adroit climber.
They eagerly exploit suckers and have no qualms about making themselves look good. They flourish in workplaces with looser organizational structures. Given enough time, a high Mach can turn a company into a political snakepit, eventually weakening morale. Their disdain for rules ends up embroiling Machiavellian folks in corporate malfeasance and white-collar crime.
Since they tend not to indulge in reckless behavior, are not grandiose, and operate secretively, those with Machiavellian personalities can be tough to identify. Investment adviser who fleeced thousands of investors with the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
Modern-day narcissists have a grandiose obsession with their own image that can be similarly destructive. These characters are known for their natural charm, knack for self-promotion, and need to demonstrate their superiority.
Dazzled by their breezy confidence and impressive skill set, managers often hire them with plans for swift promotion. By the time something starts to seem fishy, their promotion paperwork is already filed with HR. As narcissistic personalities saddle peers and underlings with more of their work, it can ruin office productivity. Studies show that narcissists tend to double-down when questioned or challenged. Jones points to research showing that in a gambling game stacked against winning, while Machiavellian and psychopathic personalities took risks more often, narcissistic folks lost more money overall.
Even when a narcissistic boss knows his company is struggling, his conviction in his own superiority can make it worse. Other research suggests the big, bold actions favored by narcissitic CEOs can cause wild swings in performance pdf from year to year.
Known for his refusal to relinquish control and his arrogant chauvinism, the former Italian prime minister and media mogul exhibits many narcissistic tendencies, according to Peter K. Jonason pdf , psychologist at University of Western Sydney. Note that, of the Dark Tetrad, this category is by far the least explored. The difficulty in devising experiments that appear to inflict suffering without actually doing so meant that it was only in that Paulhus, Jones, and psychologist Erin Buckels isolated the distinctive traits of everyday sadism paywall , splintering the Dark Triad into the Dark Tetrad.
However, in some office environments, everyday sadists can be good at advancing their own interests by subtly bullying and belittling their coworkers. Eventually, the co-worker complaints about the cruel gossip, over-the-top pranks, and bullying are likely to overtake any sadistic gains. Other signs of an unchecked person with everyday sadistic traits include police brutality cases, war crimes, sexual harassment suits.
Characters prone to everyday sadism are harder to enumerate due to the newness of the classification. A few obvious albeit extreme ones: Sailson Jose das Gracas. The star of the eponymous Showtime drama enjoys torturing his victims before he kills them. The serial killer on the TV series The Fall has a wanton, ineffable appetite for inflicting suffering, but feels enough empathy to nurture loving relationship with his young daughter.
And even psychopathic folks might flourish in jobs that require tremendous calm under pressure, as Kevin Dutton argues—in neurosurgery, for instance. In truth, all of us have these dark impulses to one degree or another. Pop culture loves the Dark Tetrad. Clockwise from top left: Indeed, admiration for the Dark Tetrad has sufficiently saturated workplace and pop culture enough that a whole discipline has arisen to teach the congenitally nice to toughen up. But mastering the org-chart equivalent of the Imperius curse is probably not going to help someone low on the Dark Tetrad spectrum suddenly backstab his way to a promotion.
At one extreme, too much empathy can make a person generous to the point of being downright self-destructive—and certainly not someone shareholders would want running a company.
But even the middle range of the empathy spectrum can struggle to make tough decisions, like cutting benefits or laying off workers. So despite the research linking the Dark Tetrad with white-collar crime, and the hidden costs to corporations—e.
Many psychologists put Steve Jobs in the narcissist camp. Others see psychopathic tendencies. Hare, the leading expert on psychopaths, and Paul Babiak in their book, Snakes in Suits. That sounds small—until you consider that incidence is more than three times greater than rates in the general population. The tools are out there those who dare can test themselves with one here. Cynthia Mathieu and her colleagues have found a screening measure designed especially for assessing corporate psychopathy.
There are other things companies can do short of instituting full-bore Dark Tetrad testing. In the US, employers are barred from discriminating based on mental illness. But might the abundance of empirical evidence on destructive business behaviors provide such justification? Clearly, some in the Dark Tetrad pantheon have learned to control their nature. Neither is the line between personality quirk and full-blown disability all that clearly defined.
Rethink Mental Illness, a UK mental health advocacy group, recently argued that many Dark Tetrad personality traits are easily confused with clinical mental illness —and discrimination against the mentally ill is illegal in certain situations in the UK and many other countries. Encouraging employers to weed out candidates with these qualities has inflamed the stigma against the mentally ill, the group said.
In any case, though, the emerging body of research on the Dark Tetrad in the workplace also suggests a problem more malignant than a test can fix. The feature image is by Flickr user Michiel the image has been cropped ; the photo of the statue of Machiavelli is by Flickr user Rafael Robles the image has been cropped.