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Dark Triad and Workplace Behaviours

The true face of Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy

Dark Triad and Workplace Behaviours

The true face of Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy

At least 15% of the population, is someone who can be accurately described as a deceitful swindler, an overly self-confident boaster, or an uncaring pleasure-seeker. These labels define the fundamental qualities that make up the group of personality traits known as the dark triad (DT), which encompasses Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Indeed, whether people with DT are harmful to their organization depends on numerous variables, however, to perform effective management, it is essential to understand the nature of DT and its impacts on workplace behaviours.

Noticeably, focusing on individuals with DT at the clinical level may open up to litigation under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance. Therefore, extending to scope to both clinical and subclinical levels of DT manifestations can impact workplace behaviours can provide more practical insights for corporate managers. In this article, (a) the nature of DT and (b) its impact on workplace behaviours will be briefly discussed.

The Nature of Dark Triad

Theoretically, the DT is defined as a constellation of personality-related structures, while personality is defined as dynamic mental structures (e.g., perceiving, framing, encoding, analyzing, inferring) that determine an individual’s cognitive, affective, and behavioural responses to the environment. In other words, the DT refers to the personality of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy that consists of numerous thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviours.

  • Machiavellianism: 
    • The tendency toward manipulation, often accompanied by 
      • Lack of empathy
      • Lower levels of affect
      • Focus on pursuing one’s own goals, often at the expense of others
      • Aberrant view of morality (i.e., one that offers a greater acceptance of immoral or unethical behaviours, such as lying, manipulating, and exploiting others)
  • Narcissism
    • Harbor feelings of superiority driven by an inflated or grandiose sense of self
    • Have a dysfunctional need for excessive attention and admiration
    • Have a propensity for engaging in exploitive acts or behaviours
    • Lack of empathy, tending toward callousness
  • Psychopathy
    • Interpersonal manipulation (e.g., grandiosity, lying, superficial charm)
    • Callous affect (e.g., lack of empathy, lack of remorse)
    • Erratic lifestyle (e.g., impulsivity, irresponsibility, sensation seeking)
    • Criminal tendencies (e.g., antisocial or counterproductive behaviour)
    • Boldness or fearless dominance (e.g., social and physical dominance, high anxiety or fear perception threshold)

The Impacts of Dark Triad on Workplace Behaviours

Researchers in the organizational sciences are studying the impact of maladaptive behaviours associated with DT on organizational, interpersonal, and individual outcomes. There has been an increase in attention in recent theoretical and empirical publications linking DT to various topics such as team processes, leadership, and counterproductive workplace behaviours. Indeed, the relationships between DT and workplace behaviours are complex and varied, in which the relationships are often moderated and mediated by different variables. The following briefly summarized the impacts of DT on workplace behaviours:

Job Performance:

The impacts of dark triad on job performance

Counterproductive Workplace Behaviours (CWB)

Impact of dark triad on counterproductive workplace behaviours

Organizational Citizenship Behaviours (OCBs)

Impact of dark triad on Organizational Citizenship Behaviours

Job and Work Attitudes

Impact of dark triad on job and work attitudes


The relationship between dark triad and leadership

Other Organizationally Relevant Outcomes

Other Organizationally Relevant Outcomes brought by dark triad


In sum, DT is neither good nor bad in nature. On one side, DT can create detrimental impacts on interpersonal relationships, colleagues’ well-being, corporate image, and numerous indirect loss. On the other hand, DT enjoys the evolutionary advantages in short interpersonal interactions, deceptions, and interpersonal manipulations, which can be adaptive, beneficial, or even crucial for the success of a company under certain situations. It is important to assess employees’ or candidates’ DT when making personnel decisions for the sake of organizational growth, cohesion, employees’ well-being, and competitiveness.



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