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The dark triad of destructive workplace personalities

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A man admiring himself in the mirror exhibiting one of the Dark Triad non-standard psychopathic personalities.

Learn to recognise the three non-standard personality types

Within non-standard personalities, three key types exist: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism, forming the “Dark Triad.”

These distinct personalities exhibit diverse workplace behaviours and fulfil specific individual needs. Their traits often lead them to particular roles; for instance, a psychopath rarely becomes a CEO.

Discover how to differentiate between these types and recognise their unique characteristics in various workplace situations and while recruiting.

Discover the Dark Triad of psychopathic personalities

Watch the video to understand the three key non-standard personalities and the kinds of behaviours that they tend to exhibit in the workplace, and .what drives them

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 4 – Can intelligence predict negative workplace behaviours?

And watch the previous video here:

Part 2 – How nature and nurture shape bad workplace behaviours

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

The dark triad of personalities

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number three in our eight video sequence on, “Have you hired any psychopaths lately?” And in this video we’re actually talking about psychopaths.

So the topic here is the dark triad, psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

Now, we’ll go on to talk about issues like cognitive ability and bad behaviours, and personality and bad behaviours, and values and bad behaviours but psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

You’ve got to love the dark triad.

It sounds like something out of a gothic novel but it’s a real thing.

And so this is something where there’s been a stack of research about what we call non-standard personality types.

And the three non-standard personality types that we’re talking about today are these three psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.


Let’s talk about the first element of the dark triad, psychopathy.

Psychopaths tend to have arrogant and deceitful interpersonal style and can disguise this by superficial concern and charm deficient affective experience, which means that they don’t really read the feelings of other people that well.

And frankly, they honestly don’t care that much about the feelings of other people.

It’s all about them in a sense.

It’s about the gratification of their needs and the gratification of their desires.

And finally, they tend to have an impulsive and irresponsible behavioural style, a lack of foresight.

Now, sometimes said that there are many chief executives who are psychopaths, but in fact, the evidence is a completely against that.

Chief executives need to be organised, structured and well-planned.

And in fact, as you see from the three points that you’ve just viewed, psychopaths tend to be disorganised and not very well structured in the way that they tackle things.

So in fact, it’s extremely rare for psychopaths to make it to chief executive ranks.

And we’ve psych tested many, many chief executives and the psychological markers for psychopathy are almost completely and exclusively absent.

In fact, if you want to find psychopaths, and in fact researchers do this as a fellow by the name of Adrian Raine who conducts research into psychopathy, and his most fertile source of psychopaths has been on the books of temp agencies, largely because if you can’t hold down a job, where do you end up?

Now, before you start writing me emails, if you’re a temp, I’m not suggesting that all temps or even the majority or even a significant proportion of temps are psychopaths.

Many temps are in that business for a range of different reasons.

But it is true to say that if you can’t hold down a job, well, some people do end up on the books of temp agencies, and that’s where Raine found many psychopaths for his research.

So that’s psychopathy.

We should also look at the question of how many psychopaths are there?

4% of the population are deemed to be in the truly antisocial category.

And what you see on the screen here is a normal distribution, bell shaped curve.

And there are some people who are at the left hand of this.

And so Mother Teresa of Calcutta seemed to exhibit a range of behaviours which were not associated with psychopathy.

In other words, she was caring and she tried to help and support people.

And then this is a fellow by the name of Ted Bundy.

Now, this is going back some years ago, but in fact this is Ted Bundy during the moment of his trial when he lost it.

And up to that point, the prosecutors in that trial felt that they were not going very well.

And because Bundy seemed a nice guy and he seemed very reasonable but they just kept goading him on a couple of points that he really didn’t like.

I mean, that irritated him and eventually they pushed him to the point where he sort of portrayed the real him.

And that’s the photo that you’re seeing on the screen in front of you now, where people said, “Well, yeah, maybe you are a psychopath.”


Now, I mentioned that there are very few psychopaths who are chief executives but another couple of characteristics, Machiavellianism.

Now, it’s named after Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote a book called “The Prince.” And if you read that book you can see why he got the name for being a manipulator because it’s all about how a leader should kind of manipulate their followers to get what they want.

So Machiavellians are people who are kind of obsessed with manipulation.

And when you meet a true Machiavellian it’s kind of weird about why they do it.

I mean, it seems that the manipulation is almost for its own sake.

It’s not purposeful manipulation where I’m trying to get a particular outcome all the time.

It’s more like manipulation is a joy of itself.

So let’s look at a couple of the characteristics of Machs.

Firstly, they tend to be characterised by self-interest, deception, manipulation, and emotional detachment.

And high Machs are often perceived to be more attractive successful, and intelligent by their colleagues.

But you know what?

They’re not.

So they’ve got a way of presenting themselves that’s kind of glamorous and glossy, but the substance is usually not there.

They also tend to seek leadership roles and you know what?

People who are dedicated to that can get them.

So while there are not many psychopaths in the ranks of chief executives and direct reports to chief executives there are many Machs at that level.


Then we go on to narcissists.

Now, narcissists tend to be characterised by self-love and absorption and admiration.

You may remember the myth of Narcissus who was so betaken by his own imagery, he was looking into the reflection in the water and totally beguiled by himself.

Well, that’s kind of what a narcissist is all about.

It’s all about self aggrandisement.

And they can be given to grand gestures.

They have often a sense of arrogance and superiority, sense of entitlement, and also they can be very exploitative.

There’s some information about the dark triad in personality.

Now, in the next video, we’ll be talking about the relationship between cognitive ability and negative behaviours at work and we’ll be showing you some research which demonstrates that there is a link.

The higher the IQ, the less likely it is that people undertake negative behaviours.

Click on the link near this video to join us.

Learn more about counterproductive workplace behaviours

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with psychopaths at work:

Part 4 – Can intelligence predict negative workplace behaviours?

And watch the previous video here:

Part 2 – How nature and nurture shape bad workplace behaviours

And if you’d like some help with reducing the chances that your next hire will be a psychopath, contact us about our Psychometric Testing tools.

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