The Dark Triad and how to climb corporate ladder faster.

The bartender asks, ‘who has the darkest personality out of you three?’ The Narcissist says ‘me’, the Antisocial says, ‘I don’t care’ and the Machiavellian says ‘it’s whoever I want it to be’.


Are you hardworking, intelligent, honest, sincere, team player, humble? Do you always share credit with others? Do you believe that your work should speak for itself and you should never brag?

Finally, do you believe that all above qualities will help you in getting next promotion and climb career ladder fast? If answer is yes, then you are sadly mistaken. Chances of you getting promotion are slim.

hard work

Can you recall instances when someone less qualified than you kept getting promoted while you stagnated? What was the differentiator?

The differentiator is Dark Triad.

Dark Triad consists of three personality traits, which when exhibited within reasonable limits helps a person to succeed in corporate world, excess leads to downfall.

  1. Machiavellianism is influencing others for own gain and life success. Within limits it helps you in negotiations and forming political alliances/networking which will help you in career. On dark side you will start deceiving others to get results, use flattery to influence superiors, spread rumours about people you don’t like etc.


  1. Narcissism is feeling of superiority and being centre of attraction. Within limits it will help you to gain confidence to pitch your own ideas with enthusiasm, make a good first impression. On dark side you will hog limelight, use your charm to seek status and dominance and have entitlement mentality.


  1. Antisocial personality is about high levels of impulsivity and thrill seeking along with low levels of empathy. Within limits it will help you to think creatively, challenge status quo. On dark side there is lack of concern for other’s feelings, you may not notice antagonism caused by your actions.

Combination of these three traits when used within reasonable limits makes person successful. But sooner or later they start using it excessively for more success, but instead it leads to downfall.


Some common mistakes people with dark triad make are…

  •  They vastly overestimate the extent to which they actually control events and vastly underestimate the role of others in their success. As far as they’re concerned, everyone else in the company is there to execute their personal vision.


  • There blur boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests ex. Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco didn’t mind spending millions of dollars for his personal expenses. His pride in his company and his pride in his own extravagance reinforced each other.


  • They think they have all the answers. Ex. CEO Wolfgang Schmitt of Rubbermaid was fond of demonstrating his ability to sort out difficult issues in a flash. Another example is of Jill Barad of Mattel who tried to promote educational software at Mattel, by using promotional techniques that had been effective for her when she was promoting Barbie dolls, despite the fact that software is not distributed or bought the way dolls are.


  • They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them. At Mattel, Jill Barad removed her senior lieutenants if she thought they harboured serious reservations about the way that she was running things.

EPSON scanner image

Lot of literature is available on psychopathology esp. Dark Triad and leadership failure. Those interested can go through works of Sue Shellenbarger, Sydney Finkelstein (Leadership failure), Robert Hogen (Hogan Development Survey), Babiak & Hare (Snakes in suits) and Barbara Oakley (Evil Genes)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s