Turning to the ‘Dark’ Side Pays Off at Work


I’m not trying to compare successful business leaders’ climb up the corporate ladder to Anakin Skywalker’s epic descent into evil, but the title of my blog is fitting, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story.

Let me start by saying that my first reaction to this article is a bit – not indignant, but defiant. While I concede that the author’s contentions are dead-on in many cases, they are broad generalizations. That said, it’s an intriguing piece.

Read this excerpt and ask yourself if you know anyone with these “dark” personality traits:

… co-workers may possess a dose of one of the personality traits that psychologists call the “dark triad”: manipulativeness, a tendency to influence others for selfish gain; narcissism, a profound self-centeredness; or an antisocial personality, lacking in empathy or concern for others.

These traits are well known for the bad behavior that they can cause when dominant in people’s personalities. At milder levels, however, they can actually foster skills that can help people rise through the ranks.

For instance, people with narcissism, who want to be the center of attention, often make a good first impression on clients and bosses, says a 2014 review of more than 140 studies on people with mild, or “subclinical” levels of dark personality traits. They also can be persuasive when pitching their own ideas.

Manipulators influence others for their own gain, using flattery or deceit if necessary. But these personalities – also called Machiavellians – can also be charismatic leaders and forceful negotiators, says the study, in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. And while antisocial personalities lack empathy or concern for others, they can be creative because they often enjoy testing limits.

Does the story resonate with you or get under your skin? Chime in!

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