You surely know one or even several such people for whom empathy and compassion seem to be a foreign word. And yet it is not uncommon for this type of person to get through life more successfully and usually reach higher and influential positions at work. Experts call this mix of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy the “dark triad”. The three specific personality disorders often occur in everyday professional life among executives who, through their unscrupulousness and prioritizing their own goals and needs over those of their fellow men, literally free themselves the way to high career positions.

In this part of the series of articles, this time the focus is on the characteristics of the Psychopathy walk.

What exactly does the term “dark triad” mean?

However, before I go into more detail in this article Psychopathy and to include the third of the three personality disorders, I would like to begin with the term “dark triad” define more precisely in terms of meaning and origin.

More than 15 years ago the psychologists Delroy Paulhaus and Kevin Williams (University Vancouver) conceived the scheme of the “dark triad”. The grid describes the three specific personality disorders narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. In their research, the experts found that the occurrence of one or more of the three components of the “dark triad” is particularly well represented among executives. The results of the research showed that employees often misrepresent themselves in their job in order to achieve a good position in their job by satisfying their superiors. Managers, on the other hand, often have greater freedom and have to “prove” themselves less strongly. As a result, they tend to remain “themselves” on the job and consciously and deliberately use their own personality for their own benefit.

The following fig. 1 shows how the individual specific personality disorders can emerge in reality. You may also be able to recognize such a type yourself in your professional environment.

Dark triad
Fig. 1: The “dark triad”

Personality disorders of the “dark triad”: The psychopathy

Resistant and cold to feelings at the same time but also characterized by erratic and impulsive behavior. This is how the mild psychopath defined within the “dark triad”. In the world of work, people with such personality traits are often characterized by a cool head, sovereignty and quick-wittedness.

What at first glance can be assumed to be positive characteristics, perhaps even personal strengths, is only used on the basis of psychopathy for one’s own benefit or for one’s own purpose. And is usually still considered compliant and suitable for everyday use.

While the general definition of “psychopath” is more related to a disorder with a clinical background, in the world of work and in the area of the “dark triad” one speaks more of mild psychopath .

Mild psychopaths in the world of work

Especially to be found in management positions, people with this specific personality disorder are characterized by their cold feeling and unscrupulousness in everyday working life. According to the pattern in Fig. 1 (“Feelings have no place here!”) They often react insensitively and usually do not think about their own actions and their influence on others. Feelings of guilt or remorse are mostly a foreign word here. In addition, their erratic, impulsive behavior often means that criticism can only be received with difficulty or with aggressive resistance. Sometimes even only with the use of force.

However, such behavior rarely becomes illegal. Nevertheless, they usually have a major influence on employee relationships and the general working atmosphere in the workplace. Due to the lack of understanding for the needs of others, mild psychopaths are often very resolute, charismatic and assertive. At the same time, they often remain calm in stressful situations and become less insecure. This often means that they tend to be more willing to take risks.

And it is precisely through these apparently positive character traits that people with such a personality disorder often get into high-ranking positions. After all, there they usually have a major and, above all, negative impact on the working life of their fellow human beings and colleagues.

Psychopathy: incorporation into corporate strategies

Since it is often impossible to prevent employees with this specific personality disorder from not being found in your own workforce, these people should be deployed as effectively as possible. For example, assertiveness and willingness to take risks can be used to achieve certain corporate goals, such as Mergers or corporate restructuring can be used profitably.

Nevertheless, caution should also be exercised here. On the other hand, the character traits associated with this personality disorder also mean that commitment to principles, agreements and loyalty is rather low. This means that mild psychopaths have hardly any social responsibility and are opposed to social exchange. Trust, cooperation and the exchange of resources are less part of everyday professional life than overriding the rights of others, even those of customers.

At the same time, mile psychopaths in management positions can have a bad influence on the performance of their subordinate employees by having a lasting negative effect on the working atmosphere. At the same time, they tend to show little motivation to support and encourage employees and colleagues. This can lead to frustration and low work satisfaction among subordinate members of the workforce. Which in turn can have a fatal impact on their work results and the achievement of corporate goals.

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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