Surely you know one or even several such people, for which empathy and compassion seem to be a foreign word. And yet it is not uncommon for this type of person to often come through life more successfully and to achieve higher and more influential positions in the job. Among experts, this mix of narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy is also called the “dark triad”. The three specific personality disorders often occur in everyday professional life among managers who, through their ruthlessness and the priosing of their own goals and needs, open their way to high career positions.

This part of the article series will focus on the characteristics of psychopathy.

What exactly does the term “dark triad” actually mean?

However, before going into more detail in this article on psychopathy and thus the third of the three personality disorders, I would first like to define the term “dark triad”, in terms of meaning and origin.

More than 15 years ago, psychologists Delroy Paulhaus and Kevin Williams (University Vancouver) devised 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 presence of one or more of the three components of the “dark triad” is strongly represented, especially among executives. The results of the research showed that employees often change their jobs in order to gain a good position in the profession 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 “self” in the job and to use their own personality consciously and intentionally for their own benefit.

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

Dark Triad
Figure. 1: The “dark triad”

Personality Disorders of the “Dark Triad”: Psychopathy

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

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

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

Mild psychopaths in the world of work

Especially in management positions, people with this specific personality disorder are characterized by their emotional coldness and unscrupulousness in everyday work. According to the pattern in Fig. 1 (“Feelings have nothing to look for here!”) they often react insensitively and do not even reconsider their own actions and their influence on others. Feelings of guilt or remorse are usually a foreign word here. In addition, their erratic impulsive behavior often makes it difficult to accept criticism or aggressive resistance. Sometimes even only with the use of force.

Nevertheless, such behaviour rarely leads to illegality. Nevertheless, they usually have a major influence on employee relationships or the general working environment in the workplace. Due to the lack of understanding of 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 fall less into uncertainty. This often leads to a tendency for them to be more willing to take risks.

And it is precisely through these seemingly positive characteristics that people with such personality disorders often end up in senior positions. After all, they usually have a large and above all negative influence on the working lives of their fellow human beings and colleagues.

Psychopathy: Integration into corporate strategies

Since it is often not possible to prevent employees with this specific personality disorder from being found in their own workforce, these people should be used as effectively as possible. For example, assertiveness and risk-taking can be used to achieve certain corporate goals, such as: mergers or operational restructurings.

Nevertheless, caution should be taken here too. On the other hand, the character traits that are incoming this personality disorder also mean that the commitment to principles, agreements and loyalty is rather low. This means that mild psychopaths have little social responsibility and are opposed to social exchange. Trust, cooperation and resource exchange are less part of everyday work than the transfer of the rights of others, even 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 impact on the working environment. At the same time, they show little motivation in supporting and promoting employees and colleagues. This can lead to frustration and low satisfaction among subordinate members of the workforce. This, in turn, can have a fatal impact on their work results and the achievement of company goals.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/de/illustrations/frau-smiley-emoticon-%C3%A4rger-anonym-1253507/

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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