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Why Dark Triads Win at Work

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Why Dark Triads Win at Work

In an ideal world, people expect that people with virtuous traits – honesty, friendliness, generosity and warmth – to be more successful than people with darker traits – dishonesty, selfishness, cold-heartedness and hostility.

However, we see a lot of successful and powerful people who clearly exhibit the darker traits, lending credence to the popular saying that nice guys finish last.

Research cited by the Association for Psychological Science also states that people with a dark triad characteristic have been more successful depending on the type of characteristics they exhibit.

Dark triad people have a set of three socially repulsive characteristics which when brought together in a certain degree, have given them a competitive advantage.

It should be noted that each of us have these traits in us in limits and in varying degrees, but we have them in degrees which is below the threshold for what should be perceived as socially unbalanced. This is why dark triad people are just as any other normal human beings.

Psychopathy is one of the three dark triad traits, the other two being narcissism and Machiavellianism.

Before we dwell into how the mix of these three traits can make a person successful, let us first understand these individual characteristics

  • Narcissism – these are the people who have a great sense of entitlement and believe they are above everyone else. They are very sensitive to criticism and go to great lengths to maintain their image. As much confidence they exhibit outside, they are equally insecure on the inside which makes them very defensive when it comes to their self-image.

  • Machiavellianism – This is the term used to describe people who use cunning, deceitful tactics in their social interactions to achieve their goals. They have not so good moral standards, so we can classify them as the type of people who follow “the end justifies the means” approach. To achieve their goals, they act superficially charming and pleasant in order to deceive others.

They are calculated risk takers and calm and patient. But unlike the other two dark triads, Machiavellians bring out this trait depending on the situation. So as much kind and genuine they are at one moment, they tend to exhibit the opposite vibe the next moment.

They can be said to be classified as the “do-or die” attitude people.

  • Psychopathy – This is a personality trait that is associated with low or lacking empathy, antisocial behaviour, guiltlessness and lack of remorse, manipulation, high impulsivity, interpersonal hostility and heartless social attitudes. They are unusually bold and have little or no fear and do not shy away from social blunders. They often engage in highly socially repulsive acts and tend to put the blame on others.

The Link between the Dark Triad and Success

Although the above three traits are negative in nature, when bought together have proved to make people more successful than other peers.

According to a 15-year longitudinal study, individuals who exhibit narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies attain higher levels of financial attainment and are more likely to get to the top of the organizational hierarchy.

The reason why bad guys are winning is because of the overlap between the positive and negative traits such as high self-esteem, extraversion etc make them open to new experiences and challenges.

Now let’s associate this to all the three characteristics

Individuals high in narcissism, with their grandiose self-confidence and their sense of entitlement and superiority, are more likely to seek out leadership positions at work, since this will give them a sense of status.

Their high level of confidence also plays a role in helping them nab leadership positions – after all, confidence is one of the characteristics of a good leader. Since they care a lot about their self-image, they tend to fake their first impressions leading to good interviews and then having a higher success rate of being selected.

Also, with their huge confidence and self-entitlement, they do not shy away from negotiating better salaries and opportunities for themselves. All these come as a plus.

Machiavellians, on the other hand, are driven by their goals. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Machiavellians are more likely to notice their shortcomings and take corrective action, such as improving their skills. This makes them more likely to achieve success compared to the average person.

Machiavellians also have a high degree of charm. They know what they want and they understand that they need other people to get it. They use their charm to rope in others to help them achieve their goals.

Lastly, psychopaths are successful is that they lack empathy and are not capable of feeling any deep emotion.

This means that psychopaths are more likely to make better decisions, considering that research and studies have shown that emotions lead to irrational behaviour. Their decisions are not clouded by emotion. This can give the psychopath a significant advantage over the average person, especially in situations where there are huge emotions behind a decision.

Conclusion: A dark triad personality is full of self-confidence, entitled and is quite good at making good first impressions. He is charming and charismatic, knows how to put his goals before everything else and has no trouble manipulating people to achieve these goals.

Finally, he does not care about the feelings of others and will have no trouble making difficult decisions even if others might not be happy with the decisions.

These are the ideal traits of a leader, and it is therefore not surprising that many dark triads end up in leadership positions.

Introvert characteristics and Maximising their potential

Extroverts are the ones who sell goods, make the big deals, network around the clock and get energized by being around people; no wonder it seems like introverts would be out of place in the bustling business world.



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