The Dark Triad

Posted by on Jul 28, 2013 in Featured, The Dark Triad | 0 comments

The Dark Triad

Psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism. Three personality types which in isolation are bad enough, but in combination are utterly toxic. The dark triad is the term used to describe the combination of these three dark traits.


The psychopath is aggressive, callous and lacks remorse and empathy. They get their way through their superficial charming manner.  The narcissist has a grandiose self-view, sense of entitlement and complete self-absorption.  Their egotism knows no bounds. They use ingratiating tactics and phoney compliments to get what they want. The Machiavellian overtly manipulates and exploits people to benefit themselves. They have a cynical disregard for morality and engage in deception more often than truth.


This dark triad is becoming highly prevalent in the work force today. Research suggests that it is on the rise because of the changes in the corporate world of the Western society. There has been a substantial increase in the types of jobs where there are no specific criteria for success or failure. When this is the case, it is easier to play the blame game. Oliver James, a clinical psychologist, author and broadcaster, says that those who work in TV studios tend to score very high on Dark Triadic measures. In the production of a movie or series, all one has to do is look at the credits at the end to see how many people are involved in the making of the clip. When the responsibly is so diluted, it’s hard to tell whose fault it is if something goes wrong. That’s where the blame game steps in and whoever plays it best rises to the top.


It should be no surprise then that those at the top in high managerial positions are more likely to have narcissistic, psychopathic and Machiavellian tendencies. It has been found that the incidence of psychopathy among CEO’s is approximately 4 percent which is four times what it is in the general population, according to British researcher Jon Ronson. Men also score higher than women on dark triadic traits. Perhaps this is why men generally obtain top positions in upper levels of management and leadership roles. The fact that men have been in the workforce longer than women could explain the lag in women reaching the top. The lengthier experience men have had working could have shaped their personalities to be tougher, more ruthless and aggressive to propel themselves upward and succeed.


On first glance, employees with the dark triadic traits appear to be highly desirable. They exude charm, leadership qualities, confidence, assertiveness, and are all in all very equipped at establishing a good first impression. Since interviews are short, it is not easy to tell what lies beneath this veneer of normalcy and magnetism.


So what is to be done? With so many psychopathic CEO’s, is your typical employee supposed to try run and hide from them? Or even worse, live by the motto “if you can’t beat them, join them?” As Oliver James suggested, the study of office politics shows that workplaces are a jungle of awkward personalities vying for domination. Instead of getting lost in that jungle, you need to learn the lingo of office politics, use your political power to do good for the company as well as yourself and most importantly be wary of the CEO with the charismatic smile and calm demeanour.

How to tell if your boss is psychopathic, Machiavellian, a narcissist or – even worse – all three.

For each character trait decide whether you strongly agree, agree, feel it applies sometimes, disagree or strongly disagree and give a score from 5 for strongly agree to 1 for strongly disagree.

The higher the score, the more they have combined psychopathic, Machiavellian and narcissistic tendencies.

Is your Boss crazy?



Malnick, E. (January 26, 2013). Why your boss could easily be a psychopath. The Telegraph. Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

Outis666. (February 11, 2013). RTÉ Radio 1 – Today With Pat Kenny – Oliver James – psychologist and author (11/2/13). Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

Yatzeck, E. (2012). Beware the Dark Triad: Your Worst Change Management Nightmare. Pragmatic Agilist. Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

Image Credit: Krawcheck, S. (April 15, 2013). The Top 5 HR Mistakes I’ve Seen. Linkedin. Retrieved July 28, 2013, from

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