Here's What To Do When You Meet People With "Dark Personality Traits" At Work

Here’s What To Do When You Meet People With “Dark Personality Traits” At Work

Have you ever suffered tales of grandeur from a self-absorbed “friend” who reminds you of Michael Scott from “The Office” — and not in a good way? Have you been betrayed by an out of the blue co-worker, undermined on a project by the mean girl at the office, or had a friendship at work completely abandoned without explanation?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you may have dealt with someone who has what psychologists call a “dark personality.” These people score higher on three socially undesirable traits: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

As an organizational specialist, I’ve spent years studying personality traits within the framework of the trade of salesman. In recent works, my colleagues and I concentrated on the paths people with these dark personalities are successful in sales organizations and the social factors that allow them to successfully extend their terms. Based on our research, here’s an introduction to these antagonistic personality types – and how you can unmask the examples you encounter in your daily life.

Defining Dark Personalities

Narcissists have the most familiar dark personality type. They aren’t shy about letting you know exactly how much they think of themselves. At work, you might find the narcissist bragging about their superior sales skills, even though their performance is not much better than the average seller. Conservative estimates of narcissism in the the general population drops by about 6.2%.

Although narcissistic behavior can be annoying, it’s usually more tolerable than what the other two dark traits tend to serve.

Functional—that is, non-criminal—psychopaths are particularly disturbing. Psychologists believe that they represent up to 4% of the general population. Psychopaths do not hesitate to exploit others for their own benefit. Stubbornly antisocial functional psychopaths usually have little empathy for others. They are more concerned with “get theirs” by any means necessary. Psychopaths are quick to deflect blame and throw others under the bus, even if it means tell lies.

With their impulsive tendencies, psychopaths are prone to lying for no particular reason. If you find yourself in a group chat with a water cooler and hear someone telling lies that seem to serve no purpose, you may have come across a functional psychopath.

At work, a psychopath may seem charming at first glance. But eventually you’ll likely find yourself questioning their motives or falling victim to their destructive behavior. Although they can be harder to identify than narcissists with their relentless boastfulness, the blatant behavior of psychopaths tends to unmask them in the end.

Machiavellians are the most common dark personalities, estimated at about 16% of the population. They take their name from the Italian Renaissance statesman Nicholas Machiavelli, who believed that the end could justify immoral means. Less annoying than narcissists, less abrasive than functional psychopaths, Machiavellians are more subtle in pursuing their agendas. They move forward regardless of ethical considerations. like lions, Machiavellians seem benevolent, observing their prey from afar – until they strike. They are adept at playing the long game – it is their stealth, patience and subtle manipulation that make them a particularly dangerous dark personality.

Compared to the useless lies of a psychopath, you are more likely to hear the Machiavellian in the group tell little white lies that are strategically designed to advance a future agenda. For example, you might hear them flatter the co-worker you know will get a big bonus in the near future – the Machiavellian can strategically set the stage to be asked to help spend it.

In short, targets of dark personalities likely find narcissists to be patently and irritatingly self-centered, but generally harmless. Psychopaths are less obvious in their bad behavior, but their transgressions can be quite serious. Machiavellians are less aggressive than narcissists, and their harmful actions are likely less severe than those of psychopaths. In the long run, however, a Machiavellian can leave you reeling from an unexpected betrayal to his personal agenda.

When you consider these dark traits and how they manifest in interpersonal relationships, you might feel a spark of recognition. Here are five tips for avoiding dark personalities in your own life or minimizing the damage they cause.

1. Don’t fall for first impressions

Dark personalities are experts to make good first impressions, attracting you with humor and charisma. So when you meet someone new, beware of superficial calls. Narcissists, with their tendency to talk to themselves, are the easiest to spot.

To identify others, ask about past relationships and listen carefully for clues about who that person really is. Because dark personalities are almost always unmasked in the end, they’re less likely to have long-standing friendships — an absence they can explain by blaming others.

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Just be careful not to over-correct and ditch a potential new work friend based on first impressions alone either.

2. Share your own (bad) experiences

When you encounter a dark personality and the result is unpleasant, you may feel embarrassed to be fooled or manipulated, or you may feel guilt or shame when you observe someone mistreating someone else. As a result, maybe you don’t want to talk about it. Dark personalities exploit this reluctance because your silence helps keep their “core of darkness– the antagonistic traits that define them.

So to help unmask the dark personality and prevent others from suffering the same fate, sharing your experience, with discretion, is essential.

3. Manage up to clue counts in

Those with dark personalities are good for neatly managing prints they do to people in positions of power. So, at work, you can practice managing to help your boss see the dark personality more clearly.

Share your experiences without chatter, such as expressing concern about incidents of incivility you’ve witnessed or asking for advice or guidance in dealing with a very boastful colleague who may alienate prospects or clients. It can help your boss see through the facade and help you solve the problem.

4. Connect to your networks

On the other hand, don’t forget to listen to others as well. To avoid falling into the web of a manipulator, tap into the network of those around you who share a link to the person in question. See if you can gather references regarding their long-term behavior. Ideally, you can benefit from the knowledge of others, without having to learn the hard way.

5. Be aware of your own biases

Don’t underestimate the power of a dark personality’s machinations. When someone shares a personal story of betrayal, avoid thinking, “this would never happen to me!” Dark personalities are experts in manipulating situations to serve their interests, and you may never notice you’re trapped until it’s too late. Considering yourself too smart or savvy to find yourself in the same situation is a mistake.

When you apply these tips in your life, you should beware of becoming a psychologist chair. Anyone can have a bad day – and everyone has. Instead of diagnosing your friends, partners, and co-workers based on what you think their underlying personality traits are, focus on the bad behaviors you personally witness and react to actions — not what you think who underlies them. Best to leave that to the professionals.

If you are leading organizations or teams, consider having clear guidance and communication channels for individuals to report any concerning behavior they witness. By working together and sharing collective experiences, the rest of us can shed light on the workplace misdeeds of those with antagonistic personalities.

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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