Identifying the dark triad of personality at work – is it more important than ever?

The increased unpredictability of the workplace since the start of the pandemic has significantly intensified the need for effective leadership, and the importance of being able to identify effective leaders. For industry professionals, this means being able to pinpoint not only an employee’s ‘bright side’ and ability to lead in a complex and uncertain work environment, but also potential ‘dark side’ derailers that can compromise individual performance and, at worst, lead to serious implications for organisations.

Research connects dark triad behaviours with increased fraud, workplace bullying, lower integrity, low morale, poorer organisational culture, and reduced individual and team performance. According to the research, those with dark triad traits often emerge as leaders, but – importantly – show no better (and usually, worse) leadership performance. The overwhelming scientific evidence proves that dark triad traits are highly effective predictors of job performance and are therefore the most critical derailers to measure, especially in times of crisis.

High-impact assessment for high-risk hires

Many dark side measures have not been designed exclusively for use in occupational settings, whilst more general measures of leadership derailment tend to cover a wide range of traits at a broad level. These can yield a great deal of useful information, however, in high-risk situations, it is the dark triad traits which really matter to individual, team, and organisational performance and wellbeing.

Based on the breakthrough research by psychologists Dr Dominik Schwarzinger and Professor Hans Schuler, the dark triad can now be identified and measured in a valid and reliable way in an occupational context, with the Dark Triad of Personality at Work (TOP). The TOP offers insights that can be useful in the selection and development process by measuring three factors:

  • Self-centred work approach: an exaggeration of self-worth with respect to one’s own significance, leadership skills and impact at work, as well as the pleasure in exercising authority over colleagues.
  • Enforcement-focused work attitude: emotional toughness and distrustful attitude towards colleagues, due to confidence in one’s own strength and ability to achieve in the workplace.
  • Uncommitted-impulsive work style: unstructured work style related to irresponsible or abrupt actions, with a readiness to break rules or use deceit to reach professional goals. 

Each of these personality characteristics are highly relevant to job performance and help identify effective leadership. It is only when these traits are elevated that problematic behaviour and actions are more likely.

With norms based on the UK working populations (and a subset of managers), organisations can use the TOP to pinpoint these most critical derailers at a detailed level. Hogrefe always recommend that the TOP be used as part of an overall selection process, alongside a different assessment of personality such as the NEO Personality Inventory or the Business-focused Inventory of Personality – 6 Factors (BIP-6F) Second Edition. Using ‘light’ and ‘dark’ measures in combination can inform critical selection decisions more comprehensively and effectively, and reduces the danger of getting high-risk talent decisions wrong.

Train to use the TOP with confidence

Learn more about this breakthrough approach in Hogrefe’s one-day virtual training programme, designed for those wishing to deepen their applied understanding and extend their competence in using the TOP.

Training is suitable for:

  • Researchers in the fields of occupational and organisational psychology and related disciplines.
  • Leadership consultants, particularly those working with senior leaders in organisations.
  • Specialist recruitment consultants, particularly those involved in the selection of high-risk positions and leaders.
  • Leadership coaches.
  • Anyone interested in the growing importance of the dark triad in understanding and predicting workplace behaviour and derailers.

Learn more and register for our next TOP training course here.

This article was originally published by Hogrefe on 29.11.2019 and has been edited.