Do you work with someone who is toxic, but who nevertheless seems to rise through the ranks faster than everyone else? To the point that you doubt that the world is a fair place that rewards good instead of bad?
Is this person:
- Narcissistic: charming, and would do just about anything to look good in order advance themselves?
- Manipulative: skilled at getting people to do what they want, sometimes by lying or forming alliances?
- Anti-social: lacking empathy for others or remorse for their actions?
If so, you’re not alone. In a recent report in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, researchers found that people who have the “Dark Triad” of personality traits — narcissism, manipulation, and psychopathy — may advance their careers more quickly than those who do not.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Someone who is narcissistic believes that they are great, and will put their own needs and desires above all else. Someone who is manipulative knows how to get what they want. And someone who is a psychopath isn’t weighed down by regret or consideration of others.
So, at first blush, it would make sense that people with the Dark Triad could relentlessly climb up the corporate ladder.
The good news is that the same traits that got these people to the top may be their very undoing. At some point, Dark Triad leaders need to build strong relationships in order to get things done, and they simply cannot.
For example, I coached a Dark Triad CEO who started his company based on a great idea and good connections. However, now that the company is up and running, his employees fear him and feel demoralized. He can’t retain top talent, and his company is faltering.
The fact that a Dark Triad leader is eventually headed for demise is likely a small consolation, however, if you currently work with one of these people on a daily basis.
Aside from working with HR to get the person removed, which may not always be possible, here are some ways you can deal with Dark Triad leaders so that their toxicity impacts you as minimally as possible.