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The dark side of organisations: A study of Psychopaths, Narcissists, Machiavellians, and Job Performance

Coleman, B. (2021) The dark side of organisations: A study of Psychopaths, Narcissists, Machiavellians, and Job Performance. DBA thesis, Henley Business School, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00101563


This research study investigates the presence of the “dark triad” (DT: Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism) in organisations and its relationship with job performance. It poses three primary research questions: 1) What are the relationships between scores on dark triad personality measures and job performance? 2) Will age, tenure, and gender act as moderator variables? 3) What are the relationships between scores on the dark triad personality measures and Horney’s “global” factors? The principal research instrument used is the Hogan Development Survey (HDS). Comprising eleven scales, it is an inventory of dark personality traits designed to measure dysfunctional personality in normal populations. Two of the eleven scales, Bold and Mischievous were defined to capture the core characteristics of the narcissistic and psychopathic personalities respectively, as they might manifest themselves in organisational settings. The Bold and Mischievous scales are used to define all three scales in this research study (see table 3.6). Based on clinical definitions of personality disorders, the HDS is not designed to measure Machiavellianism with a specific scale construction since it is not a clinically defined personality disorder. The eleven scales of the HDS map to Horney’s (1950) global factors of “Moving Towards” people; “Moving Against” people and “Moving Away” from people as they relate to the preferred strategies of each member of the DT when interacting with others in the workplace. A review of the extant DT literature identified ten new hypotheses to be investigated. A quantitative research design was applied. Secondary data comprising a sample of 918 managers from a large US based retail chain store was analysed using a combination of ttests, correlations, bivariate and partial correlations. The ten hypotheses were analysed using a combination of bivariate and partial correlations. Hierarchical regression, and model testing through analysis of variance statistical techniques were used to assess the predictive power of each DT variables. The results show that all ten hypotheses were supported, with all three variables that comprise the DT (Psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism) negatively predicting job performance; and with age, gender and tenure acting as moderating variables. The psychopath and the narcissist show a strong preference to Move Against others in the workplace, whilst the Machiavellian shows a strong preference to Move Away from others. One of the major contributions to knowledge of this research is the finding that all three DT variables negatively and significantly predict job performance. This finding extends previous research which identified psychopathy and Machiavellianism as significant predictors. In addition, there is the compilation of a new scale for Machiavellianism comprising six scales of the HDS: Excitable, Skeptical, Reserved, Leisurely, Bold, and Mischievous. Along with this contribution, is the extension to the HDS measure of psychopathy (Mischievous) to include the Skeptical, Bold, Colorful and Imaginative scales. The same is true for the HDS measure of narcissism (Bold) with an extension to include the HDS scales of Cautious (Reversed), Bold, Mischievous, and Imaginative. A further contribution to knowledge is the identification of age, tenure, and gender as moderating variables of the effect of each the DT variables on job performance. The contribution to practice made by this research is in management selection and development. The HDS can now be applied as a single measure of the DT, particularly with regard to Machiavellianism, as the new scale obviates the need to apply separate DT scale measures. Finally, this research also contributes to the current debate relating to those researchers that consider the DT a single unified construct (lumpers) and those that argue for their distinctive differences (splitters). The results of this research support the “splitters” case for two pairs of the three DT personality scales (Machiavellianism and narcissism and psychopathy and Machiavellianism). Both pairs show high percentages of non-common variance.

Item Type:Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Supervisor:Dulewicz, V. and Collins, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:101563


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