Does Someone You Work With Have a ‘Dark Triad’ Personality Trait?

Manipulative, narcissistic, and antisocial. This is the “dark triad” of personality traits that corporate climbers use to get ahead writes Sue Shellenbarger in the Wall Street Journal.

Manipulators flatter and deceive, forming allies to help them get ahead. Narcissists use charm to make a good impression and are good at selling their ideas. Antisocial personalities are unconcerned with anyone’s feelings but their own, which allows them to test limits.

Researchers at Binghamton University, who are studying the dark triad, say learning to spot these traits in employees can “help co-workers and bosses spot extreme cases early and rein them in before they cause grumbling and discontent.” One woman in the article says she stopped gossiping with coworkers because she had an experience with a manager who used flattery to make friends with her and other subordinates, and then used the gossip to “drive a wedge between co-workers, tighten her control over the team and promote herself with higher-ups.”

I feel similarly about the dangers of gossiping of work, though it’s so easy to get caught up in the “did you hears” when you hear them.

But it’s also easy enough to spot the people you work with who have one or all of the dark triad traits (heck, it might even be you! Or me!).

I once worked with a flatterer who was suspiciously around to take credit for work, but seemed to be always busy working on something else when it came to actually collaborating and getting down and dirty in the real work. And even though all of this was apparent, nobody seemed to care because of how charming he was! So charming and so good at rising up the ranks!

And it doesn’t stop with the dark triad either. I have this other trait that, according to the piece, is also potentially dangerous: Being the nice one.

Beware of a colleague who “tries to be way too nice for what they’re asking you to do,” Mr. Zeune says.

I’ve heard that one before. “It’s the nice ones you really have to watch out for.”