Can psychopathic behaviour actually be good for your career?

 Egotistical and psychopathic behaviour makes you successful faster - or does it? (Shutterstock)

New research in the field of psychology has found that ‘dark traits' could bring about promotions, increases and other forms of positive professional recognition.

Manipulation, lack of empathy and conceitedness, as well as lying, cheating and recklessness are considered terrible personality traits.

The traits of Narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy (known as the “dark triad” in modern psychology) enable individuals to manipulate others for personal gain - without the burden of a nagging conscience.

What do these traits mean?

Researchers from Michigan State University, Szu-Han Lin and Russell E. Johnson, explain the Dark Triad's character traits:


Narcissism refers to people who are self-centered, extremely confident, and who perceive themselves as superior to others.


Machiavellianism describes people who tend to manipulate others, strive for power, and view the world cynically.


Psychopathy describes people who lack concern for others and feel little remorse or guilt when they harm others.

How could they benefit a career? 

New research in the field of psychology has found that these ‘dark’ traits could bring about promotions, increases and other positive professional recognition. Employees who possess these traits are often charming, they’re generally excellent negotiators, and they’re usually highly ambitious too.

They’re willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals, and because not many people are willing to do ‘anything’, Narcissists, Machiavellians and psychopaths come out ahead of others.

For example, a Narcissists’ self-confidence and big ego allows them to fight for their innovative ideas even when faced with skepticism from colleagues. They’re perceived to be assertive, outgoing, and confident and usually leave great first impressions. This is mainly why supervisors respond favourably to them, even though co-workers and subordinates, who are aware of the everyday reality, probably aren’t as enamoured.

‘Dark traits’ do also hinder success

The line between success and disaster is quite thin. It takes a single toxic employee to spread negativity, jeopardise team spirit and ruin a good company culture.

Employees in possession of these ‘dark’ personality traits undoubtedly face negative impacts on their career trajectory. Arrogance, socially disruptive behaviour, intrusion into the private affairs of others; active deception of others, cheating, aggressive self-promotion and abusive and critical behaviour render these personality types difficult co-workers and employees in the long run.

Once they’ve racked up a bad reputation in the industry and burnt too many important bridges it’s much harder to stay gainfully employed.

Positively managing relationships leads to better productivity in the workplace:

Behaviours such as guiding others, helping others improve, making others feel comfortable, taking care not to hurt others, the harmonious resolutions of conflicts, being considerate, and taking others' needs and feelings into account creates an overall attractive workspace.

Read: Why personality fit is so important for career satisfaction

The key to managing your work personality is to be made aware of your character, your strengths and weaknesses and how your colleagues respond to you so that you can navigate professional settings properly.

To get ahead, remembering to keep the interest of your department at heart is what’ll translate into personal career success. Some much-needed introspection will help match your unique character traits with the perfect job and environment. Do yourself a favour and participate in South Africa’s first ever indigenous personality quiz here. The quiz will provide feedback which will allow you to discover just how much of the ‘dark triad’ appears in your unique personality.