The Dark Side of Personality

What is the dark triad of personality?

Publication Date: May 2017

For many of us, our time is often spent pursuing strong, healthy interpersonal relationships. Research in Psychology is met with an optimistic outlook, describing human behaviour using broad models (or taxonomies) that categorise human nature by their ‘bright’ elements.

Traditionally, personality is often described within a constellation of 5 independent, yet interrelated, socially desirable constructs. This model, otherwise known as the ‘Big 5’ is comprised of: Emotional Stability, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.

Some other positive attributes are also regularly included such as high self-esteem, core self-evaluations, and proactivity. At work, these traits are often linked to successful leadership, strong job performance, creativity, as well as emotional resilience in dealing with stressful working environments.

A major problem with such an optimistic outlook on personality and interpersonal relationships is that for many of us, and for much of the time, relationships are one of life’s biggest frustrations. Workplace quarrels, conflicts, disputes, and arguments are all too common, as is workplace incivility, exploitation, manipulation, and selfish intentions.

These are just some of the difficulties that affect us on a regular basis and are unfortunately all too familiar. In order to paint an accurate picture of real human behaviour, we must venture into the ‘dark side’ of personality. This white paper summarises the dark triad of personality and the 11 aspects of leadership failure associated with overused strengths and preferences at work.

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Linda Litherland
Head of Learning and Development : University of East London

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