Machiavellianism in the workplace is the employment of cunning and duplicity in a business setting. The term Machiavellianism is from the book The Prince by Machiavelli which lays out advice to rulers how to govern his or her subjects. Machiavellianism has been studied extensively over the past 40 years as a personality characteristic that shares features with manipulative leadership tactics. It has in recent times been adapted and applied to the context of the workplace and organizations by many writers and academics. The Machiavellian typically only manipulates on occasions where it is necessary to achieve the required objectives.
Oliver James identifies Machiavellianism as one of the dark triadic personality traits in the workplace, the others being narcissism and psychopathy.
A new model of Machiavellianism based in organizational settings consists of three factors:
- maintaining power
- harsh management tactics
- manipulative behaviors.
The presence of Machiavellianism in an organisation has been positively correlated with counterproductive workplace behaviour and workplace deviance.
Individuals who are high in Machiavellianism may be more willing and more skilled at faking and less likely to give honest answers during interviews. Individuals high in Machiavellianism have stronger intentions to use faking in interviews compared to psychopaths or narcissists and are also more likely to see the use of faking in interviews as fair. Men and women high in Machiavellianism may use different tactics to influence interviewers. In one study, which examined the how much applicants allowed the interviewers to direct the topics covered during the interview, women high in Machiavellianism tended to allow interviewers more freedom to direct the content of the interview. Men high in Machiavellianism, on the other hand, gave interviewers the least amount of freedom in directing the content of the interview. Men high in Machiavellianism were also more likely to make-up information about themselves or their experiences during job interviews. Thus, while individuals high in Machiavellianism may appear to do well in interviews, this seems to be largely because they give untrue responses and because they want to control interpersonal interactions.
Workplace bullying overlap
According to Namie, Machiavellians manipulate and exploit others to advance their perceived personal agendas but he emphasizes that they are not mentally ill. They do not have a personality disorder, schizophrenia and neither are they psychopaths. Machiavellianism represents the core of workplace bullying.
The following are the guiding principles of Machiavellianism:
- Never show humility
- Arrogance is far more effective when dealing with others.
- Morality and ethics are for the weak: Powerful people feel free to lie, cheat and deceive others when it suits them.
- It is much better to be feared than loved.
High Machiavellians may be expected to do the following:
- Neglect to share important information.
- Find subtle ways of making another person look bad to management.
- Fail to meet their obligations.
- Spread false rumors about another person.
In studies there was a positive correlation between Machiavellianism and workplace bullying. Machiavellianism predicted involvement in bullying others. The groups of bullies and bully-victims had a higher Machiavellianism level compared to the groups of victims and persons non-involved in bullying. The results showed that being bullied was negatively related to the perceptions of clan and adhocracy cultures and positively related to the perceptions of hierarchy culture.
In research, Machiavellianism was positively associated with subordinate perceptions of abusive supervision (an overlapping concept with workplace bullying).
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