Polishing bad apples : leaders favoring the dark triad

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Embargoed until 2023-07-05
Copyright: Burton, Kelsey
The enduring prevalence of dark personalities in the workplace has warranted recent research on narcissists, psychopaths, and Machiavellians and their adverse effects on the workplace. However, little effort has been made to investigate the individuals who favor dark personalities, enabling them to flourish within organizations. To better understand “when” and “how” exactly dark personalities are favored, Study 1 used an experimental design to investigate different strategies by which leaders favor narcissists, psychopaths, and Machiavellians. An actor role-played these three dark personality types within teams. Narcissists and psychopaths were favored by leaders through resource allocation, both covertly (i.e., when the decision is confidential) and overtly (i.e., when the decision is not confidential). In contrast, Machiavellians were only favored through overt resource allocation. This study also showed that narcissists were favored through interpersonal influence and promotion recommendations, while psychopaths were favored through task influence. The first study provided insight into the different ways by which leaders favor the three dark personalities and found narcissists, as compared to psychopaths and Machiavellians, to be favored through multiple mediums. Building on the premise that narcissists successfully obtain additional resources and attain favored status through interpersonal influence and promotion recommendations, further research was needed to investigate the motivational factors associated with favoring narcissists. In Study 2 and Study 3, we used a 2x2 experimental design to test a three-way interaction to determine the motivational factors that drive leaders to favor narcissists. Study 2 employed a design in which leaders watched videos of teams containing a narcissist. Study 3 employed a design in which an actor role-played the narcissist within a team. Both experiments supported the hypothesis that high dominant leaders will favor low status, narcissists through resource allocation. Thus, high dominance motivated leaders have a heightened awareness of potential threats to power and strategically choose to favor less threatening narcissists even though such narcissists negatively affect team coordination and performance. Additionally, Studies 2 and 3 supported the hypothesis that low dominant leaders favor high status narcissists through resource allocation. Leaders low in dominance motivation have a greater concern for the overall team well-being and performance while also being less assertive. Therefore, low dominant leaders are more susceptible to a narcissist’s demands and will favor the high status ‘bad apple’ to maintain high team performance. Our studies further expand the research on narcissists in the workplace and provide key insights into the leaders who favor narcissism in a manner that promulgates the prevalence of narcissists throughout organizations.
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Burton, Kelsey
Jackson, Chris
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty