The Dark Triad in Commerce

TriadBlogby Alan Louis, PhD in Commerce

In an earlier blog, I write on the subject of ‘experiencing the psychopath’ in commerce and how I discovered the concept of the ‘Dark Triad’ after a particularly bad experience with an international bank. The Directors of this particular bank misjudged me and did not realise that I had advanced skill in finance. I recognised that they wished to introduce to our clients various investment products that were clearly immoral. The cold-blooded communications that followed rocked me to the core of my being.

After extensive research, I came across a principle that provided me with answers to my experiences – I was witnessing a deep-rooted phenomenon that had been identified, analysed and studied. It was the concept of the Dark Triad. It was both frightening and comforting in that it had a name and that countless others had been affected by its evil.

The ‘Dark Triad’ is defined as a set of traits that include the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths, the self-obsession of narcissism, and the deceitful and exploitative nature of machiavellianism. The Dark Triad is rapidly becoming a new focus of personality psychology.

The DTDD Test

With the development of the Dark Triad Dirty Dozen scale (DTDD), psychologists Jonason and Webster are now making it possible to spot these potentially troublesome traits with a simple 12-item rating scale. The technical definition of the Dark Triad, as stated in Jonason and Webster’s article, is rather daunting: “the Dark Triad as a whole can be thought of as a short-term, exploitative social strategy ….”

This simply means that people who demonstrate these qualities are trying to get away with acting out against others in order to achieve their own ends. Each of the individual qualities alone can make life difficult for those in contact with those afflicted. Combined, the Dark Triad traits in a person close to you can be detrimental to your mental health and financial wellbeing.

The DDTD Scale can give you a quick way to spot the Dark Triad individual in your midst. Rate each item on a seven-point scale – it may be wise that we all rate ourselves on these qualities to see how we measure up!

1. I tend to manipulate others to get my way.
2. I tend to lack remorse.
3. I tend to want others to admire me.
4. I tend to be unconcerned with the morality of my actions.
5. I have used deceit or lied to get my way.
6. I tend to be callous or insensitive.
7. I have used flattery to get my way.
8. I tend to seek prestige or status.
9. I tend to be cynical.
10. I tend to exploit others toward my own ends.
11. I tend to expect special favours from others.
12. I want others to pay attention to me.

The total score can range from 12 to 84 (the three traits can also be identified separately in the following numbers above: Machiavellianistic traits can be seen in numbers 1, 5, 7, 10; psychopathic ones in 2, 4, 6, 9; and narcissistic ones in 3, 8, 11, 12).

The average for college students tested in the Webster and Jonason report was about 36, with most people scoring between 33 and 39, meaning that anyone scoring upwards of 45 would be considered very high on the Dark Triad total.

Corporate Psychopaths

A ‘corporate psychopath’ by its very name means a psychopath who works and operates in the marketplace. These people have also been called ‘executive psychopaths’, ‘industrial psychopaths’, and ‘organisational psychopaths’ by other researchers.

Wall Street’s film fictional hero (and anti-hero) Gordon Gekko has clear psychopathic tendencies. While academics believe psychopaths are responsible for a large percentage of serious crime, this does not mean they all want to eat your liver with bread and butter! Corporate psychopaths infiltrate the marketplace and look like any other senior executive and generally behave in a way that does not reveal their ulterior motives or psychopathy.

Professor Robert Hare, the world’s leading expert on psychopathy, has said that if he hadn’t looked in prisons to study psychopaths, he would have sought them out in stock exchanges. Professor Hare has repeatedly drawn attention to the possible damage that corporate psychopaths could cause in major organisations. In the wake of the banking crash, Greg Smith writes that the global banking giant Goldman Sachs “had become more like a hedge fund, concerned only with helping itself, and doing only the business that it thought would make it a lot of money and ensure its survival. Company culture and morale seemed to be bygone values. Now the firm was not willing to help clients. The firm had pulled up the drawbridge, leaving clients to fend for themselves. If you were the trader in the right place, at the right time, and knew how to capitalise on a situation, then you were promoted by the firm and paid well.”

The Rise of Corporate Psychopaths

Clive Boddy , an expert in the field of Corporate Psychopaths, agrees that the number of psychopaths in the ranks of key senior positions within modern financial corporations is rising. As he says, these individuals are able to “influence the moral climate of the whole organization and wield considerable power, having largely caused the [banking] crisis.”

Expert commentators on the rise of corporate psychopaths have also hypothesised that they are more likely to be found at the top of current organisations than at the bottom. They have further speculated that such a phenomenon will have dire consequences for the organisations as well as the societies in which they are based.

It is not difficult for these psychopaths to rise to very high levels in corporations, particularly in today’s uncertain and constantly changing corporate climates. Research shows that there are three-and-a-half times more psychopaths in senior managerial positions than there are in the general population. The managerial positions they move into exceed their abilities, but they are able to attain these positions because of the false personae they create. Corporate psychopaths masterfully fool others into believing they are talented and trustworthy, but in reality their behavior is extremely destructive.

“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers … unloving, unforgiving, slanderers… from such people turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

I would appreciate if readers could provide their views as to their own experiences on this topic?

AlanlouisPicAbout the Author: Dr Alan Louis is a third generation entrepreneur in a family with a 100-year business history. He devoted his life to Christianity since the age of 7. He was awarded a PhD in Commerce, is an Ironman Triathlete Gold medallist and was inducted in the IBC Hall of Fame for entrepreneurship. Internationally he has served on more than 100 private corporate boards, and has experienced the ups and downs of commerce for 3 decades.

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