Managing “Triadic Managers” and Navigating Office Politics by Becoming a Little Like Them

Oliver James

Oliver James

Many business leaders exhibit three problematic behaviors styles: Psychopathy, Narcissism, Machiavellianism, according to British psychologist and journalist, Oliver James.
He labels these “triadic managers.” 

The stress wrought upon others by “triadic managers” has been satirized in fictional comedies and dramas, but each element of the triumvirate have been investigated by clinical researchers and social scientists.

The most extensively researched of the three personality trends is Psychopathy, given its relevance to law enforcement. Francis Urhardt-House of Cards
Psychopaths typically display:

  • -Callous manipulation, lying, and exploitation,
  • -Grandiosity, entitlement, and shallowness,
  • -Impulsiveness and thrill-seeking,
  • -Little interpersonal empathy and remorse.
Ronald Schouten

Ronald Schouten

More than 3 million Americans and one in 10 on Wall Street are psychopathic, asserted Harvard’s Ronald Schouten, a former federal prosecutor, who collaborated with criminal defense attorney James Silver.

James Silver

They noted that nearly 15 percent of the general population or about 45 million Americans demonstrate “almost psychopathic” behavior, and many are employed as senior executives.

Robert Hare

Robert Hare

In fact, senior managers are four times more likely than the general population to display psychopathic tendencies, found University of British Columbia’s Robert Hare and industrial-organizational psychologist Paul Babiak.

They differentiated three types of workplace psychopaths:

  • Manipulator,
  • Bully,
  • Puppetmaster.

    Paul Babiak

    Paul Babiak

Clive Boddy

Clive Boddy

Narcissists in global business and financial contexts share  characteristics of psychopaths, noted Middlesex University’s Clive Boddy:

-Grandiose sense of self-importance, superiority, entitlement,
-Vanity and insatiable need for attention,
-Exploitativeness,
-Lack of empathy.

Katarina Fritzon

Katarina Fritzon

About one per cent of the population and 16 per cent of clinical groups meet the criteria for narcissism, and cluster in professions where they can control people and elicit adulation like politics, finance, entertainment, and medicine.

Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon, then of the University of Surrey, confirmed this observation when they found that senior business managers were more likely than criminal psychiatric patients to have narcissistic, histrionic, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorders.

Sam Vaknin

Sam Vaknin

An example of a “successful narcissist” in business is Sam Vaknin, who was convicted felon incarcerated for securities fraud.

Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

The third element of “triadic managers”, Machiavellianism, is characterized by:

  • Detachment and coldness,
  • Manipulation,
  • Ruthless self-interest,
  • Calculating maneuvers to advance self-interest.

Centuries after Machiavelli’s classic book, Columbia University’s Richard Christie and Florence Geis studied the Machiavellian personality and developed a personality assessment to identify these characteristics.

Given the likelihood of interacting with psychopaths, narcissists, and Mariaviallian personalities in business, James sought ways to deal with them in the workplace by conducted 50 interviews with “triadic managers.”
He suggested:

  • Developing greater acumen in recognizing psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors (reading others and the situation),
  • Managing others’ “perception of one’s performance,
  • Delivering measurable results,
  • Selectively applying psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian workplace behaviors toward offenders while appearing sincere,
  • Networking to maintain relationships and allies for use in moving to a new role.-*How do you detect and manage colleagues who manifest characteristics of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism?

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One thought on “Managing “Triadic Managers” and Navigating Office Politics by Becoming a Little Like Them

  1. Pingback: “Derailing” Personality Measures Predict Leadership Mishaps | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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