The “Darkside”of Personality

I’m sure most everyone remembers the warning made famous in the Star War episodes. The word “darkside” was adopted by researchers in I/O Psychology approximately fifteen years ago when referring to a self-distructing personality. It is this self-destructive behavior that derails careers in management. Personality disorders are not forms of mental illness. The dark side personality is defined as dysfunctional interpersonal behaviors that co-exist with ambition, talent, etc. that prevents managers from building and maintaining a productive team. The critical task that is essential in leadership positions. Dysfunctional behaviors associated with the dark side include emotional outbursts, bullying, or intimidation to name a few. It’s important to distinguish two aspects of personality which we call “the bright side” and “the dark side”. The bright side reflects the initial impression we make on others such as in an interview; the dark side concerns the person who actually comes to work.

In one study the researchers categorized dark side behaviors into four general clusters. Part of what makes these categories significant is that they reflect a developmental hierarchy beginning with intrapersonal skills and ending with business skills. Behaviors in each successive category have a significant impact on the others: for example, if the team questions the manager’s integrity or loyalty then people will try to avoid working with him. The key to recognizing dark side behavior is developing self-awareness. This is especially true in the intrapersonal and interpersonal categories if the manager is going to be successful in building and leading a viable team.

Intrapersonal Category

  • (Inappropriate or Immature Behavior)
  • Doubtful integrity, loyalty, and sincerity
  • Unable to handle stress
  • Outbursts, over-reacting and loosing composure
  • Unable to accept responsibility for problems
  • Gossiping and rumor mongering
  • Exchanging information inappropriately

Interpersonal Category

  • (Poor Working Relationships)
  • Insensitive, abrasive, and abusive
  • Not trustworthy or credible
  • People avoid working with the person
  • Blaming others for problems
  • Frequent political missteps

Leadership Category

  • (Trouble Building a Team)
  • Micromanagement
  • Authoritarian and autocratic
  • Inability to motivate, and develop subordinates
  • Poor team morale, high turnover
  • Poor staffing decisions

Business Category

  • (Poor Results and Narrow Perspective/Not strategic)
  • Results don’t live up to track record
  • Consumed with details and meetings
  • Mistakes are “covered-up”
  • Consistently misses objectives
  • Unable to prioritize
  • Overwhelmed by business complexity