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Talent Assessment | 4 Min Read

Here’s How Dark Traits are Spoiling your Work Culture

Significance of Assessing Dark Traits in the Workplace

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
                                                                                 – Vincent Lombardi

Dark traits may play a role in attaining personal success, but the risks attached with them makes them highly undesirable at a workplace.

Dark personality traits such as ‘opportunism’ and ‘self-obsession’ can be construed as behavioral facets that many-a-times are responsible for an employee reaching great heights in their personal career. But the same traits are also responsible for a person, using their co-workers as step ladders to achieve success and creating an atmosphere of nepotism that is defined by favoritism and profiteering via wrong means.

Looking at the downside of dark traits, the first fact that needs to be acknowledged is that dark traits impact how an individual behaves. A person who acts on his/her dark traits will display behavior, which is counterproductive in ways. What we do not realize is, how important it is to behave in a positive and empowering manner at the workplace, for all employees, not just managers and leaders. Bad behavior creates stress and pollutes the work culture. This kind of environment is unsustainable and does not promote productivity.

Stress has been positively correlated with a rise in employee turnover, workplace accidents, health problems, harassment, and employee disengagement. Needless to say, organizations need to remove elements that contribute to making the work environment stressful.

But the impact that dark traits have in workplace, does not end here. It’s not just the co-workers, employees, and organizational productivity that gets impacted by dark traits. There is another section of the population that has to bear the brunt of dark traits in employees – customers.

If we look at blue-collar professions such as cab drivers, home delivery agents, hospital and school staff, the leverage that they have to interact with the customer and many-a-times directly also ensure their safety, is itself a weapon. A weapon that they can choose to misuse and put the customer’s life in danger. Incidents of cab drivers assaulting and harassing passengers have become incredibly commonplace. We cannot be sure that we will come out of a cab ride safe and sound.

As a society, this should not be acceptable, and organizations that take up the responsibility to safeguard customers should also be vigilant that they are not putting the safety of their customers in the hands of potentially dangerous individuals that may put the customer’s life in jeopardy.

For this reason, dark personality assessments are an absolute need of the hour in customer-facing blue collar and white collar jobs.

Hiring Managers Need to Focus on Who ‘Not’ to Hire

The current focus of hiring managers is to acquire talent that has the right skills to succeed in the role they are being placed. However, what they do not realize is that the benefits that an organization can reap out of a highly productive employee is nothing compared to the harm that a destructive employee can cause. Insider fraud cases in financial institutions throw light on this fact.

Success Without Ethics Is Failure

Incentive job roles such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, etc., are prone to using any method to achieve their targets. They lose sight of how their service or product is impacting the customer, and this catches up with the organization in the long run. ‘Insensitivity’ towards customers definitely impacts the company’s image in the mind of the consumer. It distorts the company’s positioning in the market and makes them less likable and hence their products and services less competitive.

Now coming to leadership positions, where a lot of high stake decisions are made, dark traits such as ‘impulsiveness’ and ‘Thrill-seeking’ can impair their decision making power to a great extent. The outcome of such hastily made, experimental decisions is huge in terms of organizational productivity and outcome. Moreover, it also makes the work culture of the company unstable as the employees lose trust in the leadership’s decision.

When we use the word ‘workplace,’ it is not limited to corporates and public sector companies, it also encompasses day-cares and educational institutions. One of the biggest areas of concern these days is ‘children safety.’ Safety from not just criminally minded delinquents, but also, morally compromised mentors.

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Harassment in schools is an area of grave concern. At such a formative an impressionable age, if we cannot mold the mind of the younger generation in the right manner, we will be liable for raising emotionally damaged and ethically challenged future generation.

Dark traits breed dark behavior and its contagious. If the teachers and school staff do not behave in an egalitarian and positively empowering manner, the children that look up to them will be scarred and devoid of good role models. They will grow up to believe that the only way to succeed and get ahead is by crushing others. Hence, it is imperative to assess education sector employees for dark traits as well.

The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

-William S. Burroughs

Dark Traits Need to Assessed in Potential Hires, Existing Employees, Management and Leadership Position Holders

80% of organizational problems arise out of employee conflict. The same is also responsible for 80% of employee turnover. Interpersonal conflicts among employees can be directly traced to dark traits and their resultant behavior. The task of identifying dark traits is tough, but the stakes associated with dark traits are too high to overlook them.

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Dark personality assessments provide insights on the kind of dark traits that are predominantly present in an employee but also the level at which they are present. Further analysis of dark traits and their impact on employee behavior has enabled us to identify the most dangerous dark traits for a particular job role and industry, based on the kind of behavior a particular dark trait can trigger and the impact it can have on the work culture and customer safety.

For example, ‘Opportunism’ is considered most dangerous in Retail and Banking Industry; ‘Self Obsession’ can cause maximum mayhem in Leadership/ Management Positions and legal services industry; and ‘Insensitivity’ is the main culprit behind maximum distressing incidents taking place in education, childcare and cab services industry.

“An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.”

                                                                                    – Stephen Covey

For potential hires, dark traits can be assessed during the hiring process, and job roles can be assigned accordingly, so as to minimize the negative impact of dark traits. Existing employees need to be assessed for dark traits, by making them a part of ‘employee engagement’ activities that allow them to discover their dark and bright personality constructs and actively self monitors their behavior or enroll themselves in training programs that allows them to control and correctly channel their personality traits.

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Leadership Development, High Potential identification, and succession planning efforts should also be accompanied by dark personality assessments to avoid putting potentially dangerous/ morally compromised or counterproductive people in high power and influence positions.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”
– Robin S. Sharma

To sum it all, dark traits are present in all of us. However, using them for personal success by spoiling work culture and jeopardizing customer’s safety is unacceptable and will contribute towards societal and moral degradation. Identifying dark traits and their levels in employees is the most effective way of managing dark traits and the tirade of misfortunes that they enable.

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Originally published May 10 2018, Updated June 16 2020

Romila Kanchan

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