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Talent Assessment | 4 Min Read

5 Ways to Stop Dark Traits from Impacting Job Performance

Bad Hires Are a Costly Affair

Studies tell us that hiring a new person or replacing a bad hire is a costly affair for all organizations.

“The average cost-per-hire is $4,129, while the average time it takes to fill a given position is 42 days”.

-SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Report



A 2013 study of more than 6,000 hiring managers and HR professionals by CareerBuilder found that 27% of U.S. employers who reported having made a bad hire said that mistake cost their companies more than $50,000.

Current Hiring Processes Have No Mechanism in Place to Wean Out Bad Hires

No doubt companies these days invest a lot of time & effort in designing a hiring strategy & coming with stringent hiring tools & processes. Most of these existing tools & processes measure an employee’s strength & preferences (the bright side of personality) with an aim to zero down on the best cultural fit.

However, building a good, safer, happier & healthy workforce requires more than this. So what is that the current processes or tools are missing on?

Dark Traits Make Bad Hires

In recent past, we have heard many incidents of harassment of customers via cab drivers, leakage of customer data by employees, molestation of kids by school staff or teachers, harassment of female employees at the workplace. All these cases are pointing to a gap in our existing tools & hiring processes. They are informing us to assess something else which we are not doing till now. They are compelling us to equip our hiring processes to assess and measure the ‘Dark Traits’ of people’s personality as well.

Now, this brings us to a question around what are dark traits & what they can do if not caught or assessed at the time of hiring. Let’s have a look.

What are Dark Traits?                                


The given three traits combined are called dark triad:

Narcissism (selfish, boastful, arrogant, lack of empathy),

Machiavellian-ism (duplicity, manipulation, self-interest, and a lack of both emotion and morality) and

Psychopathy (lack of empathy, remorse, antisocial, criminal & volatile)

Dark traits are present in all of us in varying degrees. A person who has a higher predisposition of these traits is more likely to use and display these traits.

Dark personality traits are more likely to get triggered in relaxed & unobserved as well as stressful environments. When people hold power over others, there is also an innate tendency to misuse the power leading to triggering of dark traits.

Presence of dark traits can have life-threatening outcomes in jobs pertaining to child & health care, army & police personnel & intelligence services. Hence it’s essential to assess them as part of the hiring and performance evaluation process.


Why It Is Important To Assess Dark Traits?

These traits lead to the creation of a destructive and toxic workplace. In particular, research has focused on how these traits – the Dark Triad – adversely affect many workplace outcomes.


Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes in The Harvard Business Review ‘dark personality traits are linked to negative behaviors like bullying and absenteeism, and even poor job performance.’



Managing Dark Side To Organizational Advantage

Knowledge is awareness. The most important step is for us to acknowledge the need to measure & identify these traits at the time of hiring and assess them regularly within the organization to minimize damage. Having a proactive approach towards identifying these traits can go a long way in building a productive & positive work culture. HR managers must identify areas & job roles where these traits have the maximum chance of coming to play & causing damage so that a check & balance can be put to curb the same.

Here We Have Listed the Top Methods by Which Dark Traits Can Be Managed to Increase Organizational Productivity :

1) Assess Dark Traits at the Time of Hiring:

People with dark traits are great communicator, charmer and good with selling themselves. There is a high chance of them to go unexposed during the employment interviews. Hence it’s imperative to invest in an assessment tool which can identify these deep-lying traits of personality and bring them to the front. There are many tools which help us assess these traits at the time of hiring, such as Dark Personality Assessments.


2) Make Dark Trait Assessment a Part of the Appraisal Process:

As per a study cited by the Association for Psychological Science, psychologists at the University of Bern in Switzerland looked at about 800 German workers between the ages of 25 and 34. People who scored high on measures of narcissism earned higher salaries. Meanwhile, those who scored high on measures of Machiavellianism were more likely to hold leadership positions and were more satisfied with their careers.

While dark personality traits might be good for the individual, they’re generally detrimental to the long-term success of the organization as a whole. Hence it’s essential to make dark traits assessment a part of formal feedback mechanisms, such as performance appraisals, 360 degree feedback, check-ins with your manager, and project debriefs.

3) Build Strong Value Based Culture:

A strong value-based culture is a culture which has the right mindset that encourages people to live by the values of teamwork, cooperation, and equal opportunities, and integrates these in its policies, processes & decision making. For example, a company with zero tolerance towards sexual harassment would have a policy process & reprimands associated with handling such cases. A company with a value focus of teamwork will have team successes as one of the core parameters of its evaluation process while promoting a Manager.

4) Create Complimentary Teams:

The knowledge of these traits can help us create strong teams which complement each other. It helps us pair up people in such a way that they can add to each other strength by bringing diverse skills and behaviors at the table.


Negative workplace behaviors could have detrimental consequences on organizations culture, performance, profit & reputation. Investing in a robust assessment system can go a long way in preventing the damage & creating a positive, productive & healthy workplace.

To know more about the kind of assessments that you can take to hire better Click Here. 







Originally published April 20 2018, Updated August 21 2020

Romila Kanchan

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