Machiavellianism in the workplace is a concept studied by many organizational psychologists. Conceptualized originally by Richard Christie and Florence Geis, Machiavellianism refers to a psychological trait concept where individuals behave in a cold and duplicitous manner.[1][2] It has in recent times been adapted and applied to the context of the workplace and organizations by many writers and academics.

Oliver James wrote on the effects of Machiavellianism and other dark triad personality traits in the workplace, the others being narcissism and psychopathy.[3]

A new model of Machiavellianism based in organizational settings consists of three factors:[4]

High Machs can exhibit high levels of charisma, and their leadership can be beneficial in some areas.[5]

The presence of Machiavellianism in an organisation has been positively correlated with counterproductive workplace behaviour and workplace deviance.[4]

Job interviews

Main article: Job interviews

Individuals who are high in Machiavellianism may be more willing and more skilled at lying and less likely to give honest answers during interviews.[6][7][8] Individuals high in Machiavellianism have stronger intentions to use deception in interviews compared to psychopaths or narcissists and are also more likely to see the use of lying in interviews as fair.[9][10] Men and women high in Machiavellianism may use different tactics to influence interviewers. In one study, which examined how much applicants allowed the interviewers to direct the topics covered during the interview, women high in Machiavellianism tended to allow interviewers more freedom to direct the content of the interview. Men high in Machiavellianism gave interviewers the least amount of freedom in directing the content of the interview.[11] Men high in Machiavellianism were also more likely to make up information about themselves or their experiences during job interviews.[12]

Workplace bullying overlap

Main article: Workplace bullying

According to Gary Namie, High Machs manipulate and exploit others to advance their perceived personal agendas and to maintain dominance over others.[13]

The following are the guiding beliefs of those high on Machiavellianism:[14]

High Machiavellians may be expected to do the following:[14]

In studies there was a positive correlation between Machiavellianism and workplace bullying. Machiavellianism predicted involvement in bullying others. The groups of bullies and bully-victims had a higher Machiavellianism level compared to the groups of victims and persons non-involved in bullying. The results showed that being bullied was negatively related to the perceptions of clan and adhocracy cultures and positively related to the perceptions of hierarchy culture.[15]

In research, Machiavellianism was positively associated with subordinate perceptions of abusive supervision (an overlapping concept with workplace bullying).[16]

See also


  1. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. ISBN 9781483260600.
  2. ^ Calhoon, Richard P. (1969-06-01). "Niccolo Machiavelli and the Twentieth Century Administrator". Academy of Management Journal. 12 (2): 205–212. doi:10.5465/254816. ISSN 0001-4273.
  3. ^ James O Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks (2013)
  4. ^ a b Kessler, SR; Bandeiii, AC; Spector, PE; Borman, WC; Nelson, CE; and Penney, LM 2010. Reexamining Machiavelli: A three dimensional model of Machiavellianism in the workplace. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 1868–1896
  5. ^ "ScienceDirect". The Leadership Quarterly. 12 (3): 339–363. September 2001. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(01)00082-0.
  6. ^ Fletch, 1990
  7. ^ Levashina, J., & Campion, M. A. (2006). A model of faking likelihood in the employment interview. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 14(4), 299-316.
  8. ^ Roulin, N., & Bourdage, J. S. (2017). Once an Impression Manager, Always an Impression Manager? Antecedents of Honest and Deceptive Impression Management Use and Variability across Multiple Job Interviews. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.
  9. ^ Lopes, J., & Fletcher, C. (2004). Fairness of impression management in employment interviews: A cross-country study of the role of equity and Machiavellianism. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 32(8), 747-768
  10. ^ Roulin, N., & Krings, F. (2016). When Winning is Everything: The Relationship between Competitive Worldviews and Job Applicant Faking. Applied Psychology, 65(4), 643-670.
  11. ^ Weinstein, E. A., Beckhouse, L. S., Blumstein, P. W., & Stein, R. B. (1968). Interpersonal strategies under conditions of gain or loss1. Journal of Personality, 36(4), 616-634.
  12. ^ Hogue, M., Levashina, J., & Hang, H. (2013). Will I fake it? The interplay of gender, Machiavellianism, and self-monitoring on strategies for honesty in job interviews. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(2), 399-411.
  13. ^ Namie, G. (2006). Why Bullies Bully? A Complete Explanation.
  14. ^ a b Greenberg J, Baron RA Behavior in Organizations: Understanding and Managing the Human Side of Work (2003)
  15. ^ Irena Pilch, Elżbieta Turska Journal of Business Ethics February 2014 Relationships Between Machiavellianism, Organizational Culture, and Workplace Bullying: Emotional Abuse from the Target’s and the Perpetrator’s Perspective
  16. ^ Kohyar Kiazada, Simon Lloyd D. Restubog, Thomas J. Zagenczyk, Christian Kiewitz, Robert L. Tang, -In pursuit of power: The role of authoritarian leadership in the relationship between supervisors’ Machiavellianism and subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervisory behavior

Further reading


Academic papers