Machiavellian Traits of Individuals in an Organization

"All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it's impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer." ~ Niccolo Machiavelli

"You know better than I that in a Republic talent is always suspect. A man attains an elevated position only when his mediocrity prevents him from being a threat to others. And for this reason a democracy is never governed by the most competent, but rather by those whose insignificance will not jeopardize anyone else's self-esteem." ~ Niccolo Machiavelli

It's important to be aware of Machiavellian colleagues in the workplace.

Owing to the sheer size of the population, individuals with Machiavellian traits are more commonly found in mediumโ€”to large organizations. Such individuals can prove to be quite disruptive in businesses or organizations. A company with multiple Machiavellian individuals can disrupt and negatively impact the organization's functioning.

These individuals are masters at office politics and manipulating situations. They do this by building favour with supervisors through subtle backstabbing, badmouthing of colleagues, or strategic spreading of information to create conflict in the workplace.

They aim to form strategic relationships for personal gain, not authentic connections, seeking allies or informants who can provide valuable intel or support their goals.

They attempt to manipulate the information they reveal by withholding key details or distorting narratives to portray themselves positively or harm others.

They tend to take credit for others' work while minimizing their contributions and exaggerating their role in successful projects.

It is expected to find individuals with Machiavellian tendencies misusing company resources for personal benefit. They may spend large amounts of organizational funds to bolster their image, take longer breaks, leave work early frequently, or use their time for personal errands or side businesses. There are several stories of CEOs or CFOs exaggerating their expense reports, submitting receipts for individual purchases, or making unauthorized transactions on their company credit cards. Additionally, some Machiavellians may install pirated software on company computers for personal use. Sometimes, these individuals may share confidential company data or trade secrets with competitors or foreign countries or use this information for personal financial gain.

They tend to overstate their abilities, taking on projects for which they may not be qualified. When things go wrong, they often blame others and throw colleagues under the bus to protect themselves.

They strategically butter up managers but, at the same time, treat co-workers and subordinates with condescension or disrespect.

They make themselves appear indispensable by hoarding knowledge. They jealously guard their territory, refusing to share knowledge or collaborate on projects. They might create unnecessary secrecy around their work, making it difficult for others to understand the bigger picture or contribute meaningfully.

Individuals may pretend to be humble to hide their true intentions, making them appear more accessible while pursuing their hidden agendas.

If their manipulative tactics fail, they may play the victim, portraying themselves as unfairly treated or a scapegoat for others' mistakes. They can create an atmosphere of fear and distrust through subtle intimidation or calculated gossip, which keeps others focused on self-preservation instead of questioning their motives.

They possess a sharp eye for identifying loopholes and the expertise to manipulate company policies to their benefit, often pushing them to the limit without crossing the line.

They may use subtle means to undermine someone's confidence.

These Machiavellian traits exist on a spectrum, and some individuals exhibit some without being a full-blown "Machiavelli." However, such behaviours can create a toxic workplace environment, stunting organizational growth and employee well-being.

Remember, a Machiavellian personality doesn't require a title. The Machiavelli thrives in environments with limited oversight or unclear power structures. By strategically applying these tactics, they can exert considerable influence and create a toxic work environment for those around them.

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