The Dark Triad: Recognizing, Understanding, and Navigating Co-workers with High Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy with Jon Gruda

In the workplace, we encounter various personalities, some more challenging than others. Traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy among colleagues or leaders can significantly impact workplace dynamics, leading to conflicts, manipulation, and toxicity within teams. Recognizing and understanding these traits can help you navigate such environments more effectively.

Meet our guest, Jon Gruda, a Professor in Organizational Behavior who specializes in anxiety, leadership, and personality research. He discusses how to identify characteristics of the Dark Triad and shares strategies on how to manage interactions with these individuals.

Jon Gruda is a lifelong learner with impressive credentials. He holds a PhD in Management from emlyon business school, a Doctorate in Psychology from Goethe University, and an MSc in Affective Neuroscience from Maastricht University, alongside several business and management degrees. Throughout his academic career, Jon has consulted organizational leaders and CEOs, and has taught over 10,000 students and early career executives across Europe.

Jon’s mission is to advance the understanding of human behavior in organizations, helping individuals and teams achieve their potential and well-being. He has published over 20 papers in peer-reviewed journals and frequently contributes to various media outlets, sharing his expertise with a wider audience.

In this episode, we delve into the concept of the Dark Triad. Jon provides valuable insights into recognizing and navigating challenging personality traits such as narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy in the workplace. By shedding light on these traits and their potential impact on organizational dynamics, Jon offers strategies to identify such behaviors and build support networks within your workplace. He also emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and proactive approaches to managing interactions with individuals exhibiting these traits, helping you thrive in complex work environments

“Don’t become the person that you don’t want to be.” – Jon Gruda


00:32 – That moment he noticed the power of listening: Talking to students and not just teaching, but having conversations.

01:42 – How listening impacts not just the mind but one’s whole being

04:52 – One significant moment where a student shared a personal experience which became a driving force to do his work.

11:58 – Understanding the ‘Dark Triad’: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, Psychopathy

21:50 – How to recognize narcissistic traits in the workplace and get them to listen: Structure team meetings to have a lot more prep time upfront

33:55 – Spotting manipulation and deceit and what you should do: Approach them with clear, logical arguments and past evidence

47:00 – Recognizing a psychopath and how to effectively deal with them

56:25 – Crucial points of concern for organization with individuals having ‘dark traits’ 

59:00 – Helpful strategies you can employ across all these ‘dark traits’

01:05:50 – The idea that everyone exhibits ‘dark traits’ and understanding that some score higher on these traits than others. 

01:09:50 – What characterizes a machiavellian

01:12 :30 – How to get in touch with Jon

Key Takeaways:

“The only way to listen is to create an environment where people are actually willing to share.” – Jon Gruda

“If you want them to go with the decision that you want to make, that you know is the best decision for the team, then you need to highlight how this decision that you want the leader to take is mutually beneficial.” – Jon Gruda

“Choosing the right moment when to approach them [psychopath leader]. Look for moments when the leader is particularly receptive to your input, directly following a public success.” – Jon Gruda

“I don’t necessarily agree with the phrasing, but it does resonate well when you’re dealing with psychopaths: Be Machiavellian.”– Jon Gruda

“Listen to yourself. ” – Jon Gruda

“Pretty good advice that I’ve learned from clients and from executives that I had to deal with: build a support network.” – Jon Gruda

“Knowing why people do what they do in any given situation is really, really powerful because it makes you a better person.” – Jon Gruda


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