Issues Under Fire: Beware The Machiavellian
If you’re returning for another daily dose of “how the world really works”, you won’t be disappointed today, because in the interest of the public good, we’re expanding our foray into the concept of Machiavellianism. While we focused on Niccolo Machiavelli’s philosophy of “The Ends Justifies the Means” leadership style for politicians and others in positions of power, we felt you’d be just as well served knowing how a philosophy of success though scumbaggery plays out in the workplace. So prepare yourselves for another learning experience.
We know from yesterday’s post, in modern psychology, Machiavellianism is a personality trait characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain. A Machiavellian by definion, is cunning, scheming and unscrupulous, especially in politics or advancing one’s career. Now, let’s move on. Machiavelliansm in the workplace is the use of cunning and duplicity in a business setting. And one needn’t look very hard to find these behaviors advancing careers in every field of endeavor imaginable.
The latest model of Machiavellianism based in organizational settings consist of three factors: maintaining power, harsh management tactics and manipulative behaviors. And although Machiavellianism in an organization has been linked to counterproductive conduct and workplace deviance, it’s often tolerated to accommodate high producers. Managers who consistently meet and exceed expectations are so valued by the bottom liners, few scarcely care about the means those managers are employing to achieve that success. Ready for a few examples?
Given what we know of the Machiavellian nature, it’s easy to imagine Wells Fargo managers cracking the whip to coerce underlings into crossing the legal line to meet quotas, show growth and increase shareholder value. The Machiavellian manager had no problem manipulating others to open millions of fake accounts in the names of unsuspecting customers. If a little banking scumbagger will pave his or her way to the top, that end justified those means. But it gets worse.
Imagine the Machiavellian sales representative. With rewards of high commissions, promotions, corner offices and preferred parking spaces on the line, the Machiavellian sales rep, focused on self-interest and personal gain will just meet their targets at the expense of the client. Whether they’re selling cars, insurance, stock or whatever, the Machiavellian rep will always outperform others because they have no problem misrepresenting a product or lying about competitors to close the deal. Besides, dissatisfied customers referred to customer relations is always somebody else’s problem. But again, it gets even worse.
Imagine an ambitious Machiavellian police officer in a large city looking to climb the ladder of law enforcement. You can bet that officer will surpass all others in making lots of arrests, leading to lots of convictions, leading to lots of lengthy prison sentences being doled out. The Machiavellian officer wants to be first in line to be selected for police commissioner someday. So, if planting drugs or guns on people, beating false confessions out of suspects and intimidating witnesses to excessive force to make that happen is a means to that end, so be it. Besides, complainants can always sue for damages. And if you think there’s nothing worse than a Machiavellian police officer, think again.
Imagine the Machiavellian physician. Armed with a license to sell dope, many are running pill mills all over America turning pain relief patients into stone cold junkies. And if that’s not bad enough, others are scheduling unnecessary surgeries, while padding medicare, medicaid and other insurance invoices for huge profits. The fact that they’ve taken an oath to do no harm, these Machiavellians will trade a patient’s well-being for a home in the Hamptons in a heartbeat.
To be fair, Machiavellians typically manipulate only on occasions when it is necessary to achieve required objectives, but these people should still be considered extremely dangerous. They really are psychotic you know. Don’t forget, Machiavellianism in psychology refers to a personality trait which sees a person so focused on their own self-interest, they’ll eagerly manipulate, deceive and exploit others to achieve their goals.
Bottom line: Ruthlessly ambitious and completely devoid of ethics or a moral compass, Machiavellians are lurking everywhere and at every socioeconomic level of society doing anything to get ahead. So, if you’re unfortunate enough to know a Machiavellian or work alongside a character like this, beware, because to them, you’re just another stepping stone to their success. Podcast below.