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What is the "Dark Side" of Management?

Using psychology to help manage your working life

Managers, Leaders and the Dark Side
A major challenge when working with senior executives is to help them recognise their own ‘dark side’ behaviours. The dark side of personality refers to those parts of our personality we usually manage to keep hidden from other people. It is usually when someone is under great pressure, and their guard is down, that the dark side manifestw, resulting in self-defeating behaviours which interfere with working relationships, team effectiveness and, ultimately, organisational goals. Over time, their ‘dark side’ can alienate colleagues and will affect the loyalty, trust and commitment of other people in their organisation.

Identifying someone’s dark side can be of enormous help to people as they gain awareness of how they might appear to others. One such psychometric test, the Hogan Development Survey (HDS), measures for this and is a valuable tool in any coaching programme. Through coaching, they can be supported through their own personal development and through any changes they wish to make to address particular personality traits they feel might be affecting their work.

All of this needs to be considered in light of someone’s emotional stability and adjustment. Almost every individual has a dark side, with only 11% of the population showing no apparent dark side behaviours (Hogan and Hogan, 1997). It is how we manage our personality reactions, when under pressure, that will determine what dark side behaviours show.
Emotional adjustment is a moderator of such behaviours. Some people can manage this more effectively than others, despite external pressures such as stress, workload, personality difference with colleagues and other influencing factors.

Effective leaders and senior managers need particularly high levels of many of the characteristics measured by the HDS. It is not surprising, therefore, that they tend to achieve higher than average scores for dark side personality traits. Enthusiasm, and confidence, for example, may manifest as
volatility and arrogance; someone high on diligence might be seen as overly perfectionistic by colleagues. It is not the potentiality of each trait that is the concern, but how the individual manages this at work in light of their emotional adjustment. Emotional adjustment gives the person insight into their own behaviour and, moreover, how this impacts on others. Lack of adjustment, or awareness, allows the overdeveloped dark side to show, so we “see too much of a good thing” (Furnham, 1998).

The higher up the organisational ladder senior managers go, the less feedback and development they usually get. Few people feel able to be completely honest in explaining how someone’s behaviour at such a top level may be impacting on others at work. Coaching, through effective, honest and confidential feedback, facilitating awareness of personality traits and working patterns, and by supporting the individual through a positive, practical personal development programme in a safe environment, can show how this can be moderated so that the strengths of the individual are highlighted and reinforced, and their
dark side managed in a constructive, effective way.

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