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Uncovering the Dark Side of Personality: How It Can Derail Careers

Updated: Jan 18


Virtually all great leaders are part psychologists. They get lots out of their team members because they can recognize two traits within each person: talents that can help that person excel and dark side tendencies that, left unchecked, can poison the whole company.

But not all great leaders possess psychological skills innately. Lucky for them—and for you—there are tools you can use to discover the bright and dark sides of you and your employees, and then use those insights to optimize your team.

Recently, I have gotten certified in coaching people through The Hogan Development Survey (HDS). Developed by Dr. Robert Hogan in the 1980s, HDS measures values, motives, and preferences that can be applied to specific role performance. One of its greatest values arises when the HDS identifies dark-side traits that could derail a career.

Examples abound. Sales reps often are known for being ambitious and confident, but too much of either can turn off customers and internal collaborators. Project managers who know construction inside out can ruin a job if their emotional outbursts strain relationships, leading to project delays and increased costs. And narcissistic building material CEOs may be book smart, but if they claim all the credit and ignore employee contributions, they will ultimately see key employees flee to competitors.

Note that personality traits can be good or bad based on their intensity: self-confidence and ambition are good, arrogance and ruthlessness are bad. Dark traits also are not a problem if they are balanced with others from the bright side or they do not manifest themselves in a harmful way. But if there is no balance, then there is likely going to be an issue.

When I took the HDS, I was surprised to see I scored high in "mischievousness". At first, I was highly offended because I had not seen myself in that light. Sure, I like to have fun as much as the next guy and love to laugh, but I am serious about my work. My coach pointed out that my love of humor and having fun was well-balanced with my high prudence scores, so my high mischievousness would not likely derail my career.

Job requirements matter, too. Think about someone who scored high in dutiful—the rule follower, follows procedure, slow to change or rock the boat. This individual is likely to perform tasks well, and not likely to “color outside the lines.” But if you place this person in the role of a CEO, they likely will have trouble with out-of-the-box or visionary thinking (vital for a CEO) and be paralyzed in decision-making. For me, I would not excel in an environment where I was expected to work at a desk 8 hours a day with no interaction. Many dark-side personality traits can become positives when balanced and managed appropriately.

Organizations can also play a role by fostering a culture of feedback and accountability, promoting emotional intelligence, and supplying resources for employees to manage their dark-side traits. Taking the Hogan Behavioral Psychology Assessment is a great place to start. Continuous practice of self-awareness is the key to developing your authentic leadership style and career success.

If you or your company need help defining and maximizing the balance between the dark and light side, we are here to help. Reach out to Misura Group or to Dena directly to dive deeper into this vital aspect of a healthy company.

Play to Win,


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