How Women Can Harness the Machiavellian Trait for Success
How Women Can Harness the Machiavellian Trait for Success

How Women Can Harness the Machiavellian Trait for Success

April 17, 2024
3 mins read

When it comes to making strides in your career, there’s a trait worth talking about: strategic thinking. It’s like having a game plan for your work life, where you make smart moves to reach your goals. And for women in the workforce, embracing this approach can be a game-changer.

In professional growth, one trait stands out as a powerful tool: Machiavellianism.

Derived from the insights of Niccolò Machiavelli, this trait is often associated with strategic thinking, calculated decision-making, and adept negotiation skills. While its reputation may raise eyebrows, academic research suggests that Machiavellianism can be a game-changer for working women when wielded responsibly.

Research by Christie and Geis (1970) defined Machiavellianism as a personality trait characterized by a strategic approach to social interaction, often involving manipulation and exploitation of others for personal gain. While this definition might sound negative, subsequent studies have highlighted its potential benefits in the workplace.

One such study by Dahling et al. (2009) found that individuals high in Machiavellianism were likelier to engage in strategic behaviors such as networking, self-promotion, and impression management. For working women, these behaviors can be instrumental in navigating the complexities of the corporate world and advancing their careers.

Moreover, research by Wisse and Sleebos (2016) suggested that Machiavellianism can be particularly advantageous for women in leadership positions. By leveraging their strategic abilities, Machiavellian women can effectively manage power dynamics, negotiate on behalf of their teams, and drive organizational success.

However, it’s essential to approach Machiavellianism with caution. Studies by Kiazad et al. (2010) and Jonason et al. (2012) have highlighted the potential downsides of this trait, including unethical behavior, lack of trustworthiness, and negative interpersonal relationships. Therefore, women must balance strategic thinking with integrity and ethical considerations. That’s a must!

The Machiavellian trait offers working women a strategic toolkit for navigating workplace challenges and achieving their professional goals. By leveraging academic research and understanding the nuances of this trait, women can harness its power responsibly and pave the way for success in their careers.

Here’s how strategic thinking, inspired by the ideas of Niccolò Machiavelli, can help you succeed at work without getting too caught up in the jargon:

Building Connections: Think of your work relationships like a web. You want to connect with people who can help you grow. That might mean finding mentors or befriending colleagues who can open doors for you.

Speaking Up: Have you ever had a great idea but hesitated to share it? Strategic thinkers aren’t afraid to speak their minds. Whether asking for a raise or pitching a project, speaking confidently can help you get noticed.

Rolling with the Punches: Work can be unpredictable. Strategic thinkers are like surfers—they ride the waves instead of fighting them. Being flexible and adapting to change can help you stay ahead of the game.

Taking Smart Risks: Every now and then, you’ll come across opportunities that seem risky. But calculated risks can lead to big rewards. Whether volunteering for a new project or applying for a promotion, taking chances can pay off.

Understanding Others: It’s not just about what you know—it’s also about understanding the people you work with. Pay attention to their emotions and motivations. Being empathetic can help you build strong relationships and work better as a team.

Understanding the Dark Side of Machiavellianism

While Machiavellianism can offer strategic advantages in the workplace when wielded responsibly, its misuse can lead to detrimental outcomes for individuals and organizations. The darker side of Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation, deceit, and exploitation of others for personal gain, often at the expense of ethical considerations and interpersonal relationships.

Individuals who exhibit high levels of Machiavellianism may engage in behaviors such as lying, backstabbing, and betrayal to further their own agendas. This can create a toxic work environment marked by distrust, resentment, and animosity among colleagues. Moreover, pursuing self-interest at any cost can damage professional reputations and undermine long-term career prospects.

In addition to interpersonal consequences, misusing Machiavellian tactics can have broader ramifications for organizations. Leaders who prioritize Machiavellian strategies may foster a culture of fear and intimidation, stifling creativity, collaboration, and innovation. Furthermore, unethical practices driven by Machiavellian motives can erode trust with stakeholders, tarnish brand reputation, and lead to legal and regulatory repercussions.

Research has shown that organizations characterized by high levels of Machiavellianism are more prone to dysfunctional behaviors, such as workplace bullying, harassment, and unethical decision-making. These behaviors harm employee morale and well-being and compromise organizational performance and sustainability in the long run.

In conclusion, while Machiavellianism can be a double-edged sword in the workplace, its misuse poses significant risks and consequences for individuals and organizations. Individuals must recognize the ethical boundaries of Machiavellian behavior and prioritize integrity, transparency, and empathy in their professional interactions. By fostering a culture of trust, respect, and collaboration, organizations can mitigate the negative impacts of Machiavellianism and cultivate a healthier and more sustainable work environment for all.

Academic References

Christie, R., & Geis, F. L. (1970). “Studies in Machiavellianism.” Academic Press.

Dahling, J. J., Whitaker, B. G., & Levy, P. E. (2009). “The development and validation of a new Machiavellianism scale.” Journal of Management, 35(2), 219-257.

Wisse, B., & Sleebos, E. (2016). “When the dark ones gain power: Perceived position power strengthens the effect of supervisor Machiavellianism on abusive supervision in work teams.” Journal of Business Ethics, 137(2), 415-429.

Kiazad, K., Restubog, S. L. D., Zagenczyk, T. J., Kiewitz, C., & Tang, R. L. (2010). “In pursuit of power: The role of authoritarian leadership in the relationship between supervisors’ Machiavellianism and subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervisory behavior.” Journal of Research in Personality, 44(4), 512-519.

Jonason, P. K., Lyons, M., Bethell, E. J., & Ross, R. (2012). “Different routes to limited empathy in the sexes: Examining the links between the Dark Triad and empathy.” Personality and Individual Differences, 52(5), 571-575.