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The dark side of office politics

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sopranos boss lib

AP

The television series Mafia boss Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) has a dangerous, yet effective mix of self-centredness, deviousness, self-regard and a lack of empathy.

London - Look around your office. Can you spot the psychopath? The Machiaveliian? Or even the narcissist?

Oliver James, a psychologist and broadcaster, has identified these three types of dysfunctional personalities among professional workers.

The first, quite often bosses, compete for domination and attention and have no worries about trampling over others.

The second like nothing more than to plot and scheme while the third drone on endlessly about themselves.

Alarmingly, he believes there is a fourth dysfunctional type or ‘triadic person’ who is a combination of all three characteristics.

Such staff, Mr James warns, have a dangerous, yet effective mix of self-centredness, deviousness, self-regard and a lack of empathy which can propel them to the top of the organisations.

Among the examples he gives of these 'triadics' are Gordon Gecko, the fictional trader played by Michael Douglas in the film Wall Street, whose mantra is 'greed is good'.

The television series Mafia boss Tony Soprano and Russian dictator Josef Stalin are also identified in this group.

Other fictional managers such as David Brent, played by Ricky Gervais in The Office, would score highly on the scale, while Lord Mandelson, the former Labour minister, is described as having Machiavellian tendencies.

Research has suggested that there has been an increase in the 'triadic' conditions over the past 30 years because there are no objective criteria for success or failure in workplaces.

In his book, Office Politics, James warns how people who do not suffer from the disorders can lose out in the world of work and damage their emotional health unless they learn how to survive among such personalities.

There are more than eight million people who work in offices, as well as those based in schools, hospitals and particularly television studios could also be affected.

Describing psychopathic tendencies, Machiavellian cunning and narcissistic selfishness a 'dark triad', James told The Sunday Telegraph: 'This dark triad of characteristics is very likely to be present in that person in your office who causes you so much trouble.

'Whether you work in the corporate sector, a small business or a public sector job, the system you are in is liable to reward ruthless, selfish manipulation.

'The likelihood of your daily working life being sacrificed by a person who is some mixture of psychopathic, Machiavellian and narcissistic is high. If you do not develop the skills to deal with them, they will eat you for breakfast.'

James researched various offices to study various traits.

In his book, he cites an advertising and film executive whom he nicknames 'Rat', who introduced a female colleague to another man saying, 'The last time I saw Suzy she was stark naked'

The author says that partners in one elite law firm were in many cases humourless, charmless and had social skills akin to someone with Asperger's syndrome, so unaware were they of the thoughts and feelings of others.

He also discloses how an investment banker got his job by fooling the interview panel at a leading American institution into believing that he was an expert in a product he knew nothing about. He then conned his socially insecure boss into believing that he was from an 'old money' background by lying about 'decadent weekends at grand and historic country houses'.

James reserves some of his most scathing views for the television industry in which he has himself worked - for both BBC and independent broadcasters.

He said: 'Television is jam-packed with untalented people who have managed to associated themselves with successful programmes and disassociate themselves from failures.' - Daily Mail


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