Machiavellianism – The Little Finger stirring the pot

Most of us have met our fair share of school yard bullies, office bullies and generally unpleasant people. More insidious are the ones that you don’t see coming; the ones that play one person off another, say one thing to your face and something else to the next person. Sometimes you never even notice the effect they have, even when you have been taken advantage of. The term Machiavellianism is a homage of sorts to Niccolò Machiavelli. Nicolo’s claim to fame was to write a book called The Prince, which gave a forthright account of how to go about acquiring and maintaining political power. He wrote this book in Italy, during the Renaissance, and managed to make himself quite unpopular at the time. Apparently being honest about how wealth and power actually work doesn’t make you popular with the rich and powerful.

From a social psychology perspective, Machiavellianism is characterised by manipulation and exploitation of others, a disregard of morality and a focus on self-interest (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). You may at this point be thinking this reminds you of someone.

When I think of Machiavellianism, I think of someone who manipulates others (e.g., a LIttleFingermaster of deceit) or someone who is an opportunist. Think of your Hollywood characters such as Game of Throne’s Lord Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) and Fargo’s Lorne Malvo (who, in my opinion was played brilliantly by Billy Bob Thornton).  In fact, we all have a little bit of Niccolo in us, but usually not to an unhealthy level.

In the work place, the art of manipulation might not be considered entirely undesirable. In some ways, it may work in our favour (unless you get the wrong end of it). For example, Machiavellianism has been associated with qualities such as drive for power and dominance (Jonason, Norman, Webster, & Schmitt, 2009), which does tend to help a business be competitive.  From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, these qualities may be necessary for survival and may therefore not be considered all undesirable (Jonason, Wee, & Lee, 2014). However Machiavellianism has also been associated with the:

  • Lower credibility by co-workers – In research undertaken by Teven, McCroskey and Richmond (2006) the more employees saw that their supervisor had Machiavellianism traits, the less they were prepared to credit their supervisor with competence, caring and trustworthiness, the less happy they were and the less motivated they were to work for their supervisor. Basically folks tend not to trust a manipulative boss.
  • Abusive supervisory style: In a study conducted in Australia and the Philippines, Kiazad and colleagues (2010) found that Machiavellian supervisors tended to be seen as more abusive toward subordinates, which leads to…
  • Bullying-typifying behaviours akin to workplace bullying (Linton & Power, 2013; O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, & McDaniel, 2012).
  • High on Extraversion and openness, however low scores on agreeableness and conscientious (Jakobwitz & Egan, 2006). That’s psych talk for being outgoing and keen to try new things, but kind of grumpy and unlikely to care about their commitments to other people.
  • Unattractiveness – Recent research suggests that Machiavellians were not perceived as ‘hot’ (Rauthmann & Kolar, 2013) (You can make your own mind up about Aidan Gillen and Billy Bob Thornton).
  • Lower levels of intimacy, commitment and passion in romantic relationships – People high on Machiavellianism tend to be less intimate, less committed to relationships and less passionate (Ali & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2010). One assumes they would also be less likely to admit to these relationship shortcomings.

So keep a clear head about what others are on about and, the next time you find yourself engaging in the act of manipulation, pause to consider how you may look to the next person.

 Image Source

 Image of Little Finger obtained from Game of Thrones Wiki.


Ali, F., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2010). The dark side of love and life satisfaction: Associations with intimate relationships, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 228-233. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.10.016.

Jakobwitz, S., & Egan, V. (2006). The Dark Triad and normal personality traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 331-339. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.07.006

Jonason, P. K., Norman, P. L., Webster, G. D., & Schmitt, D. P. (2009). The Dark Triad: Facilitating a short-term mating strategy in men. European Journal of Personality, 23, 5-18. doi: 10.1002/per.698

Jonason, P. K., Wee, S., & Lee, N. P. (2014). Thinking bigger and better about “bad apples”: Evolutionary industrial-organizational psychology and the Dark Triad. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 7, 117-121. doi: 10.1111/iops.12118

Kiazad, K., Restubog, S. L. D., Zagenczyk, T. J., Kiewitz, C., & Tang, R. (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, 1, xx. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2010.06.004

Linton, D. K., & Power, J. L. . (2013). The personality traits of workplace bullies are often shared by their victims: Is there a dark side to victims? Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 738-743. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.026

O’Boyle, E. H. J., Forsyth, D. R., Banks, G. C., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012). A meta-analysis of the Dark Triad and work behavior: A social exchange perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 557-579. doi: 10.1037/a0025679

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personlity, 36, 556-563. doi: 10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00505-6

Rauthmann, J. F., & Kolar, G. P. (2013). The perceived attractiveness and traits of the Dark Triad: Narcissists are perceived as hot, Machiavellians and psychopaths not. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 582-586. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.005.

Teven, J. J., McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (2006). Communication correlates of perceived machiavellianism of supervisors: Communication orientations and outcomes. Communication Quarterly, 54, 127-142. doi: 10.1080/01463370600650829

Gina Huisy, 2014. (MAPS).

Christopher Howland, 2014.

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Mental illness carries too much stigma

People with mental illness put up with a lot more than their illness. Mental illness carries depressiontoo much stigma. While there is no shame taking time off work to recover from tonsillitis or pneumonia, sharing that you have a mental illness is still an act of profound courage. As you are reading this, it’s likely that you know someone who suffers from some form of mental illness. You may even experience a mental condition yourself.

If you’re struggling with mental illness and have suicidal thoughts, contact the Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65 (available 24 hours, seven days a week).

For more information regarding mental illness, please refer to the following links:

Beyond Blue

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

Lifeline Australia

Mental Health

Image Source

Mental health image obtained from

Gina Huisy MAPS (2014).

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What is psychopathy?

Well, it’s probably not Dexter. The first thing to remember about psychopathy is that Dexterpsychopathy is a common usage term for what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), call Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Psychopathy is characterised by a pervasive pattern of callousness, having a lack of empathy and general disregard for the rights of others, as well as remorselessness (Paulhus & Williams, 2002).

When people hear the word psychopathy, they most often think of serial killers. Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, oh my. However research over the last few decades has shown that psychopathy isn’t just present in ‘extreme’ cases of crime and debauchery; signs of psychopathy can also exist in more mundane, day to day experiences, including at work. Think of the nastiest bully you have seen at work. Possibly they are a candidate.

HorribleWorkplace bullies can have a significant impact on organisations. In the workplace, psychopathy has been found to have a large and significant impact on the amount and severity of conflict, bullying (Linton & Power, 2013; O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, & McDaniel, 2012) and employee well-being (Boddy, 2013). Unsurprisingly, workplace bullying is consistently associated with adverse mental health consequences like stress and depression (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002; Vartia, 2001). For the less sensitive readers, bullying and workplace psychopathy also have costly repercussions on the Australian economy; between $6 billion and $36 billion every year (House Standing Committee on Education and Employment, 2012). At any one time, up to 88% of employees experience at least some workplace bullying (Mikkelsen & Einarsen, 2002).

Given what we know from global data, how does the picture look in Australia?

If you are an employee (18 years of age or over) and have worked in Australia for a minimum 6 months, have your say by completing a short anonymous survey online!

You can access the survey by clicking on the link below:

If you know anyone else who is an employee (18 years of age or over) and has worked in Australia for a minimum of 6 months, please forward them the survey link. Feel free to share on Facebook/ Linkedin and other social media.

Image source

Dexter image obtained from the website (2013).

Horrible Bosses image obtained from the Behind the Hype: Are you BtH? website (2011).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-563. doi: 10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00505-6

Boddy, C. R. (2013). Corporate psychopaths, conflict, employee affective well-being and counterproductive work behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1688-0

House Standing Committee on Education and Employment. (2012). Workplace bullying: We just want it to stop. Inquiry into workplace bullying. Commonwealth of Australia – Parliament of Australia. Retrieved from

Linton, D. K., & Power, J. L. . (2013). The personality traits of workplace bullies are often shared by their victims: Is there a dark side to victims? Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 738-743. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.11.026

Mikkelsen, E. G., & Einarsen, S. (2002). Relationships between exposure to bullying at work and psychological and psychosomatic health complaints: The role of state negative affectivity and generalized self-efficacy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43, 397-405. doi: 10.1111/1467-9450.00307

O’Boyle, E. H. J., Forsyth, D. R., Banks, G. C., & McDaniel, M. A. (2012). A meta-analysis of the Dark Triad and work behavior: A social exchange perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 557-579. doi: 10.1037/a0025679

Smith, S. F., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2013). Psychopathy in the workplace: The knowns and unknowns. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 18, 201-218. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2012.11.007

Vartia, M. A-L. (2001). Consequences of workplace bullying with respect to the well-being of its targets and the observers of bullying. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 27, 63-69. doi: 10.5271/sjweh.588

Gina Huisy MAPS (2014).

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很多時候,我們看到別人的生活,別人的成功,都會寄與羨幕,忌妒的眼神, 以為其他人享受家庭溫暖。但是冇唔記得家家有本難念的經!

peopleGina Huisy MAPS (2014).


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Staying upbeat at the World Cup?

During the 2006 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup, held in Germany, Wilbert-Lampden and colleagues (2006) examined the relationship between emotional stress and the incidence of cardiovascular events. They found that viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubled the risk of an acute cardiovascular event. The risk appeared to be higher amongst men with known coronary heart disease.

This might be a good time to apply a relaxation exercise!


Wilbert-Lampen, U., Leistner, D., Greven, S., Pohl, T., Sper, S., Volker, C., . . . Steinbeck, G. (2008). Cardiovascular events during world cup soccer. The New England Journal of Medicine, 358, 475-483. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0707427

Gina Huisy MAPS (2014)

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Are you currently working as an employee?

Are you aged 18 years or over?logo_unisa_RGB-blue

Have you been working for at least 6 months?

Yes? Then read on.

Volunteers are currently being recruited to take part in a research project to examine the associations between personality traits and workplace behaviours.

Specifically, we would like workers who have been working for a minimum six months to participate in our short anonymous survey.

To be eligible to participate in this study, participants must be:

  • 18 years of age or over.
  • Employees who have worked for a minimum six months in Australia.

Individuals will be excluded from participation on the basis of:

  • Under the age of 18.
  • Not having worked a minimum six months in Australia.
  • Self-employed.

Participation in the study will involve completing some short anonymous questionnaires online which will take approximately 25 minutes duration. Participation is completely anonymous. You can access the survey by clicking on the link below:

QrCode_PersonalityWorkplaceIf you know someone else who is 18 years of age or over, who has worked as an employee for a minimum six months in Australia, and who might be interested to participate, please forward this webpage to them.

If you would like more information about the study, please contact Gina Huisy at the University of South Australia via email at

This study has been granted ethics approval by the University of South Australia Human Research Ethics Committee.

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I’m not racist BUT [insert stereotype]

Until recently I never worried about being a target of racism. Sure at school I was called a ‘Ching-Chong China girl’ and a FOB (i.e., Fresh off the Boat). I was asked whether I was an internet bride and if I ate dog. However I didn’t notice or care enough to be really affected by it. Now, many years later, I am witnessing levels of racist comments I would never have imagined even just a few years ago.  I have heard comments such as ‘Two Wongs don’t make a white’ (apparently an old Aussie favourite) and ongoing dialogue about how the Aryan race are more attractive, which coming from professional people is more than a little concerning.

What worried me most was overhearing someone recently comment on how they truly believe that Aboriginals should “go back to where they come from”. I have a very, very high tolerance for the politically in-correct but this struck me as very out of place, because it implied that the first people of Australia, who to this day are fighting for equality and power against hate speech, don’t belong in their country of origin. I’ve not previously heard this comment made about Aboriginal Australians – more often I’ve heard it targeted at refugees. I can understand that some people may genuinely not understand the nature of the insult, but to get real about it, racism is a particularly vicious and personal attack, even when it is made “just for fun”. Have we forgotten our history lessons? Aren’t our colonial forefathers ‘boat people’? Did Captain Cook fly Qantas?

Racism seems to move from one target group to another, like cringe worthy fashion waves, but whoever the target is, good ol’ racism is ever present. Abroad also, wherever there is difference in race or culture there are people determined to be racist. For example, The ongoing racist dialogue between Hong Kong locals and ‘mainland’ China has been broadcast almost daily by the South China Morning Post, which I find somewhat ridiculous given we are all Chinese.  The world over, there is distrust, social disconnect and violence between different cultures, race and religion (in Pakistan, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, western China). Many of these conflicts involve histories which we don’t fully grasp and the detail of which we cannot judge. But the racism is always there. So Racism clearly is not a uniquely Australian problem… but it still is an Australian problem.

Someone once told me that racism is just a “stereotype”, and while it does involve stereotyping, that’s just a small part of the story. Stereotypes, even though they make it easier for us to get by with all the day-to-day things we have to deal with, can still be harmful. Stereotypes are like a generalisation. They reduce the time it takes to make a decision, but at the cost of reduced accuracy in our decision making. So sure, racism does involve stereotyping, but it is more than just stereotyping. Racism is stereotyping plus the decision to be nasty toward other people. So the next time you put someone in a box (those Indian telemarketers, those Phillipino house-keepers, those [insert ethnic minority here] with the funny food or whatever) are you simply reinforcing negative stereotypes? Yes. India does have a booming industry in call centre management, but I’m pretty sure I receive calls from Australian telemarketers too. When people say “I’m not racist but…” it’s like a social disclaimer requesting permission (and protection from peers) to roll out a poorly thought through stereotype. They may as well be saying “I know it’s a poorly thought through stereotype that might be harmful to someone, but… I’m going to be racist and hurtful anyway”. When someone says this to you, it’s your choice whether to give them that permission.


Gina Huisy MAPS (2014)

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