‘Toxic' but still successful professionally?

March 26, 2020

TOXIC personality is a term used to describe people who behave greedily, immodestly and unfairly and take the truth very lightly.

Social skills are in themselves a good thing in the workplace. They can open locked doors and help to cope with daily stress. But they can also be used to deceive others, abuse trust or construct a façade of harmlessness beyond which actually lurks deceitfulness.

Psychologists Dr. Mareike Kholin and the research team from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bonn determined that toxic personalities who are considered socially adept by their colleagues were considered more capable by their superiors and occupy a higher hierarchical position.

"We have to get used to the idea that social skills can be a double-edged sword," says Kholin.

In personality tests, they said "toxic" persons have low scores in the categories "honesty" and "modesty." Such personalities tend to focus on themselves all the time.

Good social skills enable them to deceive others. On the other hand, those who are distinctly honest and modest are a real joy for their team: Such individuals behave fairly and allow colleagues to share in their successes, according to Kholin’s team member Prof. Dr. Gerhard Blickle.

Their study results showed that workers with low values for honesty and modesty can nonetheless succeed in their careers if they balance the toxic parts of their personality with social skills. "Trickery, disguise and deception are the dark side of social skills,” they said.

But how can companies and teams respond to these findings? Prof. Blickle said: “In order to slow down the ascent of toxic personalities, more attention should be paid to actual performance and less to the good impression when selecting staff and making assessments." advises Prof. Blickle.

(University of Bonn/ScienceDaily).