5 Warning Signs Of A Toxic Personality

How to spot people with a toxic personality.

Toxic personalities can survive and even prosper in the workplace, and elsewhere, if they have one critical ingredient.

People with toxic personalities have a mixture of arrogance and deceitfulness.

People with toxic personalities:

  1. are willing to flatter others to obtain favours,
  2. to take advantage of others by cheating,
  3. enjoy showing off their higher status to others,
  4. act in an entitled way,
  5. and want to have things others do not.

However, toxic personalities can survive and even prosper in the workplace, and elsewhere, if they have one critical ingredient: social skills.

Social skills help those with toxic and dark personalities to hide their deceitful nature.

The toxic person continues to abuse trust and trick others behind a smokescreen of harmlessness.

Unfortunately, the study also revealed, others tend to view those who are good at office politics as ripe for promotion, despite their negative traits.

The good news for those that lack social skills is that honesty and humility are highly valued as well.

The conclusions come from research that reveals how people with dark personalities get ahead in the workplace.

Professor Gerhard Blickle, study co-author, said:

“Such personalities tend to focus on themselves all the time.

Good social skills enable them to deceive others.”

For the study, the researchers interviewed 203 small groups: each contained three people who were colleagues.

They provided data on the others about their personality and social skills.

The results showed that people who were dishonest and entitled could succeed at work if they had good social skills.

They tended to have better jobs and to be seen as more capable by their superiors.

However, those without social skills could still succeed at work with honesty and humility.

Professor Blickle said that rooting out toxic personalities means less emphasis on good impressions and more on performance:

“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.

Here, it makes sense for instance to also look at the sickness and notice rate of employees, or customer loyalty.”

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Kholin et al., 2020).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.