Welcome to the V W and GM Machiavelli Management School

Before we start this article I want to give you a quick definition of Machiavellian. It is the employment of cunning and duplicity in one’s general conduct.

Machiavellian is also a term that some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person’s tendency to be unemotional, and therefore able to detach him or herself from conventional morality and hence to deceive and manipulate others

The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli. In modern psychology, Machiavellian is one of the dark triad personalities, characterized by a duplicitous interpersonal style, a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and personal gain.

OK now back to the article on what I believe is concerning, Machiavelli Corporate Management. I enjoy following the business news. Although I am now a writer and author, my 30 years of corporate life still pulses through my blood. Corporations are the driving force in our global economy. Our lifestyles would be dramatically lessened without the ideas and abilities they have to deliver ever useful product, services and ideas.

Corporations are woven deeply into our daily life fabric and we cannot look at them simply as them, corporations and us, consumers. What corporations do in America and globally impact us all greatly. If they grow, we grow. If they do great things we are impacted. If they do stupid things, or worse yet malevolent things we are impacted financially and morally as well.

I don’t know if corporate CEO’s and their senior management are getting more malevolent, cunning and duplicitous the past 5 years, or are they just getting caught more. Let me illustrate that rather harsh statement with three major stories in point, in reading just yesterday’s business news. This is just one day’s news!

The duplicitous actions of V W to a purposely design software to dramatically cheat on emissions and as a byproduct load carbons into the air of everyone above legal standards. Why? To sell more V W diesel cars and make more profit of course. V W CEO Martin Winterkorn apologized, and said he would look into it. There will be hand wringing and expensive suits, but in the end V W, as all other major corporate players, will not explain why they did it, will pay a billion dollar plus fine, then go back to their Machiavellian ways of doing business….as usual.

The second story yesterday in the press was the $900 Million fine placed on GM for purposely and knowingly shipping their shiny new cars with bad ignition switches to millions of American and global consumers. Ignition switches that they knew for years, killed men, women and teenagers. They apologized, paid money and went back to their Machiavellian business school tactics. So much for an organization we all know and trust. Don’t they realize their actions have impact on lives and the very moral fabric we all are a part of? Don’t they realize the impact to consumers trust in them? Are men, women and children less important than yearly bonus’money?  The answer it seems is no. As the definition of Machiavelli says…. People who are able to detach themselves from conventional morality and hence to deceive and manipulate others.

The third Bad actor from the Machiavelli school of acting normal while lying was a smaller corporate player. It seems Machiavelli lives in small medium and large corporations. This corporate bad actor, the CEO was told his company’s peanut butter was infected with salmonella. You know the salmonella that kills people. He was told it was already packed and in the jars, ready to ship to consumers…and schools. His managers asked him what they should do. His answer…ship it. He said he could not lose another customer… so ship it. He knew kids in schools across America ate it for lunch and would become sick and some would die. Did he care? No.

Now you may think that Machiavellian thinking is rare and only a few bad CEO’s and corporations do it. You would be wrong. It is prevalent in the workplace. There are even regular studies on it. Machiavellian in the workplace.

Here is a quick research piece I clipped from Wikipedia today as part of my research for this article.

Machiavellian in the workplace is the employment of cunning and duplicity in a business setting. It is an increasingly studied phenomenon. The root of the concept of Machiavellian is the book The Prince by Machiavelli which lays out advice to rulers how to govern his or her subjects. Machiavellian has been studied extensively over the past 40 years as a personality characteristic that shares features with manipulative leadership tactics. It has in recent times been adopted and applied to the context of the workplace and organizations by many writers and academics. The Machiavellian typically only manipulates on occasions where it is necessary to achieve the required objectives.

Oliver James identifies Machiavellian as one of the dark triadic personality traits in the workplace, the others being narcissism and psychopathy. A new model of Machiavellian based in organizational settings consists of three factors: maintaining power, harsh management tactics and manipulative behaviors

The presence of Machiavellian in an organization has been positively correlated with counterproductive workplace behavior and workplace deviance.

Although Machiavelli management was created in the Renaissance era, it is unfortunately still alive and well in the 21st century. If the outcome of this duplicitous moral behavior was just the manipulation of money to protect corporate profits that would be one thing. But by allowing and therefore accepting this deviant behavior style of leadership to continue… when we are supposed to be intelligently more evolved, it is damming to our moral fabric and psyche. It is impacting our workplace. It is killing men, women and children for year end bonus money! We are fish swimming in Machiavelli polluted waters and we cannot see it.

Author, Steven Monahan @StevenMonahan.com

about author-img author

CEO FinTech Wealth Group, Atlanta, GA. Former Fortune 100 Financial Executive. Author of #38 money-careers book the ONE THING WORKBOOK.