Episode 23 – About the dark triad of personality and how AI can support HR management

Personality traits and the implications on work (performance) has a long record in the field of IO psychology. The “big five“ of personality, meaning the five traits that were regarded as a sufficient description of personality are more or less kind of „bright side“ traits: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. There are also extreme forms of personality, which can be called „dark side“ personality traits. One example of such traits, is the so called dark triad, encompassing narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Prof. Bipp did research about the dark sides of peoples’ traits and how this affects work outcomes. If the personality profile of a person signals an average score or above, that doesn`t necessarily mean you have to be hospitalized, it just signals an extreme form of personality. Research shows, that for example narcissistic leaders are extremely proud of themselves and convinced that they’re doing an extraordinary good job, which isn`t necessarily confirmed by the objective outcomes. Research also supports, that dark side traits tend to induce potentially negative impact in a working environment, especially with regard to the interaction with others and in terms of performance (1).

HR, (big) data and AI

Organizations have keen interest in identifying dark traits, that potentially harm the overall performance. Question were, where and how to obtain data on personality traits, and how can data be transferred into suitable reliable estimates about personality, intelligence or personality factors? In this context, social Media profiles are offering an enormous amount of (private) data, that is published voluntarily. Prof. Bipp recently participated in a project, where the goal was to derive personality traits from information, gathered in social network profiles. This field of research is growing, and results are improving. (Legal and ethical aspects of this topic have not further been discussed in this podcast – this could be content for another future podcast episode.) Part of the project was to look if it is possible to make inferences about your dark side personality traits from LinkedIn© profiles. The results of the first research approach were not really good, yet. But algorithms emerge and improve and there have been already interesting example of estimates on personality traits from Facebook© profiles. Results using that tend to be align better with personal descriptions than using the description of friends or relatives.

Psychometrics is a major part of psychology, dealing with theories and methods for measuring constructs that cannot be observed directly, such as personality or intelligence – and the enormous increase of available (big) data in combination with AI has game-changing potential. There is e.g. research on the connection between Twitter© tweets of employees and job satisfaction. Most companies are using prediction models of turnover, costs and profit. But often, they have no information on the fluctuation of their staff – why do people quit their jobs? Reliable, continuous information in this context have the potential to improve significantly HR selection and development processes. Lower fluctuation and higher motivation lead to a reduction of frictions, information losses, and cost which therefore increases overall performance of organizations.


In the final part of the interview, we talked about two internal coaching projects. The first one is called “Campus coaching”. The project has been started by a post-doc in our group a group of students who finished a master-class on coaching aiming to transfer their coaching knowledge into practice and support other students. The second project describes an approach, where employees teach other employees in short session and topics that are not directly related to their jobs. Both approaches are win-win-approaches, as coaches/tutors and students are increasing their knowledge – moreover, the projects stimulate informal learning processes.

(1) Harms, P. D., Spain, S. M., & Hannah, S. T. (2011). Leader development and the dark side of personality. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(3), 495-509. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.04.007