The Emotional Machiavellian: Interactions Between Leaders and Employees

Publication Name

Journal of Business Ethics


This paper examines the emotional processes in Machiavellian leadership. The leadership literature portrays Machiavellians as ‘dark’ individuals that engage in unethical actions, causing employee dissatisfaction, distress, emotional exhaustion and high turnover. However, research has seldom questioned the processes behind these unethical and negative outcomes. This study explores Machiavellian emotional processes at multiple levels—within-persons and relational levels (between-persons and interpersonal interactions in organisations). In this study, emotions and leadership are not explored in isolation but as social processes that occur in relationships between leaders and employees in evolving organisational settings. This study draws on 20 participants from four large multi-national construction firms in Sri Lanka. Open-ended semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore the emotions of Machiavellians in organisations. The findings suggest that Machiavellianism influences leader and employee emotional processes. Furthermore, the emotional processes, influenced by Machiavellianism, appear to facilitate the development of leader and employee relationships and emotional experiences at within-persons and relational levels in organisations.

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