Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Dark Side of Leadership in Educational Setting

Written By

Seema Arif

Submitted: 06 May 2018 Reviewed: 18 May 2018 Published: 05 November 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.78790

From the Edited Volume

Dark Sides of Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Edited by Maria Fors Brandebo and Aida Alvinius

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Einstein said that darkness is absence of light. It is assumed that absence of leadership or misappropriation of leadership characteristics and behaviors results in Dark leadership, and it is the system that produces a culture in which dark side of leadership becomes acceptable. In this chapter, I would be exploring the role of middle leadership (school heads, district education officers, and administrative officers) of school education department in Punjab. The chapter is based upon a qualitative study with in-service school teachers and school heads. The critical incident technique was used to collect data, and interpretive analysis was used to interpret data at various levels from coding to themes generation and interpretation of the phenomenon, dark side of leadership. Goleman’s Dark Triad comprising, authoritarian, narcissistic, and psychopathic, provide theoretical basis of the analysis. The results are shared in a story form progressively supplemented with the evidence generating discourse about the dark side of leadership in the educational settings of Punjab. The study acts like a mirror shedding lights into the deep and dark corners of leadership making them aware of their creepy existence and challenging them to create meaningful acceptance for themselves by coming into light and leaving the dark behind.


  • dark side of leadership
  • control
  • supervision
  • victimization
  • teachers rights

1. Introduction

Industrial/organizational (henceforth: I/O) psychologists have begun examining the “dark” side of personality [1, 2, 3]. Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism are regarded as socially aversive personality traits [4]. These three traits have been deemed to be socially undesirable and leaving antagonistic impression in the organizations [5]. Therefore, any person exhibiting any one of the dark personality traits, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism personality may be included in the “Dark Triad” (DT) [6, 7].

Researchers argue that “the dark triad is a constellation of three theoretically separable, albeit empirically overlapping, personality constructs” [8], which are considered maladaptive in interpersonal relationships. Many researchers tend to study each of the three traits of the triad in isolation but seem to agree upon their overlapping characteristics as well [5, 9, 10]. Therefore, the occurrence and manifestation of the DTs either singularly or mixed reflects multidimensionality and complexity of the constructs needing further deep investigation.

However, DTs are not such an unusual phenomenon [11]; Dark personalities embody many desirable traits like charm, leadership, assertiveness and impression management skills [12, 13]. Such leaders are masters of influence through “manipulation and they can easily force or push people toward achievement of their personal goals, such as they can easily manage teachers to work an extra hour or to work on weekends without getting compensation. Such people when in leadership position tend to change their workforce’s behaviors, attitude, needs and values in a beguiling manner [1, 12]. As Goleman has identified in his book Social Intelligence that there are three main types of Dark leadership, authoritarian, narcissistic, and psychopathic, the current chapter will explore the social context in which these leaderships emerge and become stronger overshadowing the positive qualities of charismatic and transformational leadership and resisting reform and change.

So far, research has worked on positive traits of teachers and principals that may complement or match with BiG Five traits and result in better school outcomes. Whereas, we have learned about the positive traits of leadership enabling quality culture in schools, the negative and dark traits of leadership have been substantially ignored causing teacher resistance to work with DT and being detrimental to the wellbeing and motivation of everyone witness to such situations, hence, impeding the progress of quality culture in a school. It is further noted that it is easier for Dark personalities to detect, remove, punish, and retrain employees of their choice [2, 3]; therefore, teachers become an easy victim of aggression by high Machs, manipulation by psychopaths and black charisma by narcissists [6].

In most jobs, one must interact with other people and one must cope with being a subordinate [14, 15]. Similar is the case with school teachers working in Pakistani schools. In an ideal world, people would work in jobs that matched their preferences and personality traits. Alas, most people do not live in this utopia and must make adjustments to their job choice. Fortunately, the ivory towers of the academy provide the opportunity to examine this hypothetical world by understanding “ideal” preferences for work and choice of workers. Being subordinates, the employees (teachers in this case) have to cope with people in power and if leaders possess Dark Traits, the bias toward a particular job or institution increases [15, 16]. Indeed, those high on the Dark Triad traits do appear to have this orientation to their social lives [1, 17] and it, therefore, seems reasonable that this bias would extend to the workplace.

Researchers [5, 18] have argued that dark Side of leadership is best explained through a “Triad” characterized by entitlement, superiority, dominance (i.e., narcissism), glib social charm, manipulativeness (i.e., Machiavellianism), callous social attitudes, impulsivity and interpersonal antagonism (i.e., psychopathy). However, individuals may employ soft (e.g., ingratiation and reason) or hard (e.g., assertiveness and direct manipulations) tactics in pursuit of their goals [1]; the display of characteristics is highly contextual. The behaviors are distinguished by emphasis on forcefulness, whether “hard” and pushing or “soft” and manipulative. However, leaders possessing DTs seem to occupy much stronger positions in the middle and upper hierarchy in any organizational set up, more than what could be desired for [1, 19, 20, 21] and schools are no exception. Therefore, a detailed study is needed that may assess the three Dark Traits simultaneously by comparing and contrasting their individual and interactive effect on the work environment in Pakistani schools. The idea of the research emerged from a research conducted to determine the cause of teacher resistance toward change in public school of Pakistan. The research concluded that the major factor influencing resistance to change [22] was related to the personality characteristics of the school leadership termed in literature as dark traits of leadership. Following that, I had classroom discussion with my students who were teachers in posh urban schools; their experiences were also not much different to my amazement. I had long wished to conduct research on the dark triad as explained in Social Intelligence by Goleman [23]. Therefore, I planned to conduct this novel study and share its results.

The article “Dark Side of Leadership in Educational Setting” is derived from school teachers reflections. It is assumed that these reflections will act like a mirror illuminating the phenomenon dark side of leadership in Pakistani Schools. The allegory of “mirror” & “reflection” does not refer to the traditional story of Narcissus. The “mirror” is contextualized the way the Sufi poet Rumi used it [24]. He says that mirrors are best gift for friends, and best friends are mirror unto us. Our friends are as critical about our social behaviors and personalities and would not bear a flaw in it just like a mirror who tells us what is right or wrong in our physical appearance and what kind of change or makeover we need to look better. Similarly, we are taking school as one whole where not only colleagues but teachers and heads should also serve as mirror to each other. The researcher aimed to collect perceptions of teachers about an intriguing incident, which had critical effect on their lives and ways of thinking about school leadership and management practices. The critical incident technique was used to collect data and analyze it as suggested by Bott and Tourish [25].


2. Critical incident technique

The critical incident technique was introduced by Dr. Flangan as a set procedure for collecting data through direct observations. He has defined CIT as “a set of procedures for collecting direct observations of human behavior in such a way as to facilitate their potential usefulness in solving practical problems and developing broad psychological principles” [26]. Since then it has been used both in quantitative and qualitative research using a variety of methods (observations, questionnaires, interviews and focus group). According to modern researchers, the technique can be customized to be applied to different research frameworks, suiting research, type, research questions and the relative phenomenon under study [25, 27, 28].

An incident is any human activity which is a complete whole in itself and can be observed as well as its experience can be recalled. The data, hence, collected can therefore be used for certain analysis and predictions. The CIT was considered useful methodology for the phenomenon, dark side of leadership, because the techniques has built in inductive tendency, does not need a hypothesis, does not carry any cultural bias and yields impartial results for study [29]. It was used carefully with the 32 school teachers of Pakistani schools from both public and private sectors to explore the influence of dark traits of leadership on the morale and work attitudes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with all participants who had willingly decided to participate in this study. The protocol was constructed in a way that allowed the teachers to choose any story from their past and narrate it to us without any cues from the researcher [28].

The participants were given total freedom to tell their story to any length, with probes to reach to a common understanding to their lived experience [30]. Hence, teachers chose those incidents from their life which carried certain significance in their lives and which they could easily relate to us [31]. The aim of using CIT was to use interpretivist approach not only for induction of suitable inferences from the data, but it provided us a fair chance to problematize existing theory and contribute something original and novel to the theory of Dark Triad of leadership. After transcribing all interviews, the suitable themes were generated. In the first step, dark triad of traits was identified through examples identifying the behaviors of supervisors and leaders. In the second step, the outcomes and implications of these behaviors are discussed. Thus, by applying these techniques critically, researcher was able to get new insight into the phenomenon of dark side of leadership and its impact on teachers that may not have been known otherwise [32]. In the following sections, the Dark Triad is discussed with relevant examples from critical incidents reported by the school teachers, the participants of the research.


3. Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is linked with weakening organizational, supervisory and team commitment [33]; most of such managers are reported as abusive supervisors by the people who work under them [34]. All they want is 100% compliance; they cannot listen to what they have not expected and lose temper. Some incidents narrated by teachers are related below:

A teacher narrated an incident: she was writing something on board and could not pay attention to a boy’s mischief; she did not miss the chance to insult me; she came into the class and delivered lecture on classroom discipline, whereas, she could have controlled the student herself with a simple eye gesture; but how would she get a chance to braggart about her knowledge. In another incident, a teacher of a boarding school went to attend a marriage ceremony. She had to return by 9:00 pm but she got late. Next day the principal called for a written explanation, which is usually taken on a major offense.

Another teacher told her story: Five months back, I was appointed as ESE teacher. I had experience of teaching but not in public institutions, that’s why I took special one month training. I learned during training that learning is contextual and performance depends upon previous status of learning and there is always step by step improvement. We have to correlate our teaching strategies to the school environment is compatible with background of students. I was given the responsibility of class three. The previous class result was pathetic that’s why I had to work hard to improve result. I did not have any idea of the expectations; neither school head told me any. I tried my level best to fulfill my duty honestly. Next month result was 70%, but instead of appreciating me head teacher insulted me for this. This was unbearable for me. Harsh comments and personal attacks with a rude behavior are obviously an attack on the self-esteem of any teacher.

Managers with Machiavellian tendencies resort to holding power by hook or crook through using manipulative strategies [35, 36]. Machiavellians demonstrate cunning, wicked and dishonest behaviors aiming to deceive others [37]. Machs are self-centered, their prime focus is on personal benefit; they are unable to be empathetic and relate to emotions of others [1138]. It seems that they hate weakness, and aim to detest and punish weaknesses in their subordinates.

Machiavellianism is derived from the principle of Machiavelli that ends justify means [11] in total antagonism to Nicomachean ethics stating means justify ends, meaning a little attention is paid to universal ethics. This undermining of ethical issues leads to complex problems rather than problem solving needed at a workplace [39, 40]. The instinctive desire for absolute control over any situation let Machs tend to remain in focus and establish one’s unchallenged writ at any workplace [41].


4. Narcissism

The narcissists differ greatly in self-adoration, self-evaluation, and sense of self-grandeur [4243]. They are perceived as vain, egocentric, and domineering personality who do not tend to look beyond where their nose ends. The narcissists have an endless desire to get recognized for their intelligence, superiority and excellent character and personality [1]. They want to prove that they are the best of all and can do what others cannot; narcissists invite envy, acknowledgment, approval and flattery [44, 45]. Narcissists exaggerate their creative intelligence, leading ability and capacity, in comparison with their peers [46, 47, 48]. Their preoccupations with themselves confuse and disturb others [1, 15]. Although narcissists are charismatic and most sociable of all DTs, their indirect need for power [47] seems unethical [49, 50] in managers.

Many teachers had disclosed that seniority is very much celebrated attribute in Pakistani schools. Most of the conflicts among teachers are about seniority and personal worth in terms of work experience and not diversity of knowledge; it seems all knowledge and experience is about managing negative attitudes of others, how to bear insults and injustice and how to tolerate degradation and zero appreciation of your hard work. There is a long and hard way to go to earn respect from other colleagues.

Some young teachers complained that they are more qualified than head teachers especially in case of freshly hired teachers who are MPhil. Their high qualification is often ridiculed, targeted to make them realize that they don’t know enough and they are not doing things right, so that they can be disciplined unless someone is related to any high ranked officer or has some strong political connection.

A narcissist would never endear intellectuals near him/her—any person who is more intelligent or creative than them. A narcissist is the person who aspires to claim all credit unto him/herself. They would hesitate to say: we did it. He or she will keep the person tight folded and hard bound. Therefore, there is always lack of talent around them; either people deliberately underperform to remain at peace with them or remain wary of being discredited of their hard efforts. Narcissists have a high element of pride attached with their work. They are good listeners; they listen carefully when people give feedback on their performance and later judge whether or not their remarks were sincere.


5. Psychopathy

Psychopathy may be divided into two basic categories: (1) primary psychopathy (demonstrating superficial charm, high degrees of selfishness, lack of empathy and ability to show affection and feel regretful over their wrongdoings and (2) secondary psychopathy (lawlessness, and antisocial behavior and lifestyles) [51, 52]. Psychopaths have a natural tendency to flaunt rules and regulations. They are unscrupulous in blaming others and making others responsible for their personal mistakes and negligence. Psychopaths demonstrate minimum responsibility at the workplace, which does not leave positive impact upon other employees [1, 9, 53].

A teacher told the researcher: “I asked the principal for paper pattern and she replied, don’t you have any ability to do so.”

Psychopaths do not stoop for something low; they aim on high positions indicating power, prestige and monetary benefits [54]. Many of their characteristics like black charisma and verbosity create an impression of an intelligent hard worker who helps others to improve their work and shine [51, 55]. Therefore, they get an easy access to top positions in leadership and management [56, 57]. Psychopaths’ charm is often irresistible hard to defend; many of them remain successful in wearing black hat of charisma. They have better socializing skills and make good first impressions. They are hired because they show lesser anxiety during interviews; they can easily endure negative opinions of others and very well mask personal feelings. They win hearts by displaying an easy going and helping nature. They constantly try to mask their needs of being more charming, intelligent, savvy and lovable, however, they cannot control misappropriation of authority always wanting larger share [46]. On reaching high echelons of power their blackness tends to increase; they create a toxic unbearable work environment characterized by conflicts, bullying, inappropriate workload distribution resulting in poor job satisfaction, high turnover [58, 59, 60].

Researchers have further identified that employees get lesser instructions, trainings and help from their psychopath bosses [5, 51, 52]. Employees do not get appropriate recognition for good work, few incentives and little praise. A tense and uncertain work environment, poor communication levels and unfair attitudes of the boss create a sense of deprivation and loss of sense of wellbeing. At the height of psychopathy the mangers may lose their self-control and emotional stability indulging in overly impulsive, violent and criminal behaviors. Sometimes, they exhibit double personality, one good face before a set of people and the other an evil one before one’s victims [51]. Many of such people successfully hide themselves from certain checks and accountability and may construct their own underground networks with likeminded people. Psychopaths take the largest share in powerful positions, in the role of CEOs, corporate psychopaths indulging in white collar crimes, organizational psychopath keeping control over others through manipulation and deceit [56, 61].

A teacher told her story: One day principal called me in her office and told me that head of another campus wanted me to be transferred to him as an accountant but I don’t want to send you so I myself must deny the offer as it was not much feasible either. Then she started telling me about certain negative factors about the other campus. She didn’t want to deny the other principal risking her professional relationships. She wanted me to stay with her as I am shy and comply with her work demands and attitudes. She knew that I will adjust very well there but insisted on keeping me with her, in spite of the fact that I was very much interested in the transfer. I wondered that people are seeking personal benefit and completely ignoring what I had wanted.

Finally, I decided to join the other campus as an accountant realizing that teachers are less valued than the accountants. Before leaving I had to take 10 days training for accountancy, which I took but I was not passed in the test and could never go to other branch. Later, I had to do double duty for my madam, both of teaching and accountancy to stay in the job. I had to face such an ill treatment until she herself was transferred. People become vindictive for a life time if you oppose them even for a minor reason.

Psychopaths can target people for their specific aims; they enjoy making fools of others, unmindful of the harm and psychological pain they cause others [10].

A teacher recounted: Once an officer came for school inspection and the school head was not present there, she had gone on a visit to another branch. The officer commander her immediate return and reprimanded her without even listening to her. At last, when he cooled down and acknowledged that she was right, he did not apologize and left. The headmistress then turned toward us to displace her anger and blamed all of us for her insult. Where would we turn? To our students…?

The other told her story: The school head was on a usual school round; she saw a key book on a child’s desk and started shouting that why are you using key book for teaching. She was told that it is necessary to teach grammar but she did not listen and insulted us all. She tagged me as rude and ill-mannered as I had tried to explain.

They are always scheming and planning to get advantage and would attempt to ruin whoever comes in their way. They are masters in diverting attention of others by successfully masking themselves in sweetness and smartness. They can lie shamelessly, as

one teacher reported that her headmistress removed all staff reporting to higher ups that the teachers were caught during helping students in cheating for their exams. Teachers are oppressed and depressed; there is a general comment: Nobody is accepting and respecting the role of teachers in education. Anybody can easily take a step against teachers. Another teacher reported that she went to the washroom for two minutes. The headmistress was on round; she came to her class and started to ask the students where your teacher is. When I returned, she started to insult me in front of the class.


6. Overlapping characteristics of the dark triad

DTs may demonstrate soft reaction (e.g., ungratefulness and irrationality) or hard measures (e.g., assertiveness and direct manipulations) while pursuing their personal goals [1]. Whether characterized by an impulse of using force, being “hard” and “pushing” or being soft distinguished by glib charm and manipulativeness. However, leaders occupy much stronger positions in the middle and upper hierarchy, more than what could be desired for [1, 53, 58].

Machiavellianism and primary psychopathy appear to be completely identical psychological concepts [62] for their uncontrolled ambition and aggression, exploitation, tendency to harm others both physically and psychologically. Psychopaths are more unscrupulous in taking advantage of others and may use Machs to demonstrate control through verbal or physical aggression; inappropriate assigning of workload and screwing others for small mistakes are few examples, which create a terror at the workplace. While Machs and psychopaths hold others accountable for minor mistakes, they themselves are careless and irresponsible without a hint of mercy for others. Affection and empathy and compassion for them are weaknesses, which they must avoid at any cost. While they scrutinize the behaviors of others and harass and confuse them, they blandly refuse to accept any responsibility for themselves, of any sort of self-reflection and self-improvement [18, 63, 64].

Moreover leaders with DTs (high Machs with psychopathic tendency) have an innate disposition to perceive situations as threatening and alarming. They remain conscious and highly alert toward any slip of tongue, words or actions, which may appear offensive or derogatory to them [21, 65]. They would hardly bear questions or demanding clarification, or some contradictory opinion; they might perceive such behaviors as challenging their authority and self-esteem. Teachers demanding explanation and posing questions are perceived as competing and targeted for future punishment. The Narcissists, contrarily perceive workplace they work at as highly prestigious, so anybody who would try to shake their ideal would be inspected as criminal, labeled as an outsider.

As per teachers reports, the school heads do not ignore small mistakes, they do not counsel or mentor; instead they exploit teachers’ self-esteem in negative ways. They refuse to realize that “to err is human.” In village schools the conditions are worst, where the head and teachers belong to same school. Mostly the heads talk and scold in local language with lot of verbal abuse and everything can’t be quoted here. Such a rude and rogue behavior of school heads and external supervisors, Executive District Officer and District Education Officers (EDOs and DEOs) cause resentment in teachers, which is a constant threat to teachers’ physical and emotional wellbeing.

Dark side of leadership especially reveals lack of social skills, especially among high Machs, who prefer to resort to aggressive behaviors, failing either to control their tempers, or refusing to look for a reasonable cause in undesired behaviors. They simply seek desired perfection, but remain unable to quote their wishes into practical performance standards [66]. They know the problems but either they do not know how to solve it or they do not want to share it with subordinates, whom they consider too low, a lesser human, especially in case of a narcissist.

All managers and leaders possessing DTs are oversensitive about their “autonomy”; therefore, in order to avoid competitiveness, threatening to personal prestige and self-esteem, the work environment must remain restricted and constrained. One bad fish spoils the whole pond, hence, they must be caught at the earliest; they show linear thinking pattern where people must do what they are told to. “My way or the highway” is the favorite punch line of Machs; therefore, their sense of job satisfaction is very different from common employees. They want to achieve in their own way and narcissists would never allow over-performing or over-achieving; they set limits over personal achievement of their subordinates and peers, which may cause the talented human resource to leave the organization, or never show their real potential [15, 67].

The callous attitude of leaders with DTs, their ever increasing hunger for power, superficial charm and interpersonal antagonism (tendency to make more foes than friends) has been much researched by the academia in an attempt to understanding what are the “ideal preferences” of these people for work environment, where personal entitlement, superiority and dominance reigns supreme [5, 17]. Indeed, those high on the Dark Triad traits do appear to have this orientation to their social lives [1] and it, therefore, seems reasonable that this bias would extend to the workplace.

Teachers in a group interview session agreed to the point: School heads believe that school is a work place where “everyone comes to earn money.” It is not deemed as learning center by many. Teachers are as much as workers as Ayas (maids) but for the worst reasons. A maid can tell this is my work and that is not; a sweeper can also refuse to clean a space or work after hours, but teachers can be called anytime and can be sent to any external duty, be it to supervise elections, go for a door to door campaign like a health worker to advise parents for vaccination or administering polio drops, or canvassing parents of out of school children to send their children to school. It is a national duty they would say on commandment of CM Punjab, never being mindful that teachers have families and their obligations too. They are paid for one job but are taken multiple duties sometimes paid for extra work and sometimes remain unpaid for ages.

Dark leadership engages in excessive interpersonal manipulation and exploitation [6] by making other people victims by assessing their emotional vulnerability [68]; however, it is little known how they assess their victim’s potential vulnerability. Gender differences also influence how DT will be perceived and coped with by employees. In contrast to males, females prefer teaching, which is a social and nurturing profession aimed at social service, and which also involves levels of authority, entitlement, self-worth and self-esteem. Whether or not teachers are able to achieve agreeable levels of autonomy, relatedness and self-esteem depends upon the feedback they get for their work. Teachers’ job commitment and professional commitment and willingness to work as team depend upon their professional appraisal and day to day feedback [69, 70, 71].

Many teachers reported that school heads begin to enjoy insulting and bashings. It gives them a sense of entitlement and pride and their hunger for it keeps on building. They seem sick while in a fit of verbal abuse, not at all mindful of the stress and tension they cause to teachers and staff. They only care about their own self-fulfillment, “Cruellas” they are indeed keeping only a few in their good books. They are moody and selfish; their behaviors keep swinging between favorable and unfavorable; a short time interest they develop for their ulterior aims and then through them away like used tissue papers. One remains in suspicion always whether I am a friend or a foe?

In the following sections the outcomes of dark leadership would be discussed.


7. Feelings of victimization

Human beings have inherently possessed the capacity to judge personalities, emotions, feelings and other’s intentions; this capacity has been improving over the course of time helping people to decide about their important relationships, distinguishing friends from foes, etc. [6]. Such ability has enabled people to categorize good personality traits from the bad traits and identify DTs in people. This ability of identifying DTs in others vary from person to person and culture to culture [68]. On the other hand, it seems that people with DTs have some extraordinary skill to judge the weak points of their victims, easily identifying their emotional vulnerability [72]. It is yet to be learnt what strategies are used by these smart predators to catch their prey; how they eye their “feeble gazelle” and how many fish they can catch a time using simple baits.

The Dark personalities usually indulge in a dramatic relationship, short-term or long-term, it is manipulative of the emotional needs of the victim and exploitative of the resources he/she may possess. They are not wary of any moral scruples which may restrain or stop them from committing cunning atrocities. Sometimes, it appears that they seem to enjoy the helplessness of their victims. Leaders with dark personalities often use personal charm to attract their victims [73]. They rely much on their charming characteristics and tend to overuse and misuse it, indicating lack of innovation or heightened self-confidence. School teachers are already marginalized community with low self-esteem, no matter how much qualified they are. It becomes easier to victimize females belonging to poor socio-economic backgrounds or with high employment needs especially in case of single mothers or mothers needing fee concessions for their children.

DT scores show negative correlation with empathy [74]. Dark leaders lack empathy, yet they can succinctly judge emotional vulnerability of others. It means that Dark personalities have advanced understanding of emotions but they tend to exploit it for personal benefit and do not deliberately take any helping action for the sufferer, even if they can.

Teachers have commented: We have to obey our school heads without questioning it is moral or not. My principal punished me for not promoting the relative of an influential person beneficiary of the school. The ethics do not hold any importance before their personal interests. A teacher told she was promoted to the position of coordinator without any pay raise. At first, the principal was happy as I was working hard, but then she became envious as I was becoming popular among staff because of my problem solving and counseling ability as well as my helping nature. Her resentment continued to build silently and finally it was blown out in a conflict. The teachers backed me as I have always been supporting them. The principal got so offended that she got me transferred in a remote area charging me of neglect of duties and rude behavior. I felt so low and dejected as people kept gossiping about us and avoided any contact with me. I got socially isolated who was quite popular and respected among teachers.

However, this capacity for emotional judgment may vary from person to person in dark personalities; some cannot appreciate love, concern, compassion and similar emotions and others cannot estimate fear in others [75]. Perhaps there is something unique in the physical features or “demeanor” of the victims that Machs or psychopaths are irresistibly attracted to them [76] selecting some special person to victimize among many.

Another teacher narrated her experience: I was a trained science teacher in a private sector school and I was teaching computer and chemistry. The school principal didn’t appreciate my style and always pointed out flaws in my work embarrassing me in front of other colleagues and students. I have never been able to understand why I was victimized. My morale was drowning and my self-esteem was challenged so badly that I had become doubtful of my self-worth and started thinking about quitting job.

Research has identified that many dark personalities do not appreciate weaker traits in others, such as low self-esteem, high levels of depression or anxiety, or possessing unusual and disagreeable characteristics [48]. However, how they may be rating their victims; they see something of their own benefit in them, may be it is about sex or money or shedding their extra load of work [60] or it may be hiding some of their inability). Definitely, some handsome benefits are there and their charm is irresistible. Others think that it is not about any particular emotion, but over expression of some emotion, such as “fear” or under expression, such as “depression”, which offends dark personalities. They deem expression of emotion as “weakness” [74] and become vengeful because “weakness” somehow offends all Dark Triad personalities.

One teacher identified an additional director, who belonged to a very different culture known as “Thana culture” (who love to police around aimlessly) in our society. He has a background of banking environment and has no Education department background. He always tried to insult not only me but every other colleagues of my rank by making satirical comments of “Professor Sahib or Sahiba.” Listening to these comment don’t mean any humiliation but the way he taunts was not acceptable for me and others.

Mostly he used to tease us to show his authority. He asked us to stay after office hours or call us to office on holidays, even when there was no work to do. He majorly do all this to show us that we have to listen to him either we agree or disagree. Mostly his orders were only to tease us and not for the organizational benefit. Once in a meeting he called us to attend office on Saturday, without any official task. I openly disagreed to this and asked him to give the task in week days as being a mother it was difficult for me to come on weekends. Though, most of my fellows were of the same view as mine but they remained silent; most unfortunately I belled the cat! He took this personally and acted so mean that he appraised me in a very negative way. I discussed it with my director, and he promised to rectify and compensate, only to further anger the additional director and worsening relationships.

The reactions of Dark personalities are more autonomic and spontaneous than rational or deliberately programmed [77]. Like animals they take quick notice of the body language of their prey and make a speedy attack, may be of verbal abuse. Sometimes they themselves are surprised of the wrath springing out of them but they do not despise it but fall into love with their own aggressive self. They are power hungry. It comes natural to them, so they own it; they can sense and feel it coming from their grit [78].


8. Counter productive behaviors

Certain employee behaviors are uncalled for and may potentially harm the organization or damage its reputation. Such behaviors are called Counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). CWBs comprise variety of acts which are either directed toward organizations (CWB-O) or toward other people (CWB-P). CWBs include aggressive behaviors, deviation from rules, vengeance and reprisal. Other behaviors entail, damaging organizational property, vandalism and theft, absenteeism, and neglect of work [79]. Organizational behavior theorists claim that such behaviors can be the outcome of the oppressive behaviors of DT personalities [2]. CWBs have been found to be the main cause of decrease in employees’ job satisfaction and increase in stress and intentions to leave the job [80].

Psychopaths are known to escalate conflict and bullying and may blow sense of employees’ wellbeing and commitment [20]. Such conditions may lead to the poor perceptions of organizational justice and ineffective leadership. There exists positive and high correlation between CWBs and destructive leadership [37]. This is why CWBs are becoming a prime concern for all organizations around the globe. Positive job attitudes may not be achieved if workers are encountered with dark leadership traits such as limited empathy and alexithymia [7]. Perhaps, this is the reason many teachers fail to show empathy to individual and special needs of students.


9. Raised need for accountability

Accountability is “perceived need to justify or define a decision or action to some viewers having no prospective incentive or consent power” where such incentives and consents are contextualized or contingent on accountability conditions [81, 82]. Others have described “accountability” as “felt” need to have one’s actions and decisions justified by others. Therefore, accountability perceptions are usually subjective depending upon personal standards rather than organizational norms or universal values [83].

Almost all teachers demanded for fair accountability of school managers and supervisors. The teachers found it very unfair that the supervisory staff is not well qualified; Only Matric or FSc (High School) passed JCOs (junior commissioned Officers) from Army have been appointed to check presence of teachers and students and report to district office. They are not well mannered and do not respect female staff, some even try to harass teachers. School committee members are not qualified either. They do not understand the needs of education and do not have awareness of educational problems. Private school teachers complain of unfairness more than public school teachers, who complain more about rude and harsh behaviors of district managers. Teachers expect some relief from them but they add an injury to insult.

Accountability is deemed essential for effective management of any organization [84]. Every organization needs some ethical principles on which accountability of all employees would be carried out. Accountability, by no means is an agent for control to be used by supervisors to discipline workers [85]; it is needed more for managers and supervisors to know how they are supervising? Supervising does not mean policing around and it is observed when people are left to their personal discretion, some of them tend to use power according to their own understanding, using it to gain personal interests rather than focusing on larger good [83].


10. Thwarted personal and professional improvement

A young teacher remarked during interview; a sad and dull atmosphere prevails in our schools and they call it discipline. I call it “No life.” Such a regressive and traditional style of teaching can halt one’s personal transformation. During the very beginning of my professional career, I spent a great amount of time observing senior staff members to know how they approach pupils. Whether it was delivery of a lesson, or communication with students, I consciously tried to observe how a teacher would react or communicate to the pupils in a variety of situations. Consequently, I began to apply certain behavior management strategies that I had learned through my observation. I had noticed that senior teachers keep themselves at a distance and used firm tone with a louder pitch. I adopt the same firm tone of voice and higher pitch and became more strict and formal with my students. Unfortunately, it did not worked for me; I had not become a better teacher instead I was losing attention of my students; I had not expected this reaction of the students. I was often frustrated and shouted at them. At last, I consulted a senior coordinator; she observed me during class and pointed out at the artificiality of my pseudo firmness. She advised me to keep up with my natural style. This observation acted as a wake-up call for me, and things only got better after I reverted back to being my “old self.” I reverted back to talking to the challenging pupils on a one-to-one basis. There was a huge sigh of relief; what would have happened if I had not dared to seek guidance from my senior and I wonder how many can dare the same due to prevailing hot conditions.

11. Serious threats to human rights

Many principals especially in private schools take undue advantage of teachers’ weaknesses, especially, the ones who are needy for jobs or have their children attending the same school either for free or on concessional rates. School heads keep such teachers in loads of extra work, give extra work to do and those work which is not for teachers. Teachers are lower than Aya (maid). Aya knows that which portion is mine to clean but teacher does not know where the principal sent to her in any time.

Many teachers suffer in their pregnancies; the head teachers know but do not favor teachers. A teacher reported that she felt severe sickness, nausea and vomiting, but the head teacher did not allow her an off time and made her stand in the class. It was so embarrassing. Yes! No teachers can sit in a classroom; there are no chairs for teachers. Is not it dehumanizing, one teacher remarked; why a teacher is forced to stand all the time before the students, who are sitting and relaxing. Frequent incidents are reported about miscarriages or immature deliveries of teachers, but no records are kept about these mishaps; neither are they correlated with any stress at work. Here, we are not talking about the back aches, joint pains, early onset of arthritis or osteoporosis and other ailments connected with standing for prolonged hours.

Teachers repeatedly complained that teachers rights are not priority for any one; our promotions are delayed; we are fined on absenteeism; our salaries get suspended due to some technical mistakes be clerical staff but none is punished but the teachers. The expectations from the teachers are ever rising; the qualification prerequisites are also high, but teachers are posted in the same grades as 15–20 years ago they were posted after bachelors (14 years of education), even after completing MPhil (18 years of education).

12. Dark shadows of district supervision

Teachers are wary of supervising by external authorities like EDO (Executive District Officer) and DEOs, which keep teachers to their toes. They do not listen to the teachers and pass their verdict and teachers are always on the fault. The district office as directed by the Chief Minister Punjab (province of Pakistan) demand high efficiency from school heads and when this order is translated into action, it means that school teachers must be present in school not just for school hours, but as directed by the district office or as wanted by the head.

The external bosses wear “boss is always right” attitude. You can never dare to point fingers at them. A teacher reported that once she was teaching Urdu (national language of Pakistan) as a subject in class five; EDO came for inspection and started shouting: Why you are teaching in Urdu and not English? I tried my best to explain to her that I am teaching the Urdu grammar and a few students do not have books because they cannot buy, but she will not listen to me. My only point of concern was that if she had to insult me she should have done it privately and not in front of the class. In such conditions, how teachers can enjoy self-esteem or teach their students to become self-confident and even-tempered individuals.

Once, the district executive officer (DEO) came while I was working as temporary substitute of my headmistress; he was all sore seeing me in this position; verified from other teacher the information I provided about the headmistress, but on affirmation acted contrarily. He marked the headmistress present and me absent in the attendance register. I kept wondering how I had offended him that he was so rude to me. Such insults create a lasting impression of mistrust on teachers. Similar incident was reported by another teacher that once an officer came for the inspection of school and she was present but he marked her absent; in fact changed her presence marked on the attendance register to absence. She had not taken a single leave in whole year and she was shocked and disappointed. She took her case to the district authority quoting she was being punished without any crime, but none paid any heed. Teachers cannot be angels but they are ultimate sinners. Yes!

In another reported incident, the teacher was conducting December test and DEO madam came and I was busy in my work. There was pin drop silence in the room; I was checking the completed test of students and could not pay immediate attention to her. She just ripped off and suddenly started to insult me without any reason. Many teachers felt they are treated as if they were “rangroots” (rookies) and can be disciplined any way. The teachers had left the school just 2 min earlier from their scheduled time; incidentally, DEO arrived on the scene and ordered all teachers to be called back from their homes and we had to do so.

The teachers were very upset when they commented that they are not granted any leave, even in special cases of sickness, death, or some other special event. Lately, the school education department has directed all school heads that a teacher will have to be present in school even when they are on maternity leave. It means that they cannot enjoy 45 days leave peacefully at their homes.

13. Conclusions

The detailed discussion of the phenomenon shows that no one trait dominates the situation. A mix of traits are working, mostly Machiavellian control dominates with poor value system (psychopathy). Dark shadows are more apparent in the external supervision than in immediate supervision of school heads. Greater resentment was found at the weak leadership role of bureaucracy and greatest disappointment with policies of the political governance.

Teachers were adamant on their point that flattery is not their business and they suffer because there is no accountability for school managers against some code of ethics. All rules and procedural justice are part of policy and law but not part of implementation. Supervisors and managers belong to old school of thought and believe in forcible control and are not well versed in modern management strategies. Therefore, younger and qualified teachers get more upset than seniors.

DT tends to activate certain biases and prejudices in employees, especially junior ones to quit pursuing their ideal professions and desired institutions. When dissatisfied with their jobs, first they begin to voice, but when unheard, resort to neglect. Many teachers want to quit jobs in their first 6 months or 1 year, especially in private schools or switch institutions causing turnover, another loss to organizational productiveness or school effectiveness.

Dark leaders not only search for victims they create ones for themselves, especially Machs.

In the same gender environment the Machs and Narcissists whether male or female tend to be bossy and aggressive in the same way showing little or no difference in their repertoire of behavior. In a mixed gendered environment women tend to keep lower profile, especially in traditional culture like Pakistan they prefer conforming to soft and timid behaviors and display submissiveness. Patriarchal society of Pakistan contribute much in creating feelings of oppression in female teachers, because district officers are mostly males and in order to save their skin from district supervisors, the school heads turn antagonistic toward teachers.

It is inferred from the stories so far told by many teachers that some school heads act like sadists. There is a vicious circle going on. People tend to deny personal responsibility and blame the system. Everyone feels that he/she is victim of the system. Who is the system, those who run the system or those who dictate policies? The policy makers when questioned about the efficacy of the system will blame poor management and policy implementation responsible for every ill. The managers would say the workers are not willing. Nothing seems to be in place in the system; when rules and roles are not clear, the leadership looks dark. When people get aware of their roles and responsibilities, the darkness is removed. Better knowledge, better education and better training can bring light both in hearts and minds. Let us all look up for that light.


I humbly thank all the participants for giving their most honest and genuine opinions. I am also thankful to my research associates, Ms. Ayesha Shahzad and Ms. Safia Iqbal, who helped me in transcribing of all interviews.


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Written By

Seema Arif

Submitted: 06 May 2018 Reviewed: 18 May 2018 Published: 05 November 2018