Birds of a Feather can Butt Heads: When Machiavellian Employees Work with Machiavellian Leaders
Machiavellians are manipulative and deceitful individuals willing to utilize any strategy or behavior needed to attain their goals. This study explores what occurs when Machiavellian employees have a Machiavellian leader with the same negative, manipulative disposition. We argue that Machiavellian employees have a negative worldview and are likely to trust their leaders less. This reduced trust likely results in these employees experiencing higher stress and engaging in more unethical behavior. In addition, we expect these negative relationships to be exacerbated when such followers experience Machiavellian leadership. Thus, we test a moderated mediation model assessing whether Machiavellianism affects employees and whether combining Machiavellian leaders and Machiavellian employees is toxic in the sense of exacerbating the negative impact of Machiavellianism on employee trust. Results do not support the proposed conditional indirect effect of trust for either stress or unethical behavior. Instead, we find a conditional direct effect of employee Machiavellianism on both trust and stress: When Machiavellian employees have Machiavellian leaders, their trust in their leader significantly decreases, and their level of stress significantly increases. We also find support for an unconditional indirect effect of trust for employee stress (but not for unethical work behaviors), Machiavellianism in employees relates to stress via lowered trust in the leader. For unethical behavior, we only find a main effect of employee Machiavellianism.