, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 301-310
Date: 27 Jul 2013

Constraints for Some, Opportunities for Others? Interactive and Indirect Effects of Machiavellianism and Organizational Constraints on Task Performance Ratings

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The purpose of this study was to examine how the indirect relationship between Machiavellianism and task performance ratings is qualified by organizational constraints (e.g., inadequate resources). Contrary to past research, we suggest that constraints can actually facilitate performance ratings among highly Machiavellian employees because they seek to attain high ratings through self-interested behaviors and social influence processes rather than legitimate task performance. Thus, constraints that inhibit legitimate performers should actually create more opportunities for highly Machiavellian employees.


Data were collected from 110 subordinate–supervisor dyads that were recruited from Psychology courses at a small liberal arts college.


The results elaborate on past research focused on organizational constraints to reveal that the indirect relationship between Machiavellianism and task performance is positive and significant under conditions of high organizational constraints. This relationship is not significant and trends in a negative direction when constraints are low.


This study highlights the importance of considering how resource constraints impact different types of performers in organizations. When resources are abundant, legitimate performance is possible and Machiavellians are hampered in their ability to rely on careerist strategies to succeed. In contrast, high constraints create situations that enable Machiavellian behaviors to pay off.


This study’s originality lies in its counterintuitive finding that organizational constraints might actually be beneficial for some employees who adopt Machiavellian, careerist strategies. This is the first study to demonstrate that constraints do not have consistent, negative effects on task performance and to elaborate on how constraints impact the performance of Machiavellian employees.

Daniel Kuyumcu and Jason J. Dahling contributed equally to this study.