Is the dark side of our personality holding us back?

September 20, 2017

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By Brian Maynor



Some of us think our personalities are our best quality, but did you know that every positive trait has an equally dark trait and that employers are using those dark traits to evaluate us?

Mind blown, right?

Over twenty years ago, two psychologists, Robert and Joyce Hogan, cataloged the ‘dark sides’ of 11 personality traits, conducted a groundbreaking study.  The 11 traits they examined were:  bold, cautious, colorful, diligent, dutiful, excitable, imaginative, leisurely, mischievous, reserved and skeptical.

This study is now widely accepted and incorporated in industrial-organizational psychology and used to identify the development needs of employees.  In fact, most of us display at least three ‘dark side traits’ and about 40% have one or two that could disrupt career paths.

To make matters more disturbing, it is hard to change our core personality traits after the age of 30.  However, we can change our behaviors with self-awareness; appropriate goal setting and persistence.

Here’s a break down of these ‘dark side traits’ and what we can do about them:

1.   Grouping.  The 11 personality traits can be sorted into one of three groups, Distancing, Seductive and Ingratiating, and that’s where we’re going to start.

2.    Distancing Traits.  These are personality traits that tend to push people away, and they include:

Cautious.  The upside is being careful and precise, but the dark side is being indecisive and risk-adverse.

Excitable.  The upside of passion and enthusiasm has the dark side of outbursts and volatility.

Leisurely.  While being relaxed and easy going on the outside is an upside, the dark side is being passive-aggressive and driven by a personal agenda.

Reserved.  Being stoic and calm under pressure are positive qualities, the reverse is being uncommunicative and insensitive.

Skeptical.  While this means we’re politically astute and hard to fool, it can also mean we’re mistrustful and quarrelsome.

3.    Seductive Traits.  These traits are all about bringing people in, and while charming and charismatic, they can also lead to overvaluing our worth and push too hard.  These traits include:

Bold.  Conviction and assertiveness are positive qualities, but the opposite is arrogance and ostentation.

Colorful.  Being entertaining and expressive has its benefits, but that can also lead to being socially ignorant.

Imaginative.  Being creative and a visionary are traits often rewarded, but the dark side is impractical notions and constantly changing ideas and actions.

Mischievous.  Charm is often an under-utilized persuasive skill, but it can turn into impulsiveness and manipulation.

4.    Ingratiating Traits.  These traits are seen as positives in followers, but negatives in leaders, and include:

Diligent.  Hardworking with high standards are great as team members, but for leaders that can come across as perfectionism and micromanaging.

Dutiful.  We hope subordinates will be loyal and compliant, but the dark side is being submissive and conflict-adverse.

5.    Managing our dark side.  Being aware of these darker sides of our personalities is the first step; making regular check-ins with peers, bosses and coworkers is essential.  If we aren’t aware we can’t take corrective action.

There are polarities of every personality trait just like there are with emotions, and understanding that helps us recognize and change the dark sided ones before we create a reputation for bad behavior.


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I am always curious to hear about your weekend wardrobe dilemmas and help make your work wardrobe pull double duty.  Email your questions, quandaries and conundrums to [email protected].  Also find each of these storyboards at with links to purchase each item.



About Brian Maynor

Brian Maynor has built a reputation as one of the leading style coaches in the Southeast and is quickly expanding his eponymous company, BRIAN MAYNOR and his FIND, FLATTER & FLAUNT line of image consulting services. A professional with a fresh, upbeat and down-to-earth personality and boundless creative energy, he works frequently with with local celebrities; Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations; modeling agencies; fashion designers; production companies; record labels; media and individuals. A regular contributor to various fashion blogs and online communities, Brian Maynor is one of the most trusted and recognized style experts in the region, utilizing his education and training as a broadcast journalist to serve as a style lecturer, emcee, and commentator for over a decade. He has appeared at fashion shows, expos, and charity fundraisers, as well as events with big brands like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Chico’s and Macy’s. His approach is innovative, creative and fashion-forward, balancing fresh, modern styles with classic pieces to keep one’s look grounded. To learn more, visit


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