Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian philosopher and statesman, was one of the earliest writers on the topics of political behavior. In his work, The Prince , Machiavelli examined how to obtain and hold governmental power via political actions. Over centuries Machiavelli has come to be associated with the use of deceit and opportunism in interpersonal relations.
It is possible to measure Machiavellianism as a personal trait or style of behavior toward others. It is characterised by:
- the use of guile and deceit in interpersonal relationships
- a cynical view of the nature of other people;
- and a lack of concern with conventional morality.
For example, a person who scores high on a test to measure Machiavellianism would probably agree with the following statements: The best way to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear. Anyone who completely trusts anyone else is asking for trouble. Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so. It is wise to flatter important people.
In general, Machiavellian individuals are thought to socially domineering and manipulate, and they are assumed to engage in political behavior more often that other organizational participants.
Machiavelli's perspective allows for politics in organizations to function in a much broader capacity.