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Knowledge sabotage as an extreme form of counterproductive knowledge behavior: the role of narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and competitiveness

Alexander Serenko (Faculty of Business and IT, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada)
Chun Wei Choo (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 31 August 2020

Issue publication date: 17 November 2020




This study empirically tests the impact of the Dark Triad personality traits (narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy) and co-worker competitiveness on knowledge sabotage.


A model was constructed and tested by means of Partial Least Squares with data from 150 participants recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.


The individual personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy are significant predictors of individual knowledge sabotage behavior, whereas co-worker Machiavellianism and psychopathy trigger co-worker knowledge sabotage. Out of the three Dark Triad traits, individual and co-worker psychopathy emerged as the strongest knowledge sabotage predictor. Co-worker competitiveness has a positive effect on co-workers’ knowledge sabotage behavior. There is a relatively strong relationship between co-worker and individual knowledge sabotage which suggests that knowledge sabotage is a form of contagious workplace behavior. Individuals underestimate their negative behavior and traits and/or overestimate those of their fellow co-workers.

Practical implications

Managers should realize that the Dark Triad personality traits could predispose certain individuals to engage in extremely harmful counterproductive knowledge behavior. They need to ensure that individuals with these traits are not hired or are identified during their probation periods. It is recommended that organizations include knowledge sabotage measures in their periodic employee surveys. Organizations should help their employees objectively re-evaluate their own traits and knowledge behavior as well as those of their colleagues to ensure that their reciprocating knowledge behavior is more aligned with the reality in their organization.


This study offers a reliable and valid quantitative survey instrument to measure the presence of knowledge sabotage.



Serenko, A. and Choo, C.W. (2020), "Knowledge sabotage as an extreme form of counterproductive knowledge behavior: the role of narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and competitiveness", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 24 No. 9, pp. 2299-2325.



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