What is Machiavellian?

Definition: Machiavellian is a term employed to identify the use of a deceitful and self-interested attitude to gain power and influence. It normally refers to the ability to manipulate individuals to achieve personal goals.

What Does Machiavellian Mean?

The term originated from the writings of Niccoló Machiavelli, a politician that, among other pieces, wrote a book called The Prince. Machiavelli’s views, portraited in his books, were often evil and deceitful, since he pictured a political world filled with lies and death. He is the father of Machiavellianism, which is the application of the principles reflected in his books to interpersonal relationships and political strategy.

The term was later coined to describe individuals with a tendency to manipulate their peers to gain power, influence and authority. It indicates that the person is very calculative and careful about each movement he makes and also, that there is a reason and a purpose behind all of their actions. This particular behavior can be found in work and business environments. People with a thirst to climb the corporate ladder are often involved in Machiavellian strategies.

The use of these techniques is likely to generate conflicts and create an unhealthy work environment filled with distrust.


Phil is a Junior Financial Analyst at Big Firm Co. a very prestigious financial services company in Manhattan. He currently works with a team of 2 other financial analysts reviewing different matters for the firm. Phil’s boss recently announced that there was an available position as Senior Financial Analyst and he will pick among these three individuals which one will get the job. Phil has always been very clever when it comes to politics and he’s very careful about everything he does or says.

After he was briefed about the opportunity he made a plan to make his co-workers look bad in order to become the most appealing candidate. He decided to invite the other analysts to have some drinks and he planned to get negative information or feedback out of them, record them and show it to his boss.

He thought that this plan will take out the competition and put him in the best position for the job. By acting this way, it is obvious that Phil has a Machiavellian attitude, using deceitful strategies and lies to achieve a particular goal.