Narcissism in the workplace
Narcissism in the workplace is a serious issue and may have a major detrimental impact on an entire organization. Narcissistic individuals in the workplace are more likely to engage in counterproductive work behavior (CWB) especially when their self-esteem is threatened. Narcissism is both a personality trait and a personality disorder, generally assessed with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.
Narcissists typically perform well at job interviews and have a good success rate for landing jobs. Interviews are one of the few social situations where narcissistic behaviours such as boasting actually create a positive impression.
Impact on stress, absenteeism and staff turnover
The narcissistic manager will have two main sources of narcissistic supply: inanimate (status symbols like cars, gadgets or office views); and animate (flattery and attention from colleagues and subordinates). Teammates may find everyday offers of support swiftly turn them into enabling sources of permanent supply, unless they are very careful to maintain proper boundaries. The narcissistic manager's need to protect such supply networks will prevent objective decision-making. Such a manager will evaluate long-term strategies according to their potential for gaining personal attention.
Preference for hierarchical organisations
Narcissists like hierarchical organisations because they think they will rise to high ranks and reap status and power. Narcissists are less interested in hierarchies where there is little opportunity for upward mobility.
According to Alan Downs, corporate narcissism occurs when a narcissist becomes the chief executive officer (CEO) or other leadership roles within the senior management team and gathers an adequate mix of codependents around him or her to support the narcissistic behavior. Narcissists profess company loyalty but are only really committed to their own agendas, thus organizational decisions are founded on the narcissist's own interests rather than the interests of the organization as a whole, the various stakeholders, or the society in which the organization operates. As a result, a certain kind of charismatic leader can run a financially successful company on thoroughly unhealthy principles for a time. But the chickens always come home to roost.
Neville Symington has suggested that one of the ways of differentiating a good-enough organisation from one that is pathological is through its ability to exclude narcissistic characters from key posts.
Coping strategies for dealing with a narcissistic manager
- assess the relationship realistically
- maintain your professionalism
- flatter the narcissistic manager
- confront the problem gently and tactfully
- document your accomplishments
- be willing to accept criticism
- over respond to the manager's pet peeves
- maintain a strong network.
Workplace bullying overlap
In 2007, researchers Catherine Mattice and Brian Spitzberg at San Diego State University, USA, found that narcissism revealed a positive relationship with bullying. Narcissists were found to prefer indirect bullying tactics (such as withholding information that affects others' performance, ignoring others, spreading gossip, constantly reminding others of mistakes, ordering others to do work below their competence level, and excessively monitoring others' work) rather than direct tactics (such as making threats, shouting, persistently criticizing, or making false allegations). The research also revealed that narcissists are highly motivated to bully, and that to some extent, they are left with feelings of satisfaction after a bullying incident occurs.
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- Penney, L. M.; Spector, P. E. (2002). "Narcissism and counterproductive work behavior: Do bigger egos mean bigger problems?". International Journal of Selection and Assessment. 10 (1-2): 126–134. doi:10.1111/1468-2389.00199.
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