Narcissism in the Workplace
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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.[1][2] Narcissism is both a personality trait and a personality disorder, generally assessed with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.[3]

Oliver James identifies narcissism as one of the dark triadic personality traits in the workplace, the others being psychopathy and Machiavellianism.[4]

According to Marianna Fotaki, in her blog for the London School of Economics, narcissistic elites are undermining the institutions created to benefit the public such as in health care, education and the environment.[5]

Job interviews

Narcissists typically perform well at job interviews, with narcissists receiving more favorable hiring ratings from interviewers than individuals who are not narcissists.[6] Even more experienced and trained raters evaluate narcissists more favorably.[7][8] This is perhaps because interviews are one of the few social situations where narcissistic behaviors, such as boasting actually create a positive impression, though favorable impressions of narcissists are often short-lived.[9] Interviewers' initial impressions of narcissistic applicants are formed primarily on the basis of highly visible cues, which makes them susceptible to biases.[10] Narcissists are more skilled at displaying likable cues, which lead to more positive first impressions, regardless of their long-term likability or job performance. Upon first meeting narcissists, people often rate them as more agreeable, competent, open, entertaining, and well-adjusted. Narcissists also tend to be neater and flashier dressers, display friendlier facial expressions, and exhibit more self-assured body movements.[11] Importantly, while narcissistic individuals may rate their own job performance more favorably, studies show that narcissism is not related to job performance.[12] Thus, while narcissists may seem to perform better and even be rated as performing better in interviews, these more favorable interview ratings are not predictive of favorable job performance, as narcissists do not actually perform better in their jobs than non-narcissists.

Impact on stress, absenteeism and staff turnover

There tends to be a higher level of stress with people who work with or interact with a narcissist. There are a variety of reasons for this to be the case, with an important one being the relationship between narcissism and aggression. Penney and Spector found narcissism to be positively related to counterproductive workplace behaviors, such as interpersonal aggression, Sabotaging the work of others, finding excuses to waste other peoples time and resources, and spreading rumors.[13] These aggressive acts can raise the stress of other employees[14], which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.[15]

Narcissistic supply

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).[16] 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.[17] The narcissistic manager's need to protect such supply networks will prevent objective decision-making.[18] Such a manager will evaluate long-term strategies according to their potential for gaining personal attention.[19]

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.[20][21] A classic narcissist is more concerned with getting praised and how they are perceived, than doing what benefits all of the "stakeholders". [22]

Corporate narcissism

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.[23] As a result, a certain kind of charismatic leader can run a financially successful company on thoroughly unhealthy principles for a time.[24]

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.[25]

Coping strategies for dealing with a narcissistic manager

DuBrin suggests the following coping strategies:[26]

  • 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.[27] Despite the fact that many narcissist will avoid work, they can be eager to steal the work of others. In-line with other dark triad traits, many narcissist will manipulate others and their environment so that they can claim responsibility for company accomplishments that they had little or nothing to do with[28].

Productive narcissists

Crompton has distinguished what he calls productive narcissists from unproductive narcissists.[29]Maccoby acknowledged that productive narcissists still tend to be over-sensitive to criticism, over-competitive, isolated, and grandiose, but considered that what draws them out is that they have a sense of freedom to do whatever they want rather than feeling constantly constrained by circumstances, and that through their charisma they are able to draw people into their vision, and produce a cohort of disciples who will pursue the dream for all it's worth.[30][31]

Others have questioned the concept, considering that the dramatic collapse of Wall Street and the financial system in 2009 must give us pause. Is the collapse due to business leaders who have developed narcissistic styles--even if ostensibly productive?[32] Certainly one may conclude that at best there can be quite a fine line between narcissists who perform badly in the workplace because of their traits, and those who achieve outrageous success because of them.[33]

In fiction

  • Gordon Gekko
  • Sheldon Cooper (He acts arrogant and entitled as well as lobbies for special treatment at the university in which he works. All signs of a narcissistic person[34] in the work place.)

See also


  1. ^ Bushman, B. J.; Baumeister, R. F. (1998). "Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 75 (1): 219-229. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.75.1.219. PMID 9686460. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Judge, T. A.; LePine, J. A.; Rich, B. L. (2006). "Loving Yourself Abundantly: Relationship of the Narcissistic Personality to Self- and Other Perceptions of Workplace Deviance, Leadership, and Task and Contextual Performance". Journal of Applied Psychology. 91 (4): 762-776. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.4.762. PMID 16834504. 
  4. ^ James O Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks (2013)
  5. ^ Fotaki M Narcissistic elites are undermining the institutions created to promote public interest London School of Economics - British Politics and Policy
  6. ^ Grijalva, E., & Harms, P. D. (2014). Narcissism: An integrative synthesis and dominance complementarity model. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 28(2), 108-127.
  7. ^ Brunell et al., 2008 A.B. Brunell, W.A. Gentry, W.K. Campbell, B.J. Hoffman, K.W. Kuhnert, K.G. Demarree. Leader emergence: The case of the narcissistic leader. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (2008), pp. 1663-1676.
  8. ^ Schnure, K. (2010). Narcissism 101. Industrial Engineer, 42(8), 34-39.
  9. ^ Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal and intrapsychic adaptiveness of trait self-enhancement: A mixed blessing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1197-1208.
  10. ^ Back, M.D., Schmukle, S.C., & Egloff, B. (2010). Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism-popularity link at zero acquaintance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 132-145.
  11. ^ Berscheid, E., & Reis, H. T. (1998). Attraction and close relationships.
  12. ^ Campbell, W. K., Hoffman, B. J., Campbell, S. M., & Marchisio, G. (2011). Narcissism in organizational contexts. Human Resource Management Review, 21(4), 268-284.
  13. ^ Penney, L. M., & Spector, P. E. (2002, June). Narcissism and Counterproductive WorkBehavior: Do Bigger Egos Mean Bigger Problems? Retrieved February 24, 2018, from
  14. ^ Colligan, T. W., & Higgins, E. M. (2006). Workplace Stress. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 21(2), 89-97. doi:10.1300/j490v21n02_07
  15. ^ Thomas, David. Narcissism: Behind the Mask (2010)
  16. ^ A. J. DuBrin, Narcissism in the Workplace (2012) p. 143
  17. ^ A. J. DuBrin, Narcissism in the Workplace (2012) p. 143 and p. 181
  18. ^ S. Allcorn, Organizational Dynamics and Intervention (2005) p. 105
  19. ^ A. J. DuBrin, Narcissism in the Workplace (2012) p. 122
  20. ^ Zitek E, Jordan A Research: Narcissists Don't Like Flat Organizations Harvard Business Review 27 Jul 2016
  21. ^ Prigg M Does your office have a clear hierarchy? Then you could be a narcissist, researchers say Mail Online 17 Aug 2016
  22. ^ "Narcissism at Work: The Arrogant Executive". Psychology Today. Retrieved . 
  23. ^ Downs, Alan: Beyond The Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism, 1997
  24. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Life and how to survive it (London 1994) p. 101
  25. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (London 2004) p. 10
  26. ^ A. J. DuBrin, Narcissism in the Workplace: Research, Opinion and Practice (2012)) p. 197
  27. ^ Catherine Mattice, MA & Brian Spitzberg, PhD Bullies in Business: Self-Reports of Tactics and Motives Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine. San Diego State University, 2007
  28. ^ "10 Signs Your Co-Worker / Colleague is a Narcissist". Psychology Today. Retrieved . 
  29. ^ Simon Crompton, All about me (London 2007) pp. 157-58
  30. ^ Maccoby M The Productive Narcissist (2003)
  31. ^ Crompton, p. 158
  32. ^ Jay R. Slosar, The Culture of Excess (2009) p. 7
  33. ^ Crompton, p. 159
  34. ^ Ashton, Michael (2018). Individual Differences and Personality. London, United Kingdom: Academic Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-12-809845-5. 

Further reading

  • Gerald Falkowski, Jean Ritala Narcissism in the Workplace (2007)
  • Samuel Grier Narcissism in the Workplace: What It Is - How To Spot It - What To Do About It (2011)
  • Belinda McDaniel The Narcissists in Your Life: Coping with and Surviving Narcissists in the Workplace, at Home and Wherever You Are Forced to Associate with People Suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (2014)
  • Sam Vaknin, Lidija Rangelovska The Narcissist and the Psychopath in the Workplace (2006)

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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