May 17, 2021
You might be working with a narcissist and not know it
Have you ever had the feeling that some of your colleagues are working only for themselves, and are not true team players? If your answer is yes, then it is possible that you are working with a narcissist. Narcissists have a heightened sense of what they are entitled to and have a constant need for attention and admiration. They are arrogant and see themselves as superior to others.
Of course, in a work environment, the presence of these characters can have extremely detrimental effects. This is because their interests don’t tend to be compatible with those of the organization, but are instead exclusively for themselves.
It is not always obvious when trying to identify these traits in the people around us, and moreover, it can be even harder to decide what to do once you do recognize them.
Typically, narcissists will falsely claim or take credit for undue contributions within the organization. As well as this, they may react aggressively after receiving negative comments and criticize the source of the comments, whilst also acting for personal benefit without considering the consequences for others.
Colleagues with narcissistic traits will be very manipulative, and may try to control or minimize the influence of others
Colleagues with narcissistic traits will also be very manipulative, and may try to control or minimize the influence of others. Therefore, managers who notice these behaviours among their employees should talk about it with this person immediately, and check in with other members of the organization with whom he or she interacts.
However, it is vital that managers do not wait for a performance reviews to do this. Instead, managers should actively seek 360-degree feedback on the person straight away. A perception may be just the tip of the iceberg and if there are other potentially problematic behaviours, it is advisable to be especially vigilant.
It is important that fellow colleagues who detect abnormal behaviour should also talk about it. These people should go and talk to the person and talk to other members of the team to find out if this has happened to them as well. If it has only happened once, maybe it was just a misunderstanding. But if the case has happened several times and involves different people, then this is definitely an issue you have to deal with.
As a manager, you really have to pay attention to promoting such people. This is because you might have even more problems once these people have more leeway, more responsibility, and their own followers. You should know that if the narcissistic personalities have a lot of room for maneuver and strategic influence in the organizations, they will use it.
However, if you limit them – with checks, balances and performance feedback, for example – they may not have the opportunity to express these characteristics. Also, in many cases, training can also help employees who behave in this way. They might not be as bad if we keep them under control.
Although this does not mean that these personality traits will disappear, it just means that narcissists will not have the opportunity to express them. Once you know you have these people on your team, it is essential that companies put the right human resources management measures in place.
This is article is based on research from the ‘Academy of Management Perspectives – Shady Strategic Behaviour: Recognizing Strategic Behaviour of Dark Triad Followers’, co-written by Birgit Schyns, of NEOMA Business School, Barbara Wisse, of the University of Groningen and Durham University Business School and Stacy Sanders from the University of Groningen.
Main image Narcissus by Caravaggio. Public domain.