Narcissism in the workplace – real or imagined?
I was recently reading an article which asserted that “narcissism is today’s biggest workplace problem”. If we are honest, we have probably all worked with at least one of these types of people, I know I have in the past. If they are the biggest workplace problem, then how do we identify the narcissists employed within our workplaces?
A narcissist is described as “someone who is very charismatic and charming but whose self belief surpasses their abilities, the person who belittles their colleagues and uses drama and distraction to hide their underperformance”.
Is it just me or are those charismatic and charming characteristics the ones that might get someone hired in the first place? The narcissist is unlikely to demonstrate the alter ego aspects of their operating style in an interview. The sad news about this is that it is very difficult to spot such people in the crowd of potential applicants for a job.
Although narcissists themselves often achieve success in their chosen profession, it is often at the expense of the other people around them. Given the potential for such behaviours to be destructive to an organisation, it is important to be alert to the possibility that you may have a narcissist in your midst. HR professionals should be alert to the impact of such behaviours in the workplace and be prepared to take appropriate action to minimise the risks to other employees.
It is highly unlikely that a true narcissist will be able to hide their destructive behaviours for long. Most will demonstrate their destructive traits in the first 6 months of employment. Therefore, it is very important that employee reviews look more broadly than technical skills or outcomes/deliverables and consider the interpersonal interactions engaged in.
Employers must focus on the actual conduct or behaviour of the individual and not seek to apply labels to that behaviour. For example, it is inappropriate to belittle staff or blame others for personal failures or inadequate performance as it is these actual behaviours which can be managed in the workplace and ought to be managed no matter why they are being exhibited. That is, even if such behaviours have nothing to do with a narcissistic personality, they would need to be addressed as inappropriate in a workplace.
In summary, employers should monitor the behaviour of employees and address inappropriate behaviour, no matter why it has arisen. If there are narcissists in your workplace, it is their behaviour and not their labels which will give you reason and opportunity to manage any inappropriate conduct.
If you need any assistance with strategies to manage inappropriate or difficult workplace conduct, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or 3218 3014.