They do minimal work, are aggressive know-it-all braggers, and yet life’s pleasures seem to come to them quickly and easily. They are charming to upper management, yet belittle the others around them with sarcastic and rude comments. Upper management: you, have no clue about their insufficient work performance, integrity or inappropriate behavior. Because they are so cunning and use others to do their work. They then take credit for their team’s work and use those successes to self-promote.
It makes you cringe to read the description, doesn’t it? Thankful that there is no one like that in your organization? But how would you even know? So fooled by superficial charm, many of the most savvy among us have made the mistake of hiring a malignant narcissist. And while not quite a phenomenon, the scenario is becoming more prevalent, or at the least, more “talked-about.”
3 Signs You Have Hired a Narcissist Manager
At the workplace, the pathologically narcissistic manager can be, on one end of the spectrum insensitive or conceited and exploitative or abusive at their worst. While some, if not many, managers exhibit these tendencies from time to time, especially in high-pressure and stressful situations, a true narcissist tends to perpetually display the following characteristics.
- Insensitivity to Employees
The most common sign of a narcissist manager is the casual disregard for their team’s reasonable feelings and needs. The narcissist boss carefully chooses “favorites,” and will often show indifference towards others as individuals.
The opposite of an emotionally intelligent and empathetic leader, when a team member is over-stretched with work, feeling ill, or simply having a bad day, a narcissistic manager will respond with: “So what!? This is not my problem – You deal with it.”
A narcissistic manager may also attempt to exploit their team without proper compensation or regard for their rights, frequently assigning more duties without extra pay, or commonly denying the reimbursement of expenses.
- Uses Their Team as an Extension Self
Another prevalent sign of a narcissistic manager is their tendency to use team members as personal assistants. Tasking them with duties far above and beyond their job description. Examples may include asking employees to run personal errands, take on inappropriate chores, work on pet-projects, or even assume various management responsibilities —all without proper compensation or acknowledgment.
- Is a Name and Status Dropper
A common trait of a narcissistic personality is the habit of name and status dropping. They seem to enjoy reminding people of an important degree they possess, a prestigious school they went to, exclusive groups they’re a part of, VIPs they mingle with, high-profile projects they’re working on, or glowing praise they received from someone.
They need to constantly appear important, with an overblown and exaggerated sense of themselves. Many narcissists’ offices have been turned into halls of self-aggrandizement. Think: Gold nameplate on the desk, multiple awards and trophies on the shelves, and walls plastered with credentials, certificates, recognitions, status photos, and images of “heroism” or “adventure.” While there’s nothing inherently wrong with displaying one’s accomplishments, the pathological narcissist tends to be “in your face” and over-do it. He or she wants to make sure you’re impressed.
Other Characteristics of a Narcissist
Research shows NPD individuals exhibit the following behavioral characteristics:
- Lack empathy and compassion.
- The need to be right.
- Poor listening skills, filtering only what they want to hear.
- They are resistant to coaching or mentoring.
- Control and dominate meetings.
- They take competitiveness to an unhealthy level.
- They dispose of employees who either do not agree with them or are independent thinkers.
- They have an inner-circle of “yes” people
- They have trouble sustaining relationships.
How Prevalent is the Narcissistic Manager?
According to the DSM-IV:
- 16 percent of the general population have been or will be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the most extreme form of narcissism.
- 50-75 percent of narcissists are men
Narcissists tend to gravitate toward professions which guarantees them an abundant supply of willing co-dependents. This makes several vocations most attractive to them:
- show business
- corporate management
- medical profession
- law enforcement
What to Do About it?
Unfortunately, as they move up the corporate ladder, these characteristics become more and more apparent. We all hope that narcissistic leaders do not make their way into our organizations, as the result is an insidious and slow destruction of morale and workplace culture. However, what about all the damage they cause along the way? Individuals who fit the criteria for narcissism at any level are more likely to engage in counterproductive work behavior that harms the organization and the workforce. This is especially true when the narcissistic leader’s self-esteem is threatened. This makes firing a narcissist a dicey proposition.
One of the best ways deal with the problems brought on by narcissistic managers is to avoid hiring them in the first place. While there is no guarantee that a narcissist can’t slip through undetected, being aware of the personality traits, looking for red flags during interviews, and thoroughly vetting a candidate’s previous experience, personal, and work history can help you avoid the fallout later on.