By David Robson September 1, 2021 People with a high degree of narcissism are promoted faster, according to new research. Why? M
Much ink has been written about the dangers of the narcissistic CEO. They tend to infuse an culture of individualism throughout the organization, which reduces collaboration and integrity . They are known to make rash and risky decisions that can weaken a company's long-term resilience , and they are more likely to engage in tax evasion. abusive and committing managerial fraud . Some management scientists have even speculated that narcissism can bring down entire businesses , as may have been the case with the fall of Enron in 1997.
Despite these serious concerns about narcissistic leadership, surprisingly little is known about how these people egotcentric and over-the-top confident people get to their positions of power in the first place. Does the ambition and pride of narcissism actively help someone get promoted, so that they are more likely to reach the top than the average? Or are narcissistic leaders a toxic, but rather rare, phenomenon in the average workplace?
A new article by Italian researchers attempts to fill this gap in our knowledge - and it has serious implications for how companies select and reward their employees.
How "Stars" Are Born
There are many good reasons to suspect that narcissists might progress faster than their colleagues. Without the humility that would keep others from bragging, narcissists might be especially good at self-promotion and make sure their contributions are recognized - even if they don't deserve to be held.in such high esteem. (A 2017 study found that narcissists' high appreciation of their own performance do not correspond to objective measures of their actual accomplishments - which are no more remarkable than those of the people around them. )
Thanks to their exaggerated view of themselves, narcissists may also exhibit more ambition. plans for the future, which might impress their bosses or their recruiting panels until they eventually reach the top position.
None of these points are inevitable, however. You might as well argue that a narcissist's constant struggle for attention would alienate the people around him. In a just world, their unfounded arrogance would become apparent, while more modest colleagues would be recognized for their true hard work. (In Aesop's fable, after all, it is the slow and steady turtle that manages to bat be the boastful but lazy hare.)
Until now, it was not clear which of these two scenarios is more common - a fact that inspired Paola Rovelli, assistant professor at the Free University de Bozen-Bolzano, and Camilla Curnis, a PhD student at the Polytechnic University of Milan, to investigate the matter themselves, with a broad survey of Italian senior management. “When we started to develop our interest in CEO narcissism, we noticed that the literature had mainly focused on the consequences of this trait on the business,” the couple told Hfrance.fr Worklife in a report. -mail.
Their study is based on data from a previous survey of around 200 Italian CEOs, who had previously answered in-depth questions about running their business. As a follow-up, Rovelli and Curnis asked CEOs to complete the Narcissistic Personality Inventory , in theequel they had to choose between 40 pairs of statements, such as:
a) I have a natural talent for influencing people
b) I'm not good at influencing people
a) When people compliment me, I sometimes get embarrassed
b) I know I'm good because everyone keeps telling me
a) The idea of dominating the world makes me very scared
b) If I ruled the world it would be a better place
a) I insist on getting the respect that is owed to me
b) I usually get the respect I deserve
In each case, one option is assumed to be more self-glorifying than the other. (In these sample items, it would be 1a, 2b, 3b, 4a.) By counting how many times a person chooses the narcissistic alternative, the scientist arrives at his NPI score, which seems to predict many real behaviors associated with the trait.
Rovelli and Curnis compared the These scores to the datatheir CVs, including information about their education and professional experience, and their positions and promotions within their organizations.
Researchers say the rapid promotion of narcissists could mean they lack the experience to carry out their responsibilities (Credit:)
Overall, they found that someone's high degree of narcissism was about 29% faster in their career progression to CEO , compared to the average for applicants with similar qualifications. Sadly, for all the hard-working yet humble workers, it seems like the constant self-promotion of narcissists really pays off in the long run.
Interestingly, it was with family and not. -family businesses. As viewers of TV shows such as Little Successionwind already suspecting it, loyalty to someone's loved ones cannot stand in the way of a selfish schemer determined to move forward.
It should be noted that the effects of narcissism on the career of someone's trajectory may depend on someone's gender. Through implicit or explicit sexism, recruiters can usually be more forgiving of ambition in men than in women, for example. Rovelli and Curnis noted that women tended to have slightly lower narcissism scores, but the generally low number of female CEOs in their sample meant they were unable to draw firm conclusions - although they did. hope to investigate the matter in the future.
Spotting the Narcissist
Rovelli and Curnis believe their findings have serious implications for the workplace, as they show that narcissists are always favored despite the -the known issues they present to their businesses. "Our results are somewhat worrying," say Rovelli and Curnis. They point out that prompt promotion of narcissists could mean they lack the experience to carry out their responsibilities, which could exacerbate the effects of their thoughtless and dishonest decision-making.
Fortunately, there are practical steps any organization could take to minimize the impact of narcissists in the workplace.
Ideally this should start with smarter recruiting - to identify a person with problematic tendencies before they reach a position where they could cause harm. And just doing due diligence withreferences and background checks would be a great start, says Ian MacRae, psychologist and author of forthcoming book Dark Social: Understanding the Dark Side.of Work, Personality and Social Media. “I'm always amazed at how often people ignore this for leadership positions, especially when the candidate is very charming. "
MacRae's second suggestion is to use a
More generally, MacRae argues that organizations can curb the tendencies of narcissists by openly rewarding ethical behavior, creating a system that will naturally appeal to the competitive sense of narcissists. "If the system rewards prosocial behavior anddoes not tolerate anti-social behavior, such as bullying or malicious gossip, then narcissists will use whatever strategies they deem effective to move up the ranks. "
If these results have led you to recognize the narcissistic tendencies in your own boss or coworkers, there may not be much you can do to curb their more excessive displays of self-interest. But you can try to use your understanding of their personalities to limit their effects on you. career.
Narcissists tend to react badly to direct challenges to their authority, for example. So if you need to question their actions or suggest a new strategy, try it. present in a way that can please their ego . Once you have made it clear how your projects could benefit them and their reputation, as well as yourself,they will be much more likely to agree.
You should also try to make sure that your own talents are clearly visible to other members of management - otherwise there is the risk that the narcissist simply relies on your accomplishments to advance their own career. When facing a narcissist, you may need to sacrifice some of your usual modesty.
Dealing with the narcissism of others can be an unfortunate fact of professional life - but with a greater awareness of their behaviors and the risks they pose, we can all try to make them are not unfairly rewarded for their pride. .
David Robson is the author of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes. His next book is The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World, to be released in early 2022. He is @d_a_robson on Twitter