In a 2018 The Leadership Quarterly article, Charles O’Reilly III (Stanford), Bernadette Doerr (UC,Berkeley), and Jennifer Chatman (UC,Berkeley) concluded “although some researchers have suggested that narcissistic CEOs may have a positive influence on organizational performance . . . a growing body of evidence suggests that organizations led by narcissistic CEOs experience considerable downsides.” Their research focused on “grandiose narcissism” in which the narcissist is highly assertive, extroverted, with high self-esteem. Characteristics include:
- Inflated sense of entitlement
- Unrealistic sense of personal superiority
- Viewing others as inferior
- “Willingness to manipulate others”
- “Hostility and aggression when challenged”
- “More likely to emerge as leaders”
- “Charming,” good first impressions
- More persistent at focusing on task at hand
- “More willing to take chances”
- “Overly confident about own judgment”
- “Discount negative feedback”
- “See others as less competent”
- Pursue activities and strategies that are self-enhancing.
- “Believe themselves less vulnerable to being penalized for their overconfidence”
- “Lower in integrity”
- “More likely to engage in unethical behavior”
- More likely “to engage in sexual harassment”
- More likely to bully others
- Inhibit the exchange of information among group members
- “Manipulate corporate earnings”
- “Aggressively avoid paying taxes”
- Produce financial reports “with lower accounting quality”
- “Misreport financial status”
- To “be at risk of committing fraud”
1. Hiring: It may be difficult to identify unhealthy narcissists when hiring. References may or may not be forthcoming with accurate assessments. In interviewing notice how much credit the potential hire gives to others when discussing accomplishments. There is advice online about how to tell when hiring if someone is a narcissist but I would need to see the research before recommending.
2. Promoting: Interestingly highly narcissistic leaders get promoted. They charm, take credit for accomplishments, and so forth. Where input can be obtained from subordinates, such as in a 360-degree assessment, the organization should obtain more information and perhaps a more accurate picture.
3. Managing: Those who supervise a highly narcissistic individual who is damaging the morale or financial health of the organization should do their jobs. Be accountable and hold that individual accountable. Corporate boards should do likewise.
O'Reilly III, C. A., Doerr, B., & Chatman, J. A. (2018). "See you in court": How CEO narcissism increases firms' vulnerability to lawsuits. The Leadership Quarterly, 29, 365-378.
Image, "Narcissism", by Jills. Image altered from the original image at https://pixabay.com/en/narcissism-narcissist-shadow-bad-3752409/ Used in accordance with: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en
© John Ballard, PhD, 2018. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Now also available as an audiobook.