The Dark Triad at the Workplace, #1: Narcissism

narcissism
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narcissism

In this article we will try to understand one of the most interesting phenomenons that can be met at the workplace (well not only there, but elsewhere actually) which is called the Dark Triad.

What Is the Dark Triad?

The Dark Triad includes 3 models of behavior:

  • narcissism;
  • Machiavellianism;
  • psychopathy.

While you’ve probably heard of all three of these, it’s necessary to understand the difference between them – they are very similar, yet not the same. What really unites them is the desire of an individual to use and manipulate others to meet their selfish ends. Let’s now focus on the 1st element.

Revealing Narcissism

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a character who died because of extreme self-admiration (drowned, unable to realize that the image in the river was merely his own reflection). We now refer to egoistic and arrogant people as being narcissistic.

Briefly speaking, narcissists are excessively self-focused and self-confident. They sincerely believe they are better than the rest of the team just because they are what they are – regardless of the qualities they actually possess. What is more surprising is this deceives others too – they assume that someone who loves themselves that much has very strong reasons to do so and fall for this illusion.

High self-confidence results in excess courage – narcissists think it stupid to be afraid of something. That’s why they are often frantically opportunistic, trying to grab every possibility without a second thought. Practically, this means they are very likely to take unreasonable risks which can harm a company’s resources immensely.

However, this courage also often leads to success and better results. One of the biggest strenghts the narcissist possesses is their ability to just push away failures rather than let them consume them. They can find a thousand excuses of why things went wrong – external, not dependent on them of course.

How Can One Recognize the Narcissist at work?

Apart from the traits described above the narcissist often behaves in the following manner. They think it’s beneath their dignity to notice remarks or criticism on their behalf (just imagine what their managers must think, or even worse, if they are the manager – little chance for their subordinates to make any suggestions which will really be approved).

Narcissists also often deny reality – it’s simpler to ignore everything that is important to others but not to themselves.

Most of them are also emotionally shortsighted – not being able to recognize one’s feelings and reactions. They are able to shut somebody down in the middle of saying something just for the sake of their own authority, often are quite aggressive and can humiliate someone in front of the whole team (e.g., by not hesitating to bring one’s mistakes to the public display).

Usually narcissists demand special attention and are fond of being distinguished from the rest of the team in any way.

Why Are People Attracted, Not Drawn Away by Narcissists?

Strangely enough, most people are innately attracted to those who are extremely self-confident. Why? Just because they want to be the same as the narcissist is and for that reason are unconsciously copying their manners. It especially is true for those with low self-esteem – they think being like the person they admire will automatically make them happier, more popular, more successful, etc.

Needless to say, no company will like to employ a team of arrogant individuals who can ruin motivation of their coworkers in an instant or risk monthly budgets just to show they are not scared of doing it.

It’s Not Always Bad

Research showed a lot of successful leaders had many narcissistic traits (a powerful sense of their selves, a notion to move ahead constantly which at the same time motivated their team greatly) – yet the extent to which they were narcissistic was moderate. Apparently, too much of it is bad.

A Few Words of Advice on How to Cope With Them

Now that you are desperate enough to get rid of this evil in your office, here’re several really effective ways to cope with the narcissist at the workplace:

  1. Keep your expectations towards narcissist as low as you can – they always promise very much but very little is delivered in reality. They’ll also never do anything just because they have been asked. You’ll definitely have to pay for that either beforehand or later.
  2. Don’t fall for believing in real friendship with the narcissist. When they start to invite you to their birthday parties all of a sudden it’s most probably means they want a service from you. As soon as you’ll do it for them they’ll most likely dump you.
  3. Never criticize them. Instead, invite them for a conversation and try to provide as much feedback on the issue as you can (using moderate, calm words and repeating what you think is crucial several times) because nothing hurts them more than humiliation.
  4. Never ignore them. If they have a matter to discuss they expect you to drop everything immediately, no matter if you speak to an important client or negotiating a discount, and run to their desk. Just try to spare at least several minutes to talk to them.
  5. Be compassionate. Being narcissistic is already bad enough but not realizing it is even worse. Just try to distance from them emotionally as they try to do everything at the expense of others, not bothering much about their feelings.

So be at the ready – you’ll never win an argument with the narcissist regardless of your will to compromise – it’s impossible to come to common terms with a person who thinks they’re never wrong.

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