Attention, narcissism! 

Attention, Narcissism!

Narcissism is widespread. Team and company success can be affected by narcissists in different ways.

Humorous, eloquent, self-confident – in short, a personality that magnetically attracts attention. You have certainly encountered such a person in your everyday professional life. Despite numerous positive effects that narcissistic persons can have on their environment, they are quickly noticed for their negative impact: The own advantage is in the foreground, bullying and harassment of colleagues are not uncommon, but also arrogant, inconsiderate and uncooperative behavior is often the order of the day. 

Harvard Business manager 5/2021, Die Jungbullen kommen

Harvard Business manager 5/2021, Die Jungbullen kommen

Unveiling the Hidden Narcissists in Management

If you think about where you have encountered this person in your professional life, you will most likely find out that it was one or the other manager. This was also the conclusion of the study This was also the conclusion of the study we did together with Harvard Business manager and published it in their magazine in 05/2021, « Die Jungbullen kommen ». In addition to the survey of 9,918 study participants, 34 qualitative telephone interviews with exposed executives showed that many respondents had direct experience with narcissists in their own careers. Feel free to reach out to to receive the publication.

Narcissism has thus arrived in the executive ranks. Not only “old” men are the problem. Women also exhibit these traits. Comparing both sexes, it can be seen that men in all age groups have significantly higher narcissism scores on average than women. 

The study also reveals a new trend that seems to confirm previous views. For example, young people whose age group is also referred to by Time magazine as the Me-Me-Me generation, i.e. women and men under 30, exhibit the strongest narcissistic tendencies in the study. Today’s socially valued values such as a high willingness to perform, self-expression, individual competition and striving for power characterize the younger generations in particular. Global competition and constant assessability through social media reinforce this effect. 

Might be everywhere

Toxic narcissism at all levels – not just among managers – can have devastating effects on teams, their members and, in the long term, on companies. But the negative consequences don’t just affect financial aspects of an organization. In the following, we show what damage can be caused in companies and in teams by narcissists and how AI can help to identify narcissistic traits more quickly. 

Narcissism is measurable: our NLP-based assessment analysis measures the characteristics that correlate positively, but also negatively with business success. The so-called counterproductive behavioral tendencies. Interested? Take a closer look here.

The negative consequences of narcissism for companies and teams 

Narcissism is not yet widespread in the German population, the study also showed. On average, society in this country has moderate narcissism levels. 

However, as soon as you change your perspective and focus on leadership and top positions, you will see a completely different picture. This is also reflected in the study. This fact is also addressed by a large number of scientific papers and articles in career magazines. 

Narcissism is no longer an unknown phenomenon. However, the effects that narcissistic tendencies can trigger in teams are underestimated nowadays, even though they have long-term and negative consequences for companies. 

When personal goals take precedence over corporate and team goals 

The urge for recognition and attention repeatedly tempts narcissists to prioritize their own personal goals. The focus is on (short-term) success, a place in the limelight. This focus is also based on the fact that people with narcissistic tendencies find it difficult to respond to the needs of fellow human beings. 

In the short term, narcissists can be successful with this behavior. But if colleagues and co-workers are not taken into consideration in the long term, the collateral damage at the team level is very high. The narcissist attributes successes of the team to him/herself. As soon as something goes wrong, however, the employees and colleagues are to blame. The interest revolves only around their own success. This has a negative impact on employee loyalty and satisfaction. 

This misconduct also has long-term effects on the success of the company. Narcissists lose sight of what is important and take great risks. Key people can thus be disturbed in their own development. The company risks losing skilled employees. 

If your colleague is a narcissistic leader, sooner or later the core elements of an organization will be affected. In an organization, people work together to accomplish something that cannot be accomplished alone. Narcissists undermine this cooperation. The effectiveness of an organization is reduced as a result. Decisions that are less fact-based and less oriented toward the success of the company, but rather toward quick personal success, mean in the worst-case high losses and revenue losses for the company. 

Remote work: What happens when information is not passed on? 

The behavior of narcissists to pursue only their own personal goals also has an impact on the way they work. Information may only be passed on to colleagues and team members who are useful in achieving one’s own goal. Important data and facts do not necessarily end up where they are needed. The remaining team members become unable to act because they need the information for further decisions and work steps. 

A majority of German companies currently work with their employees in home offices. Remote work can be an optimal breeding ground for narcissistic managers. Depending on the constellation and workflow, they find it easier here to pass on information only in a targeted manner, to block the flow of information and to spin their intrigues. This can only be balanced out and prevented through good team communication and active exchange between colleagues. 

Toxic Team Culture: When Narcissism Impedes Cooperation 

Narcissists try to create an environment of yes-men, because it is easier for them to achieve their personal goals. Critical feedback providers are devalued, ignored – these people may only receive information under difficult conditions – and excluded. This also prevents a team from developing and growing. This leads to the aforementioned fluctuation of high potentials. The team culture is also directly affected. 

Narcissistic people exert a direct influence on policies and practices that prevail in an organization. Conflict of interest guidelines, ethical behavior, teamwork – all are ignored. On the other hand, narcissistic leaders often fail to alert employees to misconduct that violates standard social norms – in some cases, this less collaborative behavior even receives recognition. 

Because of such activities, further organizational damage occurs. It prevents teams from working together and makes it more difficult for them to achieve shared success. When employees are deprived of the opportunity to learn, grow and acquire new knowledge, their skills suffer. The morale and self-confidence of a team also suffer when a narcissistic leader claims collective successes for himself and blames failures on the employees. This creates a toxic team culture that can also have an economic impact on a company. 

Deception and misinformation: When narcissists take it to the extreme. 

If there is an intervening supervisor who can put a stop to your narcissistic leader with the help of company policies and control, you can breathe a sigh of relief. If the narcissist is higher up in the corporate hierarchy, he/she is automatically less vulnerable and can continue to enforce his/her misconduct. 

Narcissistic facets such as delusions of grandeur would be a realistic option in companies led by a narcissist:in – combined with a high level of risk. This delusion could manifest itself, for example, in an aggressive and extremely reckless expansion strategy. The entrepreneurial consequences are devastating in case of failure. 

You might also observe effects on the interpersonal level. Business partners who disagree or express too little praise are dropped and sent out the door with a scandal attached. The interests of employees are ignored and dismissed if they are displeased. If narcissistic persons are in a position that allows them to act freely, fraud and misinformation are a proven means of securing their own position of power and removing risk factors. 

Detect narcissism faster with the help of AI. 

If companies ignore this multitude of problems, they must expect high losses in several organizational areas. A study by McKinsey and Kienbaum concludes that up to 35 percent of hiring decisions are wrong. These costs alone can amount to three times the annual salary of the target position for a company. 

In personnel selection procedures, attempts have been made for decades to identify such personalities (in good time) with personality tests in order to avoid organizational negative consequences. But these tests only examine the basic characteristics of a person. It is difficult to correlate these with entrepreneurial success. Since these tests rely on self-reporting by participants, they are susceptible to manipulation. 

The limitations of traditional Personality Tests

With the help of Zortify and its artificial intelligence, it is not only possible to determine subclinical narcissistic character traits such as excessive self-confidence, striving for dominance or overestimating one’s own abilities. In addition to this, also the three dimensions of the dark triad (according to Delory Paulhus) – so called “Counterproductive Behavioral Tendencies” are measured: Self-centeredness, Impulsive Excitement-Seeking, and Strategic Manipulation. 

Zortify: Unveiling the Dark Triad of Personality Traits

In this way, all characteristics are taken into account that can be detrimental to the company. Self-centeredness, Impulsive Excitement-Seeking, and Strategic Manipulation together make up the so-called “Counterproductive Behavioral Tendencies” here. In the context of the approach chosen by Zortify, Impulsive Excitement-Seeking is understood to be a personality tendency characterized by dissocial, antagonistic and insufficient behavior. Often caused by a lifestyle characterized by extremes. 

A leader characterized in this way would, for example, relentlessly live out his or her career ambitions. Strategic Manipulation describes a scheming and ruthless pursuit of power. This behavior is detached from any moral and ethical principles. Employees at management level with a strong expression of this personality trait are prepared to forego consideration or ethical principles in favor of achieving or maintaining power. They will stop at nothing for their own advantage. 

The Destructive Potential

The aforementioned character traits, coupled with unscrupulousness, are still decisive for professional and corporate success for many employees in today’s companies. The above-average manifestations of the characteristics of the dark triad are sometimes strongly represented among executives, but also in the entire leadership field. Counterproductive Behavioral Tendencies, however, are possessed by everyone. 

Zortify algorithm trained with artificial intelligence incorporates insights from the analysis of the target’s written text into the assessment, which cannot be manipulated in the process. Decision-makers are thus enabled to make a better selection of candidates. 

Protecting corporate success through the targeted use of AI 

You will encounter personalities with narcissistic tendencies at all hierarchical levels in professional life. In the foreseeable future, this will become more and more common as younger generations exhibit high narcissism levels. The study also showed this. 

If companies do not take measures in time, narcissists can cause many problems for their employees and skilled workers. In addition, a high level of organizational damage can also be expected. 

In order to counteract these problems in time, narcissistic characteristics must be identified as quickly as possible. Zortify can support decision makers in this process, accelerate it and protect them from manipulation. So join our mission and let’s create an “asshole-free working environment”. Reach out to to learn more.

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