“Hey boss, are you a narcissist?”

What if a simple one-question test could “out” the narcissists in your workplace?

Of course, maybe they don’t need to be outed; their behavior often does it for them. PsychCentral.com defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder this way:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet.…People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes.

Just ask

Narcissism has been typically identified via multi-question diagnostic instruments. But now a team of researchers suggests that all we have to do is ask and we shall receive. Rachel Feltman reports on this study for the Washington Post:

To find a narcissist, just ask them all to stand up. According to a new study (based on 11 separate experiments), the 40-question diagnostic test for narcissism can often be skipped in favor of a single, blunt question.

Are you a narcissist?

Together, the 11 experiments showed that individuals who scored high on the old evaluation were very likely to respond in the affirmative. “It’s pretty cool actually, because narcissists aren’t afraid to tell you they’re narcissistic,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.

Wouldn’t it be tempting to pop this question at your next office meeting? (Umm, it’s probably not a good idea.)

The bigger issue

But seriously, it’s telling that narcissists appear to be very willing to identify themselves as such. If they have no qualms about that,  it’s no wonder that narcissism is associated with so many aspects of dysfunctional, hurtful behaviors at work, ranging from lousy management to severe workplace bullying. The extreme self-centeredness and absence of empathy can result in behaviors that destroy morale and livelihoods. 

Consultant Victor Lipman, blogging for Psychology Today, suggests a connection between the ranks of management and narcissism:

Are narcissists over-represented in the ranks of management? Data on this issue is hard to find, perhaps nonexistent. Yet for a variety of reasons related to the nature of the condition and the qualities that often help one succeed in management, it’s reasonable to assume there’s ample narcissist representation.

In other words, the higher we go up the organizational chart, the more likely we are to encounter narcissistic behaviors. And we know that such behaviors tend to roll downhill.


Related post

Is the “psychopath boss” theme overhyped? (2013)

2 responses

  1. Sometimes things are just not that complicated. Who would have thought you could ask a narcissist if they were a narcissist and they would be honest? That’s one of the few times honesty is part of their dialogue. What a great question to ask a potential boss during an interview. I wonder how that would work?

    Kevin Kennemer
    The Chief People Officer Blog
    The People Group

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