Human Resources



Is narcissism a trait that should be encouraged the workplace?

You asked: How should leaders deal with narcissistic employees?

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Professor Alex Frino, a distinguished economist, and deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Wollongong Australia, specialises in the topic “Do you have what it takes to be a CEO?”.

On his recent visit to Singapore, Human Resources interviewed him find the impact of narcissistic employees on a company’s performance.

Highlights from the interview:

Q. How should leaders and managers deal with narcissistic employees?

Narcissism should not be immediately deemed a fault, because embedded in the personality of a narcissist lies many good traits. Leaders and managers should approach narcissistic employees with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and help them to be self-aware.

Self-awareness is the key to becoming an outstanding leader, and leaders and managers should bring the best out of their people who are the next generation of leaders. They can do so by identifying these strengths and weaknesses, consequently helping to set them up for success.

Q. Is narcissism a trait to be encouraged the workplace? Are there situations where it is desirable?

Narcissism has its strengths and weaknesses. Narcissistic people tend to be charismatic and motivational, and are effective at rallying people to achieve a goal. However, narcissistic people are usually sensitive to criticism, poor listeners, and are intensely competitive. These may be damaging to the narcissist and his or her peers in the workplace because strife may ensue.

Narcissism can therefore be desirable in the workplace if those who possess narcissistic traits are trained to enhance their strengths and manage their weaknesses.

Narcissistic people are usually sensitive to criticism, poor listeners, and are intensely competitive.

3. How would a hiring manager identify the trait of narcissism during the job interview?

It has been demonstrated by a group of leading psychologists in the USA that the extent to which a person uses the first person singular (I, me, my) versus the extent to which they use first person plural (we, us our) is a strong indicator of the extent to which they are narcissistic. A hiring manager could pay close attention to the words used by the candidate for an indication of narcissism.

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