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How to Deal with Narcissism in the Workplace

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How to Deal with Narcissism in the Workplace

Narcissism. We see narcissists everywhere—in politics, in our friend groups and often even at work.

Dealing with these types of difficult individuals can be a real challenge, especially when the workplace calls for utmost professionalism and collaboration. What do you do if you have a narcissistic colleague or even worse, a narcissistic boss?

I want to help:


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1. The Narcissism Creativity Trap

Here’s something interesting: When we first meet a narcissist, we have a tendency to think of them as more creative or deserving of their egocentric ways. This is wrong.

Narcissists are not actually more creative, but their charisma is what often convinces us that their ideas are in fact better. Cornell University proved this with a cleverly designed study that had students come into a lab and fill out a questionnaire to gauge each participant’s level of narcissism like “How much do you enjoy being the center of attention?”

The researchers then asked the participants to form pairs and pitch a movie idea to their partner. The fascinating part? When participants knew the narcissistic rating of their partner, they rated their ideas as more creative. However, when independent evaluators reviewed the same pitches, the narcissistic ideas were not rated as more creative.

2. Get it in Writing

Narcissists are typically loud and proud in the workplace, meaning your ideas and opinions can get lost in the shuffle. If possible, get ideas in writing before ever discussing them aloud. You could recommend your team submit projects thoughts and goals via email and then discuss these topics in a meeting. This way, everyone feels like they are heard and valued.

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3. Two Narcissists May Be Better than One

I know this may be hard to believe, but stay with me. Remember the Cornell University study with the movie pitches? These same researchers followed-up their original study with a new experimental twist. They had 292 participants split into groups and asked each group to come up with a few creative ways for a company to improve its performance. Amazingly, the groups with two narcissists came up with better and more attainable goals and ideas than the groups with only one or no narcissists. Why?

Egomania is contagious meaning that the creative fury of one narcissist can spark the competitive nature of another narcissist, fueling the overall creative process. However, when there were more than 2 narcissists in a group, the competitiveness undermined the group’s effectiveness as a whole.

4. Leverage Your Narcissists

If you got it, flaunt in! If you’re stuck working with a narcissist, chances are there’s not much you can do to change their personality. But, you can leverage their high confidence and charisma—use them when you need to pitch ideas, make sales, confirm leads or sell products. Even if they are a little self-centered, their bountiful energy and enthusiasm can be infectious with groups and clients.

5. Don’t be Fooled

Bottom line. Identity the egoists in your workplace and be hyper aware of their ideas and opinions. Do not let their confidence and charisma trick you into thinking that their ideas are always right.

You have a voice too. Make it heard. You are confident, intelligent and charismatic. Make it known.

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