Is your workplace culture breeding narcissism?

by Miklos Bolza30 Aug 2016
The way your workplace is structured may affect whether your firm is attractive to narcissistic employees and candidates, according to new research.
A study from Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in the US tested the relationship between narcissism and support for workplace hierarchies.
Results suggested that narcissists support hierarchical structures when they already have high standings within the organisation or they are expected to rise in rank.
On the other hand, they failed to support the hierarchy if promotions were impossible, ie if there were no top ranking positions currently available.
“These studies provide evidence consistent with the idea that narcissistic individuals prefer hierarchies because they are or think they will be on the top,” the research paper said.
“Our research underscores the need for leaders to thoughtfully consider the effects that company structure can have – not only on employees' performance and satisfaction, but also on the very types of people those employees will be.”
Professor Emily Zitek, who headed the study, said that the way an employer advertises itself may inadvertently attract narcissistic candidates.
“In terms of my research, it seems that if applicants are told about the high ranks that they can eventually attain, then narcissists might be especially interested in the company,” she told HC.
“Narcissists want status and power and so are very interested in companies with opportunities for upward mobility.”
To attract more altruistic employees, Zitek suggested avoiding the topic of hierarchy during the recruitment process altogether.
“Talk about opportunities for collaborating. Discuss how new employees will fit in instead of how they can stand out,” she said.
The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science and was co-authored by Alexander Jordan of the Boston University School of Medicine.
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