How to Keep Narcissistic Bosses in Check

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The Greek myth about Narcissus is kind of harmless, in the end: A beautiful young man falls in love with his own reflection, and drowns in a pool trying to embrace himself. If you've ever dealt with a narcissist in real life, though, there are few things more exhausting and draining. If that person is part of your work team, and especially if they have power over you, it may be tempting to throw up your hands and just give in to their unpleasantness.


Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have just released a study about toxic leadership and how it trickles down to affect an entire office. Per lead author Jennifer Chatman, "Narcissistic leaders have personalities that are profoundly grandiose, overconfident, and dishonest, credit-stealing, and blame-throwing... They are abusive to their subordinates, think they are superior, don't listen to experts, create conflict, and believe the rules simply don't apply to them." Not only that, but narcissists tend to understand how to rig the system, and often have little trouble climbing to the top.


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Once they're entrenched, it's difficult to redirect their tendencies, but Chatman and her team have one suggestion: "[B]ase a significant part of their compensation and performance evaluation on the development of their people. Boards can also align a leader's compensation to the performance of their team, and boards can devise ways to reward collaboration with peers. Measures such as these help ensure leaders cannot circumvent sharing credit and working with others."

It's a simple solution, and an elegant one. If the narcissist doesn't interfere, it could make the workplace a better place for everyone in it.