Rising Star to be championed, or cut-throat operator who will stop at nothing in their quest to climb the greasy pole? In the world of business, it is often difficult to differentiate between the two – but be aware that the narcissist will leave a trail of destruction in their wake as they priorities their career.
The Narcissist’s Aims
Narcopaths are self-serving, entirely out for themselves and have little regard for the ambitions of the employer of the needs of fellow colleagues. They are obsessed with delusions of grandeur, success and wealth and the trappings thereof, without having a commensurate appreciation of, and commitment to, the skills, endeavour and team work required to attain these correctly from moral and legal standpoints.
In a managerial role, they are taskmasters and expect others to be driven to play their part in attaining the goals of the narcissist – at the expense of their colleagues’ life goals outside work. Because they are unable to feel empathy, they are intolerant of any distraction that their subordinates might have to deal with – illness, commitments with their children and/or partners etc. Their managerial style is bullying (and this may be ‘soft bullying’ where compliance is persistently and dogmatically encouraged rather than demanded outright), and they are likely to use various manner of tactics to secure their will – threats, intimidation, lies, exploitation, coercion and enforced agreement. Their lack of compassion or empathy renders them devoid of the nurturing skills required to build and maintain teams, or to ensure the personal and career development of staff. They will not listen to advice from above or requests from below. Their personality is entirely inconsistent, which they tailor carefully to their audience. They often criticise their colleagues/teams to others within the same team and will sometimes overtly undermine ‘out of favour’ staff or individuals who pose a threat. For those individuals in favour they will reward them with enough praise for that individual to feel special, even if that is only a temporary situation. It is quite feasible that the roles of golden employee and scapegoat interchange in order to keep everyone on their toes.
Careful observation should give you the insight you need. They love to hog the spotlight, and are generally outspoken in meetings – and even if there is little substance or credibility to what they are saying, they will be able to pull it off with surprising credibility. They have a particular talent for taking the credit for successes and initiatives when little or none is due. They will try and interrupt, talk over and otherwise sideline colleagues – particularly if they pose a threat.
Their manipulative nature will manifest itself with a strategy of divide-and-conquer, pitting colleagues off against each other. Where possible, they will engage set-up-to-fail tactics whereby capable subordinates are given tasks that they have little chance of achieving, and/or where support is then subtly withdrawn or sabotaged. They will surround themselves with yes men who they can rely on to support them, boost their fragile ego, and who pose no threat. Therefore, employees who do have original thought, critical thinking, confidence, popularity, ambition for themselves and the betterment of the business will all be taken as a threat and, if at all possible, will be squeezed out through a variety of tactics that I have grouped together under the phrase career abuse. Consequently, in the workplace creativity is stunted and morale plummets, while any positive esprit de corps is replaced by an atmosphere of fear, hopelessness, resentment and impending doom. Expect a high turnover of staff where you haemorrhage the best and brightest and are left with the dross managed by a dictatorship, steered towards the goals of the dictator with little regard for the business as a whole.
Whilst narcissists are quick to claim any success, even if this is “stolen” from others, they are incapable of shouldering responsibility for failure. They will never apologise, nor will they accept fault. They are natural risk-takers – often no bad thing in ambitious companies – but lack the critical moderating emotion of accountability, particularly with someone else’s money, which might well make them a liability rather than an asset. Whilst a project or initiative may start with plenty of enthusiasm and optimism, don’t count on a narcissist’s to follow through or complete it successfully. Deadlines will often overshoot and budgets fail to be met – although none of this is likely to be, in their own eyes, the fault of the narcissist.
They are however careful not to be seen as sabotaging teams, projects, and ventures themselves. Wherever possible, they will ensure that their hands are kept clean by enlisting the assistance of flying monkeys and enablers to do their bidding.
If they think that they can get away with it, they may go overt in the character assassination of key opponents in an attempt to win popular support and destroy the perceived threat. Projects failures, delays to deadlines, over run of expenditure and lack of deliverability with be blamed on other team members or colleagues.
To those the narcissists thinks are important such as their managers and business-owners, expect a charming, upbeat and charismatic personality. Behind closed doors, however, subordinates can expect an abusive character that minimalizes and trivialises, is prone to rage, tantrums and the silent treatment, is hypocritical, shows no sympathy or remorse, acts pompous and condescending, controls and demands, and gives little appreciation or encouragement. They are also prone to projection, where they will accuse others of exactly their own shortcomings and mistakes – indeed, projection is one of their key defence mechanisms as it deflects attention away from themselves.
Financially, their lack of honesty and accountability will mean they are more likely to falsify or fiddle expenses, commit fraud and invest money recklessly. Despite their overt confidence and the sense of success and accomplishment they exude, they are less likely to invest their own money in a venture – doubtless because they are aware of the chasm between their real ability and that which they try so hard to convey. As the reality dawns, managers and business-owners may sense their rising star and secret weapon actually morphing into a Trojan Horse.
Please visit the sister page, Work Colleague, for additional useful insight into the Narcopath in the workplace.