Home » Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi » The Narcissistic Employees and Team Performance

The Narcissistic Employees and Team Performance

Organizations configure work systems around teams.  Employees in the workplace are organized into teams for effectiveness and productivity. Teams are collaborative efforts of individuals who have a clear and agreed vision, objectives and set of rules by which they will work together to accomplish set goals in the workplace.  It can be production or service teams, cross-functional management teams, functional teams or problem-solving teams in the broadest sense of team types.

The priority of the leaders is to bring individuals together in a team for performance and productivity. On face value, these individuals too have committed to work towards accomplishing their set goals and objectives. Along the line, the team begins to show signs of ineffectiveness. What looks promissory begins to appear bleak. Prospects begin to turn to problems. Then, team performance falters.

And, individuals begin to pursue to personal agenda instead of taking responsibility for the performance of the team. The individuals now come first, instead of the team. Individuals now seek their own personal agenda instead of gearing towards the fulfillment of the team’s goals. The problem could have been with the team formation. Team process evolution? Team roles clarity? Resources allocation? Communications? Membership Incongruence? Or, personality disorder?

The team is made of individual employees who have been assembled to work together from diverse background and with different personality types. The personality types, or rather personality disorders of these individual members of the team are a major source of obstruction to team effectiveness and performance. Teams fail when employees have personality disorders. The team formation can be good, the processes and team roles may have been properly structured and well understood by all stakeholders. Communications and expectations could have been reasonably measured.

Personality disorder like Narcissistic Personality Disorder can damage team effectiveness and distort performance. Team leaders and entrepreneurs will have to start paying keen attention to the impact of Narcissistic Personality Disorder on team performance so that affected employees can seek professional help and treatment for the benefits of the individuals, team and organization as a whole.

There are employees who have personality disorders. A lot more are narcissistic. The narcissistic employees suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of the ten personality disorders under the dramatic cluster in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). The behaviour of the narcissistic employees is antithetical to the collaborative nature of teams and constitutes a barrier to team performance in the workplace.

The narcissistic employees have an exaggerated sense of self importance, extreme sensitivity to criticism, a constant need for attention, and a tendency to arrogantly overestimate their personal abilities and achievements. They feel entitled to be treated specially by others. They do not have empathy for others.

The contemporary society is westernized with attendant impacts of democracy, globalization, liberalization and the power of the Internet that have turned the world into a global village. As employees become westernized in their perspectives of life, more are becoming narcissistic in the workplace. The westernized society with its byproducts of materialism, individualism, and competitiveness has been considered capable of producing generations of narcissism.  The dark side of westernization is such that citizens become animated and passive about their obligations and responsibility to the collective survival of the society.

The society has become permissive. Law, order, family values, social values, national values and ethics are on the low ebb. Consequently, nations risk producing a generation of narcissism: narcissistic employees in the corporate world, and individuals in socio-political life in less than thirty years when the crops of today’s youth with short attention spans, self-centered, self-seeking, and materialistic grow up to take up jobs in the future.

The challenge of the narcissistic employees is that they dress up like every other employee but their façade ironically masks their disorders. The narcissistic employees are good with first impressions. They are charming. They are charismatic. They are compelling. They are persuasive. These veneers of good personality attributes make it difficult for narcissistic employees to acknowledge their disorders and seek the necessary assistance they need.

In the office, narcissistic employees are usually more of male than females. Sometimes, these men are either firstborn of their families or they could be the only children of their parents.

The narcissistic employees today are the dysfunctional children of yesterday. They had either been handled by cold and rejecting parents or treated too positively early in life by indulgent parents on the other hand. With cold and rejecting parents, narcissistic employees have had to grow up defending themselves against feeling unsatisfied, rejected, and unworthy. They do so by striving to prove to others that nothing is wrong with them and seek people’s approval of their self worth. These children become maladjusted and lack assertiveness skills. They are either passive or aggressive when they engage others.

More often than not, children who have been abused or who lose their parents through adoption, divorce or death are at particular risks of developing Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Abuse and loss are traumatic experiences that require the right interventions failing which the sufferers develop a host of mental disorders as they grow up in life. Narcissistic employees have grown up with the wrong worldviews and would need to readjust their lenses through therapy and treatment in order to fit appropriately in the team.

On the other hand, children who have been treated too positively acquire a false sense of superior and grandiose attitude when their admiring parents teach them to overvalue their self worth. There is always a danger when parents pamper their children because they are male or the only children in the family. They are pampered, over-rated, pompous and arrogant. These children grow up to become narcissistic employees in the workplace.

The narcissistic employees need help to function in the team. They have a lot of problems that make them out of sync with team spirit. They have an inflated sense of self worth. They are usually grandiose. These are full of themselves. They are arrogant. These employees presume that they have attained their own great success, power or beauty and expect other team members to admire them. They readily show off, and expect constant attention from others. They sulk, and sometimes weep in private when they do not get this attention. These are not one-off or intermittent personality manifestation but a sustained personality disorder that makes it difficult for them to feature normally in a team environment.

The narcissistic employees are self centered. Everything in the office must revolve around them. They do not show up for meetings until everybody has been seated. They walk in to draw everybody’s attention to themselves. They are disruptive.

They do not have a sense of feelings for others. They cannot be bothered. When they do, there must always be something in it for them. The narcissistic employees take advantage of others to achieve their own ends. They are only interested in themselves. They become envious of colleagues who are making progress with their careers.

The narcissistic employees exaggerate their achievements and talents, expecting others to recognize them as superior. They tend to know everybody in the organization. They hold other people responsible for their failures. They are hypersensitive to criticism. Some of them react to criticism with rage or humiliation. Some with cold indifference. Others become extremely pessimistic and filled with depression.

The team members should recognize narcissistic employees among them and show them genuine empathy. There should be no intention to patronize the narcissistic employees or feed their ego. They must realize that the narcissistic employees have a disorder and need help. So they should not respond to them in anger or frustrations.

The team should be clear on their overall objectives and how the individual aspirations of all members fit in. The team can only perform creditably well when members define and keep to the objectives of the team whilst managing the narcissistic employees’ self interest within the confine of the team’s goals and objectives. A narcissistic employee who is out of sync with the over-riding objectives of the team should be advised to go for therapy.

Teams must be clear on expectations and deliverables. They should align the feelings and aspirations of their members with the teams’ expectations. Team members play different roles and there is a need for complimentary use of strengths to accomplish their set goals and objectives. The team leaders should ensure that narcissistic employees moderate their expectations and conducts within the team.

All team members must be show genuine concerns for the well-being of their colleagues. The narcissistic employees on the team are not an exception. Team members should not play to the gallery by patronizing narcissistic employees. They should be assertive.

Narcissistic employees have the tendency to take credit for team’s accomplishments. Other members should not get angry. They should re-direct their energies to re-orientate the narcissistic employees on the need to realize that it is all about the team; it is about the organization, and not about them. The team is not seeking individual trophies but collective glories. Team members should not take anything personal. It is all about the organization.

The team leaders should encourage narcissistic employees to realize that all the interests of the team members are being protected by the organization.

Narcissistic employees should be encouraged by the team leaders and even the organization to seek help. When they go for therapy, they are availing themselves opportunities of professional assistance to master their personality disorder, and position themselves to add value to the organization and enrich team performance instead of serving as agent of disruption.

Most narcissistic employees do not see anything wrong with them. Expert handling and the appropriate manager’s involvement are required to get them to come to term with their personality disorder enough to seek professional help.

Author: Babatunde Fajimi

Article was originally published on The Union Newspaper on Sunday, November 2, 2014 under Management Tips with Babatunde Fajimi


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