Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Bullying at Work – Guest Article

There are many discussions around the topic of bullying and the particular characteristics of this behaviour. Narcissism has been identified as a large part of the issue.

Work environments can be one place where narcissism is present and it can create toxic working conditions, where the productivity of staff suffers. One generally has a choice about the company we keep as adults, but we are not necessarily able to choose our work colleagues.

Ramani Durvasula discusses narcissism in a recent TedX Talk called ‘Narcissism and its Discontents’.  This is a fascinating talk which describes narcissism in very clear terms.  She describes the narcissist, amongst other things, as having a lack of empathy and often engaging in rage, incivility, grandiosity and abusive behaviour. Paradoxically, the narcissist can also be charismatic, charming and confident, which can be extremely deceptive.  Though Ramani’s presentation focuses on personal relationships, her approach be applied to many situations and provides an in-depth insight into narcissism and its destructive force. 

Many of us spend a lot of our time at work with colleagues and sometimes that workplace can become toxic because of narcissistic behaviour. In fact, in our world today, narcissism is on the increase.

If we do find that there is bullying in the workplace and a colleague is showing strong signs of narcissism, thankfully, there are some strategies that can improve the situation.

Managing a Narcissist’, a TedX Talk by Ann Barnes, discusses practical steps to creating a more harmonious working environment that not only ‘manages’ the narcissist, but is beneficial to the entire workforce.

Narcissists range in severity. Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Extreme Narcissists, Ann states, will never fit into a work environment. However, there are the ‘garden variety’ narcissists that an employer may choose to employ due to their skill set. They can be driven, persuasive, engaging, competent, dedicated and ‘get stuff done’.

However, they also feel entitled and crave attention and if they do not get it they blame others, display arrogance, over-rate their abilities, lash out at criticism, and engage in bullying.

So, to manage the situation, Ann suggests the following strategies to cultivate these challenging personalities and cultivate an environment when all employees can thrive:

  • Screen out those with pathological and extreme narcissism – they will never work out as they are toxic and unproductive.

  • Identify job skills and personal skills that are complementary so you can use the strengths of these personalities.

  • Provide strong leadership. If you don’t lead, the narcissist will.

  • Create a clan-like environment. Group success needs to be the measurement for all individuals.

  • Provide constant feedback, as well as praise and incentives.

  • Create a supportive work environment to ensure good communication so that any behaviour that is ‘off side’ can be addressed quickly.

  • Set clear expectations, including overall work behaviour.

  • Ensure accountability at all levels.

  • Keep good documentation of poor work behaviour as narcissists tend to be highly litigious.

  • Create clear disciplinary processes, which are consistently applied from CEO down, with no ‘free passes’.

Guest article by Farah Qureshi at Farah Qureshi Designer Jewellery.

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