Narcissists Make Horrible Bosses: Study

FRIDAY Sept. 9, 2011 -- Narcissists' too-high opinion of themselves means they don't make good business or political leaders, according to a new study.

Traits such as high self-esteem, confidence and dominance often help narcissists rise to the top, but once they take over, their self-involvement and authoritarianism get in the way, the researchers explained.

The researchers' study of 150 people who were asked to make decisions in groups of three showed that narcissists' self-centeredness impeded the free and creative exchange of ideas, which is a crucial part of effective group decision-making and performance.

In the study, each group was asked to choose a job candidate. Some information about the candidates was available to all three members of the group, while certain key pieces of information were only available to one of the participants. Afterwards, group members were asked to check off all the pieces of information available to them about the candidates and rate the quality of the exchange and the group leader.

Although the groups led by the most narcissistic individuals rated their leaders as the most effective, they were incorrect. The groups with the most narcissistic "bosses" invariably chose the worst candidate.

"The narcissistic leaders had a very negative effect on their performance. They inhibited the communication because of self-centeredness and authoritarianism," study author Barbora Nevicka, a Ph.D. candidate in organizational psychology, said in a journal news release.

The study appears in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.

In the workplace, "communication -- sharing of information, perspectives, and knowledge -- is essential to making good decisions," said Nevicka. "In brainstorming groups, project teams, government committees, each person brings something new. That's the benefit of teams. That's what creates a good outcome."

The findings also apply to politics, she added.

"Narcissists are very convincing," she said. "They do tend to be picked as leaders. There's the danger: that people can be so wrong based on how others project themselves. You have to ask: Are the competencies they project valid, or are they merely in the eyes of the beholder?"

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia explains narcissistic personality disorder.

Posted: September 2011


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