How to Spot a Narcissist

Steve LudwigHiring ChallengesLeave a Comment

A single flower of the genus Narcissus

I asked a lawyer acquaintance if he had ever lost an argument with his wife.

He had to think about it. He eventually answered “yes,” but it wasn’t convincing.

I figured as much. He’s a bit of a narcissist.

We’ve run into them throughout our careers. The people who genuinely think the world revolves around them. Like many personality types, they have a range from mildly irritating to completely insufferable.

Look, we can all be a little self-centered, which is just how people are wired. And, sometimes, that is very healthy. Being a narcissist is a completely different level.

The Mayo Clinic defines a narcissistic personality disorder as:

“[A] mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.”

As a B2B tech startup, or any business for that matter, having employees with narcissistic traits can create challenges within the team dynamic, potentially leading to decreased morale and productivity.

Identifying narcissistic traits early is critical so issues can be addressed before they escalate. Here are some ways to spot a narcissist.

Excessive self-focus and need for admiration

One of the most apparent signs of a narcissistic employee is an excessive focus on themselves. They often crave admiration and praise, constantly seeking recognition for their achievements. To spot this behavior, pay attention to how they communicate in team meetings, emails, or social interactions. Narcissistic employees may monopolize conversations, exaggerate their accomplishments, and disregard others’ opinions or contributions. Additionally, they may react negatively to constructive criticism or become envious when others receive praise.

Lack of empathy and inability to work well in teams

Narcissistic employees may have difficulty empathizing with others, leading to a lack of emotional connection, and understanding in the workplace. Their inability to appreciate their colleagues’ feelings and needs can result in conflicts, lack of cooperation, and reduced team cohesion. To identify this trait, observe how they interact with co-workers, whether they exhibit concern for other’s well-being, and how they handle disagreements or disputes.

Manipulative behavior and exploiting others

Narcissists often manipulate others to achieve their goals or maintain their self-image. They may exploit their colleagues, taking credit for others’ work or blaming them for their failures. To detect manipulative behavior, look for patterns of dishonesty, blaming, or deceit. This may include employees who frequently take credit for others’ accomplishments, undermine colleagues to boost their image, or shift responsibility when confronted with mistakes.

Entitlement and disregard for rules

Employees with narcissistic tendencies may display a sense of entitlement, believing that they deserve special treatment or consideration. They might have little regard for established rules or policies, expecting exceptions or bending the rules to accommodate their desires. Keep an eye out for employees who repeatedly violate company policies or demand preferential treatment without valid reasons.

Fragile self-esteem and defensiveness

Despite their inflated self-image, narcissistic employees may have a fragile self-esteem, leading them to become defensive when challenged or criticized. This can result in difficulty receiving feedback, reluctance to admit mistakes, and hostility towards those who question their competence. Monitor how employees react to feedback or differing opinions and whether they take responsibility for their actions or shift blame onto others.

By understanding the traits and behaviors of narcissistic employees, you can take proactive steps to address potential issues and create a healthy work culture.

Once identified, it is essential to handle these employees with care, as confronting them directly may lead to further conflicts or damage the team’s morale.

Consider providing training on emotional intelligence, empathy, and effective communication for the entire team to promote a more supportive and collaborative atmosphere. In cases where narcissistic behavior persists or escalates, it may be necessary to involve human resources or consider disciplinary action.

Ultimately, early identification and intervention are key to minimizing the negative impact of narcissistic employees on a business’s success.

The Pathfinder Assessment is not designed to be a screen for narcissists.

However, having the combination of curiosity, humility, and drive that defines a true Pathfinder, it is unlikely a narcissist would score well. And, Pathfinders also help find, develop, and maintain strong, respectful relationships within all levels of an organization and with clients. This is the exact opposite of a narcissist.

We can help you find Pathfinders through our proprietary online assessment. Our tool looks for unique characteristics in four primary categories: approach, motivation, perspective, and relationships. Each is a critical component of a Pathfinder.

For the first sales hire of a B2B tech startup, we already have The Right Five, which covers both the deep and vocational skills required to be successful. You can watch a demo here.

For every other type of Pathfinder, we’ve decoupled the intangibles, the deep skills from The Right Five assessment and now offer this as a standalone online assessment through The Pathfinder Company. You can sign up for the private beta here.

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