Research, Opinion and Practice
Chapter 3: The Roots of Workplace Narcissism
Narcissism in the workplace, just as in any other setting, has its roots and contributing factors somewhere. The start could begin in the fetus if narcissism is created by genetic factors. More evidence suggests that strong narcissistic tendencies have their roots during childhood development. Generational values and practices could also encourage a teenager or young adult to behave narcissistically. A tee shirt worn by Rugby players in England has this declaration printed on the front: “It’s not narcissism if you truly are better than everyone else!” Who else but a narcissist could design or wear the shirt? Another possibility is that events in later life, including workplace pressures, could trigger narcissistic behavior as a way of coping with the world. At various places in this book we will point to the positive aspects of narcissism in the workplace, yet we emphasize that most observers of narcissism in a work environment view it negatively. At the beginning of the 21st century a business journalist in London wrote: Do you constantly check your appearance in your office window? Do you think you’re right and everybody else is stupid? Chances are you’re suffering from narcissism. This term describes people who only see their own point of view. At home it makes them selfish bastards; at work their ruthlessness can propel them to executive levels. As a leader, the narcissus is self-absorbed and untrustworthy. “Me” is the only word they understand.1 Whether workplace narcissism has negative or positive outcomes, understanding its origins can lead...
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