Want To Get Promoted? Be A Narcissist

If you think you’re better than everyone else, studies show that you’re more likely to end up ordering around everybody else.

Want To Get Promoted? Be A Narcissist
[Image: Flickr user Nicoleleec]

If you feel like your boss is a total narcissist, you’re probably right.


In an unsurprising result, a University of Illinois and University of Nebraska team found that self-aggrandizing people were more likely to become leaders than normal folks (psychopaths too!). For of the many charming qualities of a narcissist, one of them is a need to feel impact and power–thus the selfie-centric striving.

Narcissism should be seen on a spectrum, says Nebraska management professor and lead author Peter Harms. On one end you’ve got crippling self-doubt, on the other end you’ve got self-worshipping narcissism.

But how do you know you’re working with a narcissist? Let us count the ways.

Harvard Medical School clinical psychologist Craig Malkin dropped some knowledge on how to sniff out the narcissist in your midst. While narcissists go by many other names, their tendencies include:

1. Insecurities get projected nonstop

They play hot potato with their sense of smallness, Malkin says. “Narcissists say and do things, subtle or obvious, that make you feel less smart, less accomplished, less competent,” he says. “It’s as if they’re saying, ‘I don’t want to feel this insecure and small; here, you take the feelings.'”

2. Emotions get hated on

Feelings mean you can be touched by friends, colleagues, partners. But to be touched is to be influenced and to be influenced is to have your perfect autonomy undermined–which narcissists hate.


3. And control is always needed

Narcissists also hate to feel like other people’s preferences impact them, since then they’re not “fully independent.” So rather than express their needs, they maneuver people to suit them. Malkin gives a tragic domestic example:

Think of the man who berates his wife when dinner isn’t ready as soon as he comes home. He lashes out precisely because at that very moment, he’s forced to acknowledge that he depends on his wife, something he’d rather avoid.

What are you to do if you’re working with a narcissist? The experts say to play their game as long as you need–and then dance your way out of there.

Hat tip: the Wall Street Journal

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.