Narcissistic top management leads to poor employee retention, shows research

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Narcissistic top management leads to poor employee retention, shows research
We’re all familiar with that one insufferable uncle whose visits home leave you questioning how they can afford to devour so many of your family’s snacks while being so full of themselves. And as we grow older, we trade one harrowing narcissist for another — uncles, friends, partners, landlords — till we reach the final boss: the corporate manager.
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The narcissistic manager, without being too rude, is a special kind of person. Not only can they be impossible to deal with, their questionable hiring choices can leave you wanting to pull your hair out. But if you’ve been feeling like your boss’ narcissism may be spreading through your workplace like an affliction, you might partly be onto something.

A new study examining over nearly 12,000 LinkedIn profiles of top managers in the United States has found that birds of a narcissistic feather tend to hire more birds that love to rustle their own. Not only does this lead to unhealthy internal competition that can impair the team’s stability, the process can also lead to significantly higher turnover rates for the company.

Narcissism isn’t something that you can typically put a number on. Therefore, to gauge how narcissistic a manager may be, the researchers looked at corporate elements associated with them, such as how large the executive’s picture may be in reports, or how often they choose to insert their name into the press releases and letters to shareholders. This, the researchers believe, helps the narcissist convince a broader audience that they are the superior folk, fulfilling their sense of pride.

"We have demonstrated that we can reliably measure the narcissism of managers on the basis of their LinkedIn profiles by analysing the number of pictures of the manager, the length of the text in the 'About' section, and the skills, certificates, and career steps listed," explains study author Graf-Vlachy.

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The results are striking, to say the least. The more narcissistic the manager, the more likely they were to hire a narcissistic executive. And as these narcissists yearn to dominate each other, the internal conflicts inadvertently lead to team fluctuations. This diminished inability to retain employees can incur significant costs to the company, the researchers emphasised.

Not to mention that it can be extremely frustrating dealing with even more employees that display narcissistic traits, such as the lack of empathy. Studies have shown that interacting with a narcissist in the workplace can lead to higher levels of stress, especially since such people are more prone to unwarranted aggression.

"The results of the study show that it is important for CEOs and supervisory boards to understand the dynamics in their executive teams better and to review the selection process for managers," the researchers explain, emphasising the need to invest in good human resource personnel. "This can be achieved if the personality traits of managers are also viewed in a balanced way."

The findings of this study have been published in Journal of Management and can be accessed here.
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