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Randall Bell, PhD
The Narcissist
The Narcissist - blog post image

As I give lectures about strategic thinking, we talk about the Strategy 360 principle of “Think: Team Sport”.

Often, I get questions, about dealing with counter-productive team members. This could include the naysayer, the gossiper, the jerk, the mean or angry person, or the self-righteous. Sometimes I get the question, “what do you do when a narcissist is on the team?”

This is a fair question, as narcissistic behaviors are not uncommon, and they certainly are counter-productive to running an organization.

When these questions come up, I tell the group about a guy I knew who had an Olympic-sized ego. It was interesting to watch him in action. No matter what anyone said on any topic, he would jump in with an opinion of his own. No matter who had a story, he had a better one. He cut into every conversation and injected himself. You got the feeling that he simply had no real interest in anything that anyone had to say, it was all about him. He was simply never interested in any point of view other than his own, and drawing attention to his past accomplishments. Lots of people have an “ego wall” in their office or garage, but his was right in his living room – no kidding.

From a clinical viewpoint, this guy was clearly addicted to admiration. From a personal point of view, he was annoying. We came to just avoid him altogether.

A strategic thinker has a clear vision of those they want to accept into their inner circle. Those who distract from our vision need to be identified and filtered out.

Among the variety of unhealthy behaviors, narcissistic behaviors are unique because a narcissist rarely seeks help for their condition. They tend to be un-teachable, and thus are generally not suited for being a member of a productive team.

If you are stuck with a narcissist on the team, avoid giving them genuine decision-making or leadership roles. They tend to make poor decision-makers or leaders because of their lack of empathy and their inability to see the world rationally. Instead, give them token leadership roles – where they have no real role in decision making.

But ideally, the narcissist is best on someone else’s team altogether.

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