Perhaps there is no person who does not devoutly and fervently love oneself. We look at ourselves as we see us. Rarely do we see ourselves as others see us. With this major deceptive tool at hand, we get to conveniently mask from our own selves, all the deficiencies and inadequacies; what emerges only is the real, nay, not real but mostly self perceived good of one’s personality. Self-deception is also a form of romance with fantasy. To narcissism I was first introduced by the nursery rhyme at kindergarten, which went, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all” and the mirror like a magician subject would respond affirmatively. Falling in love with oneself is a great intoxication of the mind. You see, visualise and believe that you are actually seeing that doesn't exist.
Clinically and medically, narcissism is defined as, “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts” (The American Psychiatric Association). A narcissist manager is a “great pretender”. They manage to conceal the several insecurities attending to their persona. Alongside, like a predator the quest is to devour, any, who would not submit and bow down to the unique pattern of the domination, demonstrated. Since narcissists do not consider anybody good and better than themselves, all who come into contact with them are seen as less than humans; they truly look down upon others.
The narcissist manager besides being oblivious to traits of empathy and sympathy actually has a more than required dosage of superiority, when faced with any competition. He/she demands undivided and unalloyed attention at all times from the circle of their colleagues. And should the attention not be given, they are fast to reveal their animal and base instincts. They ceaselessly demand for exhibitionism of adulation, which makes their presence on the shop floor extremely toxic. Colleagues of a narcissist must remain wary of their melodramatic antics, he would on one hand strike aggressively then almost instantaneously, indulge in showing him/herself as a person of firm, thought, belief, action and all that is noble. They are usually double faced. These types of leaders/managers are quick to seize any opportunity, where in times of peril, crises or failure they will without a whimper of regret shift the blame upon any of their team mates.
Narcissism can be a serious disorder. Psychologists refer to it as “narcissistic personality disorder or NPD”. It is not uncommon to find at a workplace the existence of supervisors/managers who seriously suffer from this ailment. Casual narcissists are also in plenty in every organisation, but generally they are not lethally harmful. They demonstrate the trait occasionally and are not wholesomely in love with themselves. I look at such behaviour as an aberration and not a disorder, if at all other times generally normal behaviour and response is laid out. They can be handled with ease; a little feed of “submission” laced with “adulation”, satiates their narcissistic urge.
A leader who has the necessary ingredients to make for being crowned and recognised as a narcissist, has full potential to unleash most unexpectedly upon those who would least expect it, a sordid tale of nasty behaviour. Such are usually those who shirk responsibility. For all the insult, invective remarks, rebuke and insensitivities they invoke and hurl upon colleagues, their expectation is to be applauded and cheered for the unbecoming behaviour. Considering themselves as a gift of God for the hapless minded in their belief system.
Narcissist managers will pretend to know about anything that's happening in the entity, including future plans. Knowledge of the future even if it be falsely perceived, is the elixir of their existence, and any lack thereof, is almost suicidal and insulting. Such a stance delivers upon them a false sense of importance.
In the conduct of business on the floor, both in situation of success or failure, they love to dramatise the events; in winning they make it look like their single handed personalised success and in failure, they yell, bark, taunt, point fingers, find excuses- never would they miss the opportunity to remain under the spotlight. The attention and adulation is cherished.
In any conversation, name throwing is a prized activity of the narcissist; this is primarily done to impress the audience of how well the individual is connected. The intention is to appear as the most attended person in the group. They are usually poor listeners, if the speaker refuses to focus upon them in the audience and conversely when the narcissist speaks he/she demands focus and attention of everybody present -- the quest here is to have centre stage for themselves. Insecure and filled with anxiety, they live in delusion of being self-important.
Narcissistic behaviour has no boundaries. Those suffering from it can oscillate between a discussion on any professional subject and an extremely personal aspect, with equal ease. This is done to communicate they are in command. Their conversation can be toxically intrusive - to the extent, they consider it their right to know, with whom and where the reportee is dating. They operate from a pedestal of majestic positioning.
Narcissist managers can become aggressive and harsh, if they find no attention is being given to them. They can fly into a rage at the drop of the hat. They will act extremely arrogant with their reports. To promote the false and misplaced importance, they are susceptible and prone to act beyond authority. In so doing, they are ruthless, contemptuous and envious. Nothing satisfies a NYP Manager who desires only the more of the same praise and admiration.
Look out for narcissists in the organisation. They are a dangerously lot, most are full of the trait of revenge, and are lethally vindictive.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance contributor