Managing A Narcissist | Ann Barnes | TEDxCollingwood


Translator: Sally Yang
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Narcissist. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it. Like an open, oozing sore,
painful to experience. Social narcissism reflects
our current cultural reality. Its growth is an increasing challenge
to businesses worldwide. The word ‘narcissism’
stems from Greek mythology. Narcissus, a young hunter
and an exceptionally handsome man, one day, tired from hunting and heat, he lies by a splendid spring. As he is drinking the water,
he sees his beautiful image. He falls madly in love. He refuses to drink for fear
that his lovely image will disappear. In time, he wastes away,
still enamoured with himself. And his death is marked
by the growth of a single flower. A narcissus. In our unmythical world, we are surrounded
by these selfish, thirsty beings. Like our parched Greek friend,
they are addicted to feeling special. Admiration is everything. And if left unchecked, this cyst boils over
into feelings of entitlement, blame, overrating one’s abilities, lashing out at criticism, arrogance and bullying, with very little room for empathy. You all know one! You might even be sitting beside one! You might even be one. (Laughter) Well, one thing we know for sure
is that their numbers are increasing. [“ME-llennial”] (Laughter) A thirty-year study reviewed the narcissistic and empathetic traits
of college students. In the 1980s, when the study began,
the numbers were … pretty good. 30 percent showed
high traits of narcissism, with 70 percent showing traits of empathy. 30 years later,
into our millennial generation, the inverse is true. They found that 70 percent of the students
had high narcissistic traits, and only 30 percent had traits of empathy. This is not to suggest
that all millennials are narcissist, but it does tell us
that the tendencies are much higher than generations that have gone before. Why do we care about that? Well, because 40 percent
of our current workforce are millennials. In 2030, this number
is going to go up to 75 percent. This is a real challenge. But not all narcissists are created equal. There are special ones. (Laughter) They’ve estimated that
one percent of the population – that’s one in a hundred –
are pathological. These people have
narcissistic personality disorder. They are ‘insecure sociopaths’. I like to equate them in the plant world
as an invasive species. They don’t really fit
into any environment system, especially a work one. Next in line is our extreme narcissist. It’s estimated that this is between
six to ten percent of the population. These people are very special too. Although not pathological,
they are extremely toxic. I like to equate them to a poison ivy. They’re best left alone and untouched. The next grouping is our garden variety. These people aren’t so bad. They’re the mild-to-mediums. And with a little bit of management,
a little bit of cultivation, a little bit of care,
they can have very good qualities. They can be incredibly driven. They can be very engaging, very charming, confident – and quite honestly –
they can get stuff done. Now, nobody really knows exactly why
this growth of narcissism has occurred. But the speculation is that it stems from our individualistic
and introspective post-war culture. This has also changed
parenting techniques, where kids are micro-managed
while the parents are missing in action, where praise is given to raise self-esteem
and every kid gets a trophy. Also, there’s no free play. And instead, we have a very early
adoption of and exposure to media. So regardless of the cause, these people can be
extremely difficult to employ and even harder to work for. But they’re not going away. So how do we, as business owners, as managers, leverage these challenging personalities, to ensure that we have
successful businesses and positive working environments? The first step is to hire accordingly. In this situation, you must know
that these personality types exist. You must watch for it. By doing so, you can help
to screen and weed out those 10% – the pathological,
and the extreme narcissist. We know that those personality types are extremely toxic and unproductive
in the workplace, even as leaders. Additionally, when you’re screening, you need to identify not only
the job skills that are required, but the personal skills
that complement that job. By doing so, you can actually use
the strengths of these personalities to your advantage. We know that they’re extremely persuasive. We know that they function well
as islands in and of themselves. We know that they can be very engaging, and they’re also extremely dedicated. So by marrying the personality skills
with the job itself, you can ensure greater success. Next, define your environment. You must lead and empower the leaders. If you don’t lead, the narcissists will. Weeds grow in cracks,
so make sure you have strong leadership. Additionally, create
a clan-like environment. This is a team cohesive spirit, the greater good rules. Make sure you have a group. Group success is your measurement
for all individuals. By doing so, you can ensure
a much greater, powerful workforce. Google and Facebook are brilliant at this. Additionally, they need to be fed. And they need to be fed
constantly and frequently. We need to water them with praise. We need to give them
raises and incentives, again, frequently, not as a lump sum. Again, we need to appraise them as well and give them constant feedback
on how they’re doing. And nudge them, and keep them in track
with the group goals. Finally, we need to create
a supportive work environment, not only for the
narcissistic personalities, but for everybody else. By doing so, you can ensure
that there is good communication, and if there is behaviour that’s offside, that it can be checked quickly, and without any kind of penalties
to those people reporting them. Next, you need to clearly
set your expectations. Not only defining the job skills required, but the overall workplace behaviour
that’s acceptable to you. The more specific you are with examples,
the better off you are. This, again, has to be
reinforced frequently. People need to be reminded
that this is actually what is required. Next, there’s accountability. Accountability at all levels. And, again, people need
to be reminded that confidence does not
necessarily equal competence. Documentation is also important as
a protocol for this type of personality. We know that narcissists
tend to be highly litigious. So you need to protect yourself,
your employees and your business by documenting poor work behaviour and clearly advising what next steps are. Last but not least, there needs to be
a clear disciplinary process in place. This needs to be applied at all levels, from the CEO down. It needs to be consistently applied, and there’re no free passes. By doing so, you can increase morale
in the company itself and have consistency
in the application process. By following these three steps, you can effectively leverage
these challenging personalities and cultivate an environment where all employees and your business
can bloom and thrive. Thank you. (Applause)