Narcissistic Bosses Damage Morale, Productivity

Aug. 11, 2009
A recent study examining the narcissistic tendencies of bosses in American organizations suggests that narcissistic supervisors negatively affect employees’ morale, productivity, stress levels and more.

Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Management in the Florida State University College of Business, asked more than 1,200 employees to provide opinions regarding the narcissistic tendencies of their immediate supervisor.

The responses demonstrated that between roughly 20 and 30 percent of respondents encountered bosses with narcissistic behavior that made an impact in the workplace. For example, 31 percent of employees reported that their boss is prone to exaggerate his or her accomplishments to look good in front of others. Twenty-seven percent also said their boss brags to others to get praise.

In addition, 25 percent of respondents reported that their boss had an inflated view of himself or herself, while 24 percent considered their boss self-centered. Finally, 20 percent of respondents reported that their boss will do a favor only if guaranteed one in return.

A Toxic Environment

“Having a narcissistic boss creates a toxic environment for virtually everyone who must come in contact with this individual,” Hochwarter said. “The team perspective ceases to exist, and the work environment becomes increasingly stressful. Productivity typically plummets as well.”

Research supports these adverse effects, Hochwarter said. For example, those who reported working for a narcissistic boss had lower levels of job satisfaction, saw their stress levels increase over the previous year, were less appreciative of their work and organization, reported lower levels of effort and performance and were more prone to sadness and frustration at work.

“Most organizations simply do not consider the adverse effects of narcissistic bosses on worker productivity and stress,” Hochwarter said. “In fact, many companies encourage it since narcissists are often seen as outgoing and confident – traits considered necessary for success in any managerial role. However, there is a fine line between self-confidence on the one hand and selfishness that negatively affects others on the other. Unfortunately, the needed adjustments simply do not take place in most organizations, for any number of reasons.”

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