Narcissism in Organizations

28 February 2007 at 12:30 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

How do you manage employees who care only about themselves? If you hire new college graduates you better think about it. An AP story reports that “[t]oday’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors,” citing a study headed by Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me. “We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back,” says Twenge. “Kids are self-centered enough already.”

(One of my colleagues told me today that she was recently graded down on a student evaluation because, according to the student, “the teacher’s job is to make me feel good about myself” and my colleague hadn’t done that.)

Update: Here is an AMR paper on narcissism in organizations.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sudha Shenoy  |  28 February 2007 at 4:13 am

    What about the long-term effects of dominant fashions in ‘teaching’ children in schools? Parents & children are hostage to whatever is the latest fashion amongst state-school ‘teachers’. For how many years have the latter made it their goal, that “children must not feel a failure, they must feel good about themeselves” ?

  • 2. Chih-mao Hsieh  |  1 March 2007 at 10:11 pm

    What timing, the original post on narcissism! In my capstone course today for undergrads, the lecture topic was “Creativity: On ‘concepts’ and ‘conceptual combination’.” In a nutshell, within 50 minutes of class time, I attempt to explain in the most laymen of terms the notions of ‘creativity,’ ‘knowledge structures,’ and ‘conceptual combination,’ and link these concepts to business (esp. technological change, adoption and diffusion of innovation).

    Twenty minutes before the end of class, a student packed up her stuff and was heading for the door. I intercepted her and asked her in front of the class where she was going. She told me aloud in front of the class that she ‘was wasting her time and had better things to do.’ I told her to go through the handouts for the upcoming quiz, and she acquiesced. At the end of the lecture, several students voluntarily and publicly shared with me that they enjoyed lecture and that they were embarrassed for her. I stayed after class about 20 minutes extra to tend to student questions.

    When I got back to my office, an email from the offending student was waiting for me. Sensing a reasonably valuable opportunity to deliver an important if not dramatic message, I replied. Her email follows, then my response.



    I will not apologize – but I will say I did not mean to hurt your feelings by what I said while leaving. I’m a truthful person and it didn’t occur to me to lie or soften my words. I think it came out the way it did because it made me angry that you had the audacity to inquire what I was doing – especially in front of the entire class. I feel it was completely inappropriate. You do not give a grade for attendance – therefore it’s not required. What if I had been in an embarrassing situation, or been very emotionally upset? You would have made it much worse.

    I am paying the school for you to teach me. If I feel that listening to your lectures is a waste of my time and money, that is my opinion – and it’s my choice to do something else with that time. I am a good student and have always been. I have done everything required in the class – worked with my group on the project, arranged to make up quizzes, etc – and done pretty well. I will continue to work hard with my group, go over the materials you give us, and take the quizzes.

    Finally, I have to say that I hope that you will be professional for the rest of the semester and will not use bias against me in grading. As I said, I’m a good student – and I will expect the grade I deserve – not one reflecting your possible resentment against me.

    [the student]


    I spend close to a dozen hours of my time attempting to put together one interesting lecture period for (likely-to-be-burnt-out) graduating seniors. But it’s impossible to customize the period for everybody. “Good students” make attempts to make the time spent in class a more worthwhile learning experience before ditching it altogether, even if it’s just for making it more worthwhile for themselves. In contrast, sheer mediocre student behavior like yours today indicates that you’d rather be spoonfed, perhaps crying to others when you don’t get what you want.

    As for ‘embarrassing situations,’ plenty of your classmates in class voluntarily and publicly shared with me afterwards that they felt embarrassed for you already. So don’t worry, you outdid yourself.

    Indeed, nothing in my syllabus says that attendance is graded. But nothing in my syllabus says that I can’t be biased. I could decide to slight you and be as ‘professional’ as you — too bad you have virtually NO concept of that term — but have no fear: I will be more professional than you.


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