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4 Tricks to Neutralize Narcissists

Psychological studies show that narcissism is on the rise, which makes it more and more likely that you'll have to work with the highly self-regarding in the future (if you're not suffering already). We've covered the topics of handling your narcissistic colleagues and your egotistical, entitled boss on BNET already, but when it comes to an issue that's obviously so common and so annoying, there's a steady stream of new advice.

Now Myra White, a professor of organizational behavior at Harvard, has taken to Management Issues to offer tips on how to handle not narcissistic team members or supervisors, but direct reports, an area that's sure to challenge newer bosses. Assuming that you can't simply fire them, how can you get the best work from them while keeping them from torturing you and the rest of your team? White offers four ideas:

  • Leverage the fact that narcissists like to be associated with higher status people. Make sure that you keep your distance and demand the respect your position merits. Show them that you are wired into people at the top by communicating that your actions are directly supported by your boss and specific senior executives in your organization whom you identify by name.
  • Recognize that narcissists are generally not good team players since there are few people whom they consider their equals. If you do have to put them on a team, place them on one with people whom they admire and consider high status.
  • Stick to the rules. Narcissists are likely to push you for special favors and to ask you to bend the rules for them. Make sure you don't cave in to their demands.
  • Protect your other reports. Narcissists often step forward to claim the glory when things go well so make sure that you know who really deserves credit. As part of this, design incentives that reward teamwork and cooperation rather than individual work.
White's also offers warning signs to let you know early you're dealing with a narcissist and a great analysis of the personality type, so check out the complete post for additional information. Plus, BNET also offers plenty of information about the increasing incidence of narcissism, its causes and, even, a possible upside to the epidemic. Check them out below.

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Helga Weber, CC 2.0)