Stop being your own worst enemy in the workplace

Enemies in the workplace are nothing new.  Most of us will have them and understanding how to deal with them is the subject of many discussions throughout our careers.  What many of us will not realize is that we are, in many cases, our own worst enemies in the workplace.  Strange you say?  I say not strange at all.  Let me explain.

The word narcissism is one that does not come up in most daily conversations, but narcissism is alive and well in the workplace today.  What many of us don’t realize is that the biggest narcissist we know is the person we see in the mirror when we look into it. 

Before we go farther, let’s define what narcissism is and just how it affects each of us in the workplace.

1.  excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance

2.  extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration

Our discussion today and in moving forward will center more on #2 and not on #1.

Selfishness is a chronic issue in all of our lives and we don’t even realize it most of the time.

One of my favorite models to use to help understand self-love, especially to excessive levels, is the Johari Window.  This model is one that many of you will have seen in a general management class while in college and it looks at four quadrants along two axes.  The axes are what we know/don’t know about ourselves and the other is what others know/don’t know about us.

The model looks like this:

The four quadrants are shown in equal proportion here, but for those with excessively narcissistic tendencies the blind quadrant is much larger than depicted here.  We all have our own reasons for deciding what will go in the hidden quadrant, those things which we know about ourselves but don’t want others to know.  That varies widely depending upon the openness of each of us and our willingness to share.  The unknown quadrant is just that, unknown, unless triggered by some extreme event or circumstances that show up in each of our lives.  I could go on an on about this, but this one is hard to define.  The open quadrant, in my opinion, is strongly linked to the hidden quadrant for most of us and the level of privacy and openness we have will make one larger and the other smaller accordingly.  Our discussion point today is about the blind quadrant, better known as the blind spot.

Those with narcissistic tendencies may have excessively large blind spots and may not  be aware of how their self serving ways affect those around them.  This can show up in how they respond to conflict, how they work with others in group settings, and also in how they respond even in good situations.  Conflict may bring out responses of defensiveness or blame shifting while group work, especially when deadlines are not met or work is not satisfactory could also result in finger pointing by the narcissistic individual.  The hard core subject could be very self supporting and even gloat when things go well.  The word that would never cross this person’s mind would be humility, the antidote to most narcissism.

Knowing these things is only half the battle, even less.  When dealing with the truly narcissistic individual there is the cure, humility, and the deliver system, the real “Kryptonite” would be feedback.  I also would say that Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions, especially those who are conquering narcissism.

Giving others appropriate and timely feedback is the surest way to promote humility and cure narcissistic behavior, but the real professional will seek out feedback from his/her peers on a regular basis.

Dealing with narcissism in the workplace is not an easy task.  The rabid narcissist is typically not aware of their behavior and they will probably not be open to hearing what you have to offer.

The best prescription for this chronic issue is humility and that is best gained through healthy doses of feedback.  Some may only need this feedback in small doses and in short bursts, while for others it may become a regular prescription for saving their career.

How have you deal with narcissistic behavior?

What has worked; what has not?