Money & Careers

Channeling Your Career Narcissism

Phyllis L. Cohen has been a headhunter and Fortune 25 recruiter for more than 20 years. Her experiences left her with the burning desire to discover meaning in her work. How do we rediscover what’s already great about our job? How do we know when it’s time to move on? How do we make the change? We need to view our life’s work from a place of inspiration. This series of articles will help us get started.


The adage “it takes all kinds” was likely created along with the invention of office cubicles, timecards and water coolers. For all the job descriptions that exist in the stratosphere, there is an infinite number of personality types that fill them. We work in an interesting time in history when three generations coexist in the workspace: our fellow baby boomers, generation X and the burgeoning millennial workforce. Consider the full spectrum of personalities within each generation and we find ourselves employed in either a diverse, stimulating workplace or on a battleground, depending on your perspective.

How do we manage all of this? Our workplace is rife with opportunities to compromise, push back, cooperate or influence. While it is challenging to deal with so many idiosyncrasies and generations in the workplace, I suggest it’s even harder to understand our own personality type to find our ideal work. In other words, before we learn how to deal with co-workers and bosses it might be prudent to look inward first.

Sigmund Freud, the quintessential pundit of personality types, believed that everyone is, to some degree, narcissistic. And narcissism can be healthy: we have to accept that without narcissism we cannot successfully compete for a job. A good dose of narcissism allows us to stand up for ourselves, to tout our strengths during an interview and to ask for what we deserve.

Yet sometimes the competitive nature of the workplace brings out the worst in us—a certain tunnel vision where we forget to see the divinity present in our co-workers or care about their opinions or ideas. Some narcissistic traits like the resistance to listen, to collaborate or to care about others can have a damaging effect on your career.

It’s important to acknowledge the productive aspects of your career narcissism. Once you admit to a few narcissistic tendencies without judgment you can avoid getting fired and manage yourself well in the workplace. You might even thrive.

If, for example, you tend to focus on your career from the “outside in,” then being accepted and loved in the workplace is tantamount to your happiness. It’s also a particular type of narcissism. While this may sound weak or needy, it’s actually not. This kind of narcissism can be channeled into a number of careers, including nursing, the clergy, social work or a human resources career.

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.