Money & Careers

Channeling Your Career Narcissism

Narcissists can become great teachers, too. The fruits of your labor are realized when you see underlings spread their gospel. Just don’t mistake teaching for mentoring on the job. If you’re this kind of narcissist you would be excellent at instructing others, but you might be less inclined to groom a subordinate on the job for success. That’s because there is unfortunately less in it for you when others succeed.

Narcissistic workers that are “inner focused” make excellent self-directed employees. If this is how you roll, you could be great at increasing productivity in your workplace by improving how teams work together. You are part of a group that represent the creators of innovative business practices. You tend to be guided by your own inner compass and work well beyond the usual hours, until the job is done and done well.

People with these traits often become business owners and leaders—they are strategy-focused risk takers and creative visionaries. They have the unflappable ability to take the emotion out of abandoning less-than-perfect projects, too. They can execute layoffs with less regret than others.

OK, so you have finally recognized the elephant in the room—your own career narcissism. You might be patting yourself on the back or, frankly, you might be appalled. Before you head to the aisle of self-help books at the bookstore, realize that it’s easier than you think to choose a field where narcissistic traits are valued.

Aside from politics and the entertainment industry, the sales field is the most accepted vocation for healthy career narcissists. Other areas where you can be rewarded for risk-taking and ambition include becoming an artist or entrepreneur. I know what you’re thinking–sales and business leaders should be good listeners and empathetic to their client needs. But narcissists have historically been financially rewarded in these areas, in spite of themselves.

Are you currently in a traditional job? If you tend to be outwardly narcissistic, partner with at least one co-worker to ground you. This person will remind you if you are breaking the rules or when you have gone too far. It’s not easy for this saint to act as your shock absorber—but their interest in doing what’s right for the sake of the company while they recognize your creative genius needs to be really important to them.

If you are a manager, hire subordinates who are OK with hitching to your star without questioning too much. Successful outwardly narcissistic leaders should hire people who take direction well and willingly drink the company Koolaid. These employees should be hired to support your mindset and to execute what you have already created. Although management books tell us that the sharing of information and the exchange of ideas in the workplace is the ideal, with a narcissistic leader in their midst, subordinates that want to have their ideas heard are probably better suited to finding work under a different kind of manager.

There’s a fine line between disruptive narcissism at work that breeds distrust, and healthy narcissism that spawns the creation of ideas and productivity. Acknowledging the narcissistic tendencies each of us has within ourselves and recognizing it in our co-workers enables us to do our life’s best work.

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