Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer recently raised a kerfuffle by stating a fact about leadership many of us have experienced but few of us like to admit — while we say we want admirable qualities like humility and empathy in business leaders, the traits that actually seem to get rewarded in the real world are often far more unpleasant. Like it or not, narcissists and liars do get ahead.
And you don't have to take Pfeffer's word for it. If you've managed to dodge a bullet and have never personally experienced the rise of the office narcissist, science has you covered. One study showed that narcissism is the number one predictor of success among West Point cadets, for example, while another meta-analysis of research in the area showed that being a touch narcissistic was a great way to climb the career ladder.
What's the bottom line? The business world probably has more than its fair share of narcissists running around. How do you know if you're dealing with one? A short, fun video from New York Magazine's Science of Us column offered a surprising answer recently.
Average jerk or actual narcissist: how to tell?
The video kicks off by explaining the layperson’s way to spot a narcissist. You can just look out for the trifecta of symptoms that psychologists say define the personality disorder — an unrealistic sense of superiority, a sense of entitlement or belief that the person deserves special treatment, and a noticeable lack of empathy.
The trouble is all of your less favorite colleagues (and probably even you) sometimes exhibit these unpleasant but all-too-human traits on the occasional bad day. If you're looking for a more scientific diagnosis, there's also a tried and true 40-question diagnostic test developed by scientists that will give you a more official answer to that burning office question — Is he really a narcissist or just a garden-variety jerk?
It's unlikely your boss or problem client will agree to take such a lengthy survey, however. But fear not, according to Science of Us, recent research has turned up a third and far easier diagnostic option: just ask the person 'Are you a narcissist?'
Wait, what? That's right, the results of the painstakingly developed long-form questionnaire and straight-up asking someone about their narcissism are pretty much identical. Narcissists are so narcissistic they'll even admit it with pride! “This research suggests that narcissists aren't afraid of admitting they're egotistical, self-focused and vain,” the video concludes.
So just for fun this Friday — or to let off a little steam the next time the office egomaniac crosses into full-on narcissist mode — have a go at playing psychologist and ask the offender outright ‘Are you a narcissist?’ You might be surprised at the response you get.