Supervisors surprisingly tend to favor employees with this personality disorder

Although rare, narcissistic personality disorder can be manifested in a number of different ways.

All of the subsets of the condition tend to share the following markers in common: patients have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention/admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

Outside of criminal psychology,  narcissism is most commonly correlated with business acumen in the media—and not without reason.

In a study published in the journal, Psychological Reports it was determined that employees with narcissistic personality disorder have more energy on the job and are more likely to take charge in the workplace.

“Drawing on the framework of human energy in organizations, this study proposed a moderated mediation model between narcissism and taking charge, as well as the role of energy at work and the employee’s hierarchy within organizations,” the authors wrote. “A sample of 312 employees at one Chinese manufacturing company suggested that employees with narcissistic personality are more apt to exhibit taking charge at work via their energy at work. In addition, the results also indicated that employees’ hierarchical level within an organization reinforced the indirect effect of energy at work between narcissism and taking charge.”

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Hierarchical Level in the workplace


Before we dive into the new data, it’s important to remember that none of the characteristics associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are dichotomous.

In fact, it’s quite common for otherwise healthy individuals to exhibit one or more traits associated with NPD without qualifying for enough to support an official diagnosis.

With that in mind,  the new research led by Kong Zhou and colleagues explores the proactive elements of the condition, specifically in relation to the hierarchical level in the workplace.

Each participant involved in the report was asked to complete an assessment of narcissistic personality by rating the validity of items like, “I have been compared to famous people.”

Following this, they were asked to rate their energy levels at work with items like, “When I am at work I feel vital and alive” and reported their rank within the company as either managerial or nonmanagerial.

Lastly, each employee’s supervisor evaluated their employee’s tendency to take charge at work by rating items like, “This subordinate tries to implement solutions to pressing organization problems.”

Consistently, employee narcissism yielded positive associations with supervisor ratings.

Narcissists were more likely to take charge and maintain higher energy levels compared to their mentally sound counterparts.

The authors worked out several plausible explanations for this. If one feels genuinely superior to others, either intellectually or physically stronger, they will be more eager to demonstrate this superiority while being less intimidated by the potential for failure.

As far as the correlation between NPD and energy,  the authors surmised that narcissistic employees likely have a deeper reserve of psychological resources (e.g., perceptions of superiority over others and excessive demand for admiration) which enables them to reliably feel energized at work.

For some reason, the relationship between narcissism and energy at work was stronger in employees who ranked higher within the company.

Participants who were in managerial positions over nonmanagerial positions benefited the most from all of the outcomes featured in the report.

This was also found to be true of the relationship between energy and taking charge which was also stronger in managers compared to nonmanagers. The authors suggest that hierarchy may be important when it comes to seeing the positive outcomes associated with narcissism in the workplace.

“We argue that narcissistic employees usually have stronger internal motivations to release the potential energy stored in their bodies to prove they are better than other employees. Hence, we predict that narcissistic employees may be more energized to exhibit taking-charge behavior in the workplace,” the authors conclude. These findings have important implications for narcissism research and managerial practices.”

The study,  titled“The Relationship Between Narcissism and Taking Charge: The Role of Energy at Work and Hierarchical Level”, was authored by Kong Zhou, Wenxing Liu, Mingze Li, Zhihui Cheng, and Xiaofei Hu.