Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Organizational Narcissism: Scale Development and Firm Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Organizational Narcissism: Scale Development and Firm Outcomes

Article excerpt


The prevalence of narcissism in society at large (Lasch, 1991), the classroom (Bergman, Westerman & Daly, 2010; Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008) and the organization (Brown, 1997) has attracted renewed attention to the impact it has on people and institutions. Organizational scholars have examined narcissistic personality traits (e.g., Judge, Piccolo & Kosalka, 2009), narcissistic CEOs (e.g., Chatterjee & Hambrick, 2007; Kets dc Vries & Miller, 1985a) and narcissistic organizations (e.g., Duchon & Bums, 2008). In this study we focus on organizational narcissism: that is, organizations that as a whole have developed a narcissistic identity (Whetten, 2006; Albert, Ashforth & Dutton, 2000). Narcissistic organizations, like individuals, can be seen to exhibit a specific set of traits as the dominant pattern of behavior. Scholars have thus far theorized that grandiosity, entitlement, denial and exploitation are the pervasive behaviors that characterize narcissistic organizations (Brown, 1997; Duchon & Burns, 2008; Duchon & Drake, 2009). Yet, research on organization-level narcissism, and in particular its relation to organizational outcomes, is hampered by the absence of a measure of the constmct. Thus, our first aim is to develop a scale to measure organization-level narcissism.

Organization-level narcissism is an important issue as some scholars suggest that extreme organization-level narcissism may be a catalyst of corporate failure; witness the cases of Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) and Enron (Duchon & Bums, 2008; Duchon & Drake, 2009; Stein, 2003, 2007). Alternatively, successful organizations can exhibit narcissistic traits, but not in an extreme form. For example, exemplar firms such as Apple, Microsoft and General Electric have also been described as narcissistic (Maccoby, 2003). This paradox highlights the distinction between productive narcissism that is manifested as a healthy self-esteem and narcissism that is extreme and destructive (Duchon & Burns, 2008; Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). Thus, our second aim is to explore the relationship between organization-level narcissism and firm outcomes.


Narcissism at the Individual Level

Narcissism is most often associated with the personality of individuals. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) describes narcissism as "A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy" (American Psychiatric Association, 1994: 661). This definition includes nine specific traits - inflated sense of self-importance, fantasies of unlimited success or power, perception of special status, entitlement, exploitation, envy, lack of empathy, arrogance, and excessive need for admiration - which, when exhibited in combination as a persons' dominant behavior, comprise the narcissistic personality (APA, 1994). Narcissism is exhibited by individuals as an ego-defense to maintain fragile self-esteem (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985a), and is characterized by exhibitionism, selfaggrandizement, entitlement and exploitation (Judge et. ah, 2009). In the extreme, these behaviors are pathological.

Yet, many people exhibit some narcissistic behavior, and a moderate degree of narcissism may in fact be healthy and an important part of success (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985a). Referring to the DSM IV, "many highly successful individuals display personality traits that might be considered narcissistic. Only when these traits are inflexible, maladaptive, and persisting and cause significant functional impairment or subjective distress do they constitute Narcissistic Personality Disorder" (APA, 1994: 661). For example, it is not uncommon to find references to the narcissistic personalities of CEOs (Kets de Vries & Miller, 1985a; Maccoby, 1999; Treadway, Adams, Ranft & Ferris, 2009). …

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