As many of our listeners on Mental Health News Radio know, our most popular shows are always those where the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, and Sociopathology are discussed. We have interviewed experts in this field from all over the globe. Our CEO, Kristin Walker, has been answering requests regarding her experiences working in the field of healthcare and corporate america for over 25 years. The interview requests are regarding how narcissistic personality disorder affects corporations from their staff, to their vendors, to their clients. Join host Randi G. Fine on A Fine Time for Healing and Kristin Walker for a raw and in-depth look at corporate narcissism.
What is corporate narcissism?
This is an organization where typically the leader which we’ve referred to in other articles as “The Emperor Who Wears No Clothes” is using his/her company to feed their need for narcissistic supply (adulation, adoration, power, money, etc.) They may not be getting the attention they feel they deserve in their personal lives so they often use their organization as an emotional playground. This can be extremely dangerous, unprofessional, and toxic. Sexual harassment runs rampant in these organizations.
Is there a difference between having a co-worker that has narcissistic personality disorder and having the CEO of the company with this disorder?
Yes. It is all about who has the power. A CEO of an organization that is not a public company where a Board can help govern their behavior holds all of the power. We refer to these organizations, large and small, jokingly as “No Human Resources Needed” companies because of the blatant disregard for their staff, clients, colleagues, and vendors. Narcissists are not capable of seeing anyone as an autonomous entity. Everyone is merely an extension of themselves.
As an example, they often offer up their staff and colleague’s services to other entities without permission or discussion. When questioned they are obtuse and often outraged because they cannot see anyone as an individual human being. Common courtesy simply does not occur to them as in asking someone whether or not they want to be involved with the CEO’s agenda. Remember their agenda is all about them and everyone should be most grateful to be included. Superiority plays a huge role here even with covert narcissists that often hide behind a seemingly humble facade.
I’ve witnessed this type of CEO using their spouse’s, colleague’s, and friend’s connections to start their businesses or obtain new business but you’ll never hear nor read one word about who brought them the business. They simply feel entitled and often belittle those, especially their spouses, when gratitude is the humble, grateful, and normal human response.
Luckily I’ve worked with many more who are gracious, loving, and successful business owners that give thanks often to everyone that helped them on their success journey. It doesn’t take long to notice the difference between feigned humility and the demeanor of a truly whole and healthy human being. Behavior speaks volumes.
With a co-worker it is easier to root out but narcissists typically attract other narcissists, sycophants, enablers, and so forth and then, like a CEO, they can “gather the troops” to rally to their cause (annihilation of anyone that puts up a healthy boundary). The difference here is that a coworker can be fired. A CEO of a private company cannot.
What are some of the traumas that employees, business partners, and vendors experience during and after working with a corporate narcissist?
Being belittled and managed down over time causes mental illness as well as a host of physical problems. Common ailments may include gastrointestinal issues, loss of self-esteem and individuality, inexplicable illnesses, or even suicidal thoughts.
Can an entire organization be narcissistically disordered?
Yes, especially if it is the leader of the organization who has narcissistic personality disorder. The only way to survive in these organizations is to allow the loss of your identity, play hot-potato with blame, and become, quite literally, insane. You are working in an insane environment. There is no welcome mat for anyone that is not on board with the crazy behavior this toxic environment supports. The longer you stay involved the more difficult it becomes to leave.
Because narcissists have horrendous abandonment/rejection issues, your departure will be seen as the ultimate act of defiance although it is the only healthy choice to make. Given time away from these situations will allow anyone to look back and see how destructive and unhealthy they had to become in order to survive. It isn’t a place you ever want to return and the peace that comes from time and distance is well worth the temporary discomfort at jumping ship. Sadly, most people that do stick around will never work anywhere else because of the toxic bond created by the narcissistic leader.
In these leader’s small world view they see themselves as the Mount Olympus of companies and anyone pointing out the obvious holes in their facade is to be banished at all costs. Banishment, or your own abandonment, is actually a healthy blessing for those who do leave the organization.
If it is a staff member, documentation and reporting the behavior is key as long as responsible leadership is in place. In my 25+ years working as a consultant I’ve reported unhealthy behavior towards me, staff members, and clients to kind, compassionate, and quick-acting leadership. I’ve also reported deplorable behavior to narcissistic leaders that placed a high value on their staff harassing each other and me. There is nothing so unnerving as witnessing the pleasure upon a toxic leader’s face when you report their staff’s harassing behavior. This is seen as a form of twisted loyalty to a narcissist.
These leaders create unhealthy triangles with staff and colleagues by placing them on pedestals only to praise them in front of others who have caused them narcissistic injury (disagreed with them). This causes jealousy, resentment, favoritism, and becomes emotionally draining and damaging. The person may be told in private how wonderful they are and yet, behind their backs, is discussed in reprehensible ways with the other staff/colleagues. This behavior creates a breeding ground for people to step over each other in order to please their narcissistic leader. It also creates the illusion of high demand for the narcissist’s praise and attention which pumps air into their already inflated sense of self. Once you see them for the very small person they truly are, they cannot have you anywhere near them or their flock of believers.
Typically removing a staff member can help heal what has become a toxic workplace. Counseling is crucial for everyone so they stay on a healthy, boundary respected path rather than just invite yet another narcissist in to wreak more havoc. No one behaves well in these situations. You are all fighting to survive in an insane situation.
What kind of counseling is needed in order for the victims to overcome the emotional abuse suffered while working with these people?
Behavioral health counseling, coaching, and a strong human resources organization are what is needed for everyone. Boundaries have been trampled and working with counselors trained in hostile work situations is imperative. Private counseling with someone intimately familiar with Narcissistic Abuse is crucial.
Employees, vendors, and colleagues can dedicate themselves to these “leaders” to the point of exhaustion. The only solution is to learn, grow, and leave. Work on yourself and build up those healthy boundaries. Take a look at why the drama of working with or for this kind of organization pulled you in. And, know there is just as much buzz and excitement that can come from working with healthy and whole grown-ups. The reward from these bonds are actually empowering. They also have the staying power you need to achieve true success.
Can corporate narcissists be healed?
Most experts agree that people with narcissistic personality disorder cannot be healed simply because they don’t believe they have a problem. The problem is everyone else in their eyes.
Imagine, if you will, a narcissistic leader whose organization services behavioral health. This leader, however, does not believe in nor would ever submit to professional counseling with a behavioral health provider. This makes perfect sense in the mind of a personality disordered individual.
Can a narcissistic organization be healed?
Yes, with a lot of hard work, counseling, forgiveness, and patience. The likelihood of recovery is diminished to almost zero if the leader has narcissistic personality disorder.
What are some of your first-hand experiences working with these predators?
I’ve witnessed narcissistic leaders using company funds to support an overreaching lifestyle with little regard for making their payroll, paying back vendors for services rendered or product usage. In the twisted mind of this type of leader it is not uncommon for them to trump up charges against staff so they can fire them to lessen their payroll. They often blame clients, and vendors for issues that do not exist in order to have an “excuse” not to pay them or finish providing the services for which they’ve already been paid.
Sadly the CEO is not only putting themselves at risk but also every officer of their company. Misappropriation of funds, embezzling, and so on calls into question every officer of an organization. I’ve personally witnessed good but misguided people brought up on charges because of a CEO’s behavior. A judge is not going to believe a story from a COO or CFO covering for their leader’s fiscal negligence. Wrong doing is wrong doing, period.
I’ve experienced inappropriate sexual misconduct from a married, narcissistic leader who thought nothing of sending me texts about meeting up for sex during a conference. The horrified look on the face of the conference manager who gladly photocopied the texts was certainly affirming. This CEO also thought nothing of coming up behind me and touching me inappropriately in my private office (which caused me to move out of the same building). When confronted he was aghast at my “accusations” which was actually just my calling him on his misconduct.
The beheading of the Queen is commonplace with all narcissists. One was running a very small company and was famous for his precision-like prance with any new source of possible cheap labor or funding for his company. On one of our last phone calls I heard eerily familiar, sugar-coated flattery pouring out of his mouth to a new employee. I’d heard the same when I first met him and watched this toxic dance many times. I could feel the puffed up adoration from his new staff member and thought, “Boy it is going to be interesting watching the managing down of this one to the ultimate beheading.” Luckily I moved on and didn’t have to stomach watching this behavior again.
I pulled out of advising another business leader when he made completely ridiculous business proposals to professional entities. I responded with a professional response asking him to rethink his offerings only to be summarily dismissed from that business (thank goodness). The same email sent to healthy, successful companies was met with praise and continued negotiations. He lost the deal and what he kept from his small flock of adoring staff was the fact that he tried to steal it right out from under my company. Because of his immature and unprofessional behavior the customer adamantly refused to have anything to do with his organization. I didn’t rush in to rescue him this time and he showed his true colors to the potential client. They are masters of illusion. I am sure he still carries around the victim card ever ready to bring it out to a diminishing group of people. Narcissists do not age well. One needs to remember these leaders have arrested development. Simply put, they are running their organizations with the emotional maturity of a five year old.
Many of these leadership types and their employees will attempt to “steal” ideas, connections, and staff from their colleagues even if there is truly nothing worthwhile to take. Nothing can be an original idea because they are not capable.
Picture sitting at a conference table with $500.00 up for grabs and $1.00 in your hand.
The narcissist wants the dollar.
Because it is in your hand.
They covet, are envious, and short-sighted.
Ultimately these leaders do themselves in although some will continue on in business for a long time. They’ll never reach any real level of success and they will blame that on anyone but themselves. The reality for them is they will be stuck forever in a very small world that becomes their inflated kingdom. All healthy, whole, empowered organizations will continue to grow and reach incredible, measured, and true success. Toxic leaders and staff are simply a caricature of themselves that everyone in the real world can see clearly and from whom they wisely steer clear.
Please enjoy our own interview with Randi G. Fine: Is Narcissistic Personality Disorder the same as Narcissism?
*Examples given regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Psychopathy, or Sociopathology may be related to the guest or host’s experiences over vast interactions in their field. An amalgamation of experiences may be described but may not represent any specific entity. Should any listeners resonate with the information discussed or written, a list of licensed professionals will be made available upon request.
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Tags: bad leadership, corporate america, healing, healthy work environment, Human Resources issues, mental health, narcissism, narcissism in the workplace, narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathy, recovery, toxic work environment