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Ideas for Leaders #758

Narcissistic Leaders Negatively Impact Different Employees in Different Ways

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Key Concept

Narcissistic tendencies in leaders can be productive as well as non-productive. A new study shows that non-productive narcissistic tendencies have an impact on turnover intention and job satisfaction, although this impact can vary depending on gender and position in the company.

Idea Summary

Research has identified as non-productive the narcissistic tendencies of a leader, such as a grandiose sense of self-importance and need for constant admiration, that have a negative impact on the organization. In contrast, productive narcissistic tendencies, such as charm and the drive to push through adversity, can have a positive impact.

A new study examines the impact of productive and non-productive narcissistic tendencies in leaders — as perceived by their employees — on employee work attitudes. 

The study was based on a questionnaire of 16 items sent to 420 participants, who included executives, managers and frontline employees. The 16 items represented narcissistic tendencies (e.g. fantasizes about unlimited success; has a sense of entitlement; believes that others envy him/her). Using a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), the participants rated both their immediate supervisor and the firm’s top leader on each of the items. The respondents were also questioned on their turnover intentions (whether or not they were considering leaving the organization they worked for) and job satisfaction.

A statistical analysis of the results confirmed, as expected, that the 16 narcissistic tendencies captured in the questionnaire coalesced into two distinct categories: productive and non-productive. 

Further analysis revealed the impact of supervisors’ and top leaders’ productive and non-productive narcissistic tendencies on employees, based on gender and position within the organization, as follows:

For top leaders

  • Non-productive narcissistic tendencies of top leaders had a negative effect on the turnover intentions of female employees and front-line employees. The other categories of employees (males, middle managers, and executives) were unaffected.
  • Productive narcissistic tendencies of top leaders had no effect — neither positive nor negative — on the turnover intentions of any employees.
  • Non-productive narcissistic tendencies of top leaders had a negative effect on the job satisfaction of female employees and front-line employees. These tendencies had a slight negative effect on male employees and no effect on executives or middle managers. 
  • Productive narcissistic tendencies of top leaders had a positive effect on the job satisfaction of male employees and middle managers. The other categories of employees (females, front-line employees, and executives) were unaffected.

For immediate supervisors

  • Non-productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors had a negative effect on the turnover intentions of all categories of employees: females, males, front-line employees, middle managers and executives. 
  • Productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors had no effect — neither positive nor negative — on the turnover intentions of any employees.
  • Non-productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors had a negative effect on the job satisfaction of males and middle managers. The other categories of employees were unaffected.
  • Productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors had no effect — neither positive nor negative — on the job satisfaction of any employees.

The study thus revealed that non-productive narcissistic tendencies of top leaders negatively impacted employee turnover intentions and job satisfaction differently based on the employee position in the organization (as executives, managers, or front-line employees) and gender. The study also showed that non-productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors negatively impacted the turnover intentions of all categories of employees. In contrast, productive narcissistic tendencies of immediate supervisors had no impact on either the turnover intentions or the job satisfaction of any category of employee.

Business Application

This study offers some insights on how the narcissistic tendencies of top leaders and immediate supervisors — as perceived by their employees — can impact turnover intentions and job satisfaction in the organization. 

Organizations and companies concerned about lack of employee commitment, engagement or job satisfaction may want to take a closer look at any narcissistic tendencies of top leaders and supervisors — and determine if there is a relationship between narcissistic leaders and negative employee work attitudes. Action may need to be taken to stop any further deterioration of employee attitudes. 

In conducting such an evaluation, organisations should pay attention to the gender and position in the organization of employees, which influence, as shown in the study, employee reaction to leadership narcissism.

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Authors

Institutions

Source

Idea conceived

  • September 2019

Idea posted

  • December 2019

DOI number

10.13007/758

Subject

Real Time Analytics