29 May 2013

Narcissists bad news in workplace, study finds

8:57 am on 29 May 2013

New research shows graduates with the highest opinions of themselves are often the lowest performing in the workplace.

As part of his PHD, Wellington industrial psychologist Jeff Simpson has spent the past two years following 75 graduates at a consulting firm.

Ten of them had narcissistic traits and while they excelled at the job interviews, they were judged the lowest performing by the end of the second year.

"They came through the door believing they knew it all anyway. Those people who were more humble, who knew what they couldn't do well, it bothered them and so they would work very hard to try and bridge that gap.

"Narcissists didn't see it, they didn't see there was a shortcoming, because they weren't open to learning in the first place."

Alex Ewens is a personal trainer and the first to admit the gym can be a magnet for egomaniacs.

He says he's worked with several trainers who have very high opinions of themselves.

"They don't take criticism very well. One of them, his qualification is a two-week course he did through the gym. I did a four-year degree in my field. He knows more than I do, clearly.

"And instead of sitting back and training his clients he takes it as an opportunity to show the clients how great he is."

Jeff Simpson says those graduates with narcissistic tendencies also responded poorly to criticism.

He says employers need to be more critical about job applicants to ensure they are not mistaking arrogance for self-confidence.

"The moral of the story is ... don't hire narcissists. They're bad, and they're really difficult to cure."