Narcissism is growing in today’s workforce, which can be challenging for organizations looking to remain responsive to change.
Whether it’s in response to an unforeseen event, external crisis, or simply to remain relevant in a competitive global environment, organizational change is something every manager will need to confront eventually. Regardless of the type of change (e.g., technological, structural, or cultural), managers depend on the support of all their members to implement the change successfully. We know that two of the primary reasons change efforts fail is due to employee resistance and lack of management support.
Often referred to as “Generation Me,” these individuals have a tendency to be highly individualistic, agentically oriented, and primarily motivated by status and money. According to research, such characteristics reflect a general trend of increasing narcissism, a personality trait characterized by feelings of grandiosity, a strong sense of entitlement, and excessive self-interest. While such claims about Millennials are often dismissed as stereotypes or misconceptions, these trends in increasing narcissism among recent generational cohorts are well documented.
Change often requires employees to forgo their short-term self-interest for the benefit of the organization, a willingness not especially common among those with more narcissistic tendencies.
The increasing prevalence of narcissism among today’s workforce can make it particularly challenging for organizations looking to remain responsive to change. After all, change often requires employees to forgo their short-term self-interest for the benefit of the organization, a willingness not especially common among those with more narcissistic tendencies.
How, then, can you ensure your employees, particularly those with more narcissistic tendencies, invest in your organizational change initiative? Here are 3 tips.
1. Demonstrate relevance
For any change initiative to be successful, it’s important to provide adequate justification for why the change is necessary. But for some employees, such as those with more narcissistic tendencies, it may be necessary to also demonstrate how the change is personally beneficial to them.
Research shows that narcissists may alter their behavior to suit the interests of others if they can see how doing so can also advance their own interests. Accordingly, be sure to tailor your message for an upcoming change initiative in a way that can help these individuals see how the change can ultimately help them succeed or self-enhance in some way.
Ensuring the appropriate incentives are in place when instituting a new change initiative is a common approach for helping employees to embrace change. For some employees, appealing to their sense of collective identity, such as by explaining how the change may help their fellow coworkers or benefit the organization in a meaningful way, may be a sufficient incentive. But given narcissists’ highly transactional and self-interested nature, you will likely want to provide incentives that align with their agentic self-identity, such as those that can signal status, recognition, or achievement.
For some employees, appealing to their sense of collective identity, such as by explaining how the change may help their fellow coworkers or benefit the organization in a meaningful way, may be a sufficient incentive.
A final way you can motivate your more narcissistic employees to become invested in your change initiative is to simply involve them in the process. Research suggests that merely soliciting your employees’ thoughts and concerns prior to making a decision can give them a sense of ownership over the process and enhance their sense of value in the organization.
For narcissists, who possess a strong need for control and desire to affirm their sense of superiority, such ego-enhancing opportunities may not only cause them to respond positively, but can make them your change initiative’s biggest champion.