Tips for Selecting and Training a Talented Narcissist

Their talent is alluring, but is it worth the hiring risk?

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We've all encountered this person at least once in our careers — the talented narcissist.

As you look to keep your company innovative and relevant in today’s competitive business environment, it can be easy to fall prey to the seductive allure of a talented narcissist. After all, narcissists are often highly charming and confident individuals capable of articulating grand visions that can help propel your company to new heights.

But they can also be cold and demeaning, prone to excessive risk, and incapable of taking criticism – behaviors that can ultimately thwart your company’s ability to be successful. So when faced with the decision to hire a talented narcissist, you may be asking yourself: is it worth the risk?

While narcissists can be a liability for your company, they can also be a valuable asset. Here are 3 tips that can help you harness the positive qualities of a talented narcissist while avoiding the pitfalls.

So when faced with the decision to hire a talented narcissist, you may be asking yourself: is it worth the risk?

1. Select for desired behaviors

No matter how gifted they might be, narcissists’ difficulty in taking constructive criticism and interpersonal abrasiveness when working with others can create major problems for the morale and productivity of your workforce.

But narcissists may sometimes be willing to take feedback from — and work collaboratively with — others.

In my own research, for example, my colleagues and I found that some narcissistic leaders were willing to listen and solicit suggestions and concerns from their employees, which ultimately helped to offset the negative consequences of some of their more noxious behaviors. If you’re considering hiring an individual with narcissistic tendencies, assessing their willingness to work with or consult with others could be a valuable addition to your selection criteria.

2. Align their interests with the company’s interests

One way to avoid some of the pitfalls of hiring a narcissist is to tailor your onboarding and/or leadership training to make it more palatable for those with narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissists are highly transactional individuals who tend to view all interactions with others through the lens of their own self-interest. This can spell disaster for your company. However, you can also use their highly transactional nature to your advantage.

Research shows that narcissists may be willing to consider the interests of others if they believe doing so will help them succeed or self-enhance in some way. So, ensuring that these individuals can clearly see how the behavior you’re looking for can ultimately help them advance or achieve the outcomes they desire should be a key consideration when crafting your training and development program.

3. Make sure they’re held accountable

If you ultimately hire someone with narcissistic tendencies, ensuring that they are held accountable for their actions and for their team (if they’re in a leadership role) can be an effective way to ensure you are getting the most out of them while minimizing their noxious qualities.

For example, my own research suggests that when narcissistic leaders feel accountable to the team they lead, they may be more cognizant of how their behavior is affecting those around them.

If you can harness the positive qualities and minimize some of their more noxious tendencies, narcissists can be a valuable addition to your company. Just be sure to select for desired behavior, tailor your training and development programs effectively, and increase individual accountability.

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