Perhaps the 2011 movie Horrible Bosses wasn’t so farfetched in its illustration of the extreme behaviors of superiors in the workplace. Psychologist and author Oliver James suggests people with narcissistic and Machiavellian personalities thrive more in the modern workplace. He came to this conclusion after reviewing dysfunctional temperaments among professional workers.
In his book, Office Politics, James cautions how the modern working world is a dangerous battleground, where game-playing, duplicity, and malevolence are prevalent. James reveals the murky underside of modern office life, highlighting the nasty practices that propel people to the top, and shows how industries and cultures foster this behavior.
In business, a cutthroat approach to problem solving is expected, if the situation calls for it. Not everyone can lay off an entire division of laborers without allowing the guilt and worry to consume them. Bosses, specifically self-focused types based on James’ observations, complete for dominance and attention with little regard for the feelings or opinions of others. James warns, in the Daily Mail, these types of people are diabolically calculating, and capable of doing just about anything in order to achieve their goals.
One fictional archetype would be Gordon Gekko, a role Michael Douglas portrayed in the 1987 film Wall Street. Gekko’s insatiable avarice appetite is fueled further by his carefree willingness to pitch associates into the line of fire or breaking laws he feels are not applicable to him. Inevitably, Gekko is caught and convicted on insider trading.
Narcissistic personality disorder is a type of mental condition. Narcissism can refer either to a fairly normal or abnormal psychological condition of self-love, a form of elitism. Traits include infuriating arrogance, egotism, pronounced vanity, conceitedness, selfishness, and a lack of empathy and compunction. Whether they are capable of executing a task or not, narcissists are able to project airs of unflappable confidence, and foist failures upon the laps of others.
However, being a self-important narcissist does not automatically translate to success in every aspect of life. A lack of empathy and having an inflated sense of entitlement can be a death nail in personal relationships. Narcissists are incapable or unwilling to admit faults, a common trait of the mental disorder. They blame partners for their own personal errors or failures. They encumber loved ones with the sole culpability for everything seemingly wrong with the relationship. Unless you are severely codependent and abide the manipulation, that sort of treatment puts a strain on relationships and isn’t tolerated for very long. Yet in business, that same behavior can be revered and rewarded.
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