How to Spot and Deal with a Narcissistic Talent

When hiring talent, there’s a long list of qualifications that a global mobility manager relies on, aside from the job interview. If the talent meets all of them, well and good. If he turns out to be, say, a narcissist, not so good. It doesn’t matter if he has outstanding credentials, because he can affect relationships in a negative way.

Employees may complain or outright leave the company, if they cannot take his overweening sense of self-superiority and self-aggrandizement. But you can’t blame yourself. It’s hard to tell during the recruitment and hiring process.

If he has a contract to fulfill as well as a job to deliver, the best you can do is manage him—and leverage all that self-confidence to benefit the organization (even if he doesn’t think of it that way). He may need to learn things the hard way.

Fortunately, Silicon Valley and many places in Northern California are held under closer scrutiny and and anyone with a narcissistic bent is exposed instantly.

Determining if your talent is a narcissist is not easy, though. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a good-looking Greek who fell in love with his own image while looking at a pool of water. So entranced was he by his own beauty that he stared at his reflection until he died. Like their namesake, narcissists think the world revolves around them.

Still, there are many ways to know if your talent is narcissistic. One, they always put their self-interests first, before anybody else. They will never become team players. And probably what is most worrisome, especially if they are working with you at close range, they have an acute sense of entitlement.

They believe deep down that the world owes them the best in life. Some of them become lazy as a result, while others who may be hard-working will play the poor, embittered loser if they lose in a healthy competition. These latter ones might end up plotting against the winner.

Like Narcissus, they want to be admired and shine as the center of attention. They can’t stand it if others take the limelight. And when some of them become leaders, they tend to make decisions based on what will propel their career ladder even higher, without a thought for the greater good of the organization. While some of them can be charming, they betray their selfishness with an impulsive verbal assault on his colleagues. However, it is also possible that he may be suffering from a different malady. In this case, it’s better to talk to him about it.

First, be professional and maintain a healthy distance, advises learning and innovation expert Terry Brake.

Never open up to them because they will always exploit vulnerability of any kind. Make sure you’re always on your toes because they will try to manipulate you. And better make sure you deliver on your tasks; otherwise, they will find a way to use your lapses against you. Being at the top of your game may not intimidate them; but knowing (and resentfully at that) that the powers-that-be recognize your value will make them think twice about attacking you.

Emphasize performance — and resist their charms.

This research-based tip suggested by The Observer will force them to respect you. Some of them will try to get what they want by playing center stage and claiming to win the world for the company. It can all sound convincing, particularly if they have the strong personality and the skill set for it. But always reward performance, not their eloquence. And when they do commit to something, make them “pay up for it.” However, if they do fail, angering them by harsh criticism will be counterproductive. What you can do instead is stir them up to achieve — and by stroking their ego, they’ll stop licking their wounds and get back into the game.

One effective way of communicating with narcissistic assignees is to learn more than the usual about their language – the spoken one and their culture’s body language. That will stop them from misleading you with certain phrases or throwing you off by acting one emotion when they are feeling another.

Document all your transactions with them.

Because narcissists tend to think highly of themselves, they might believe wrongly that they are performing when they are actually missing the mark. They might spin your words of encouragement into a promise of a promotion.

Writing or typing down everything you discussed immediately after your conversation and sending same to him will be a reality check he cannot ignore. It’s also a weapon you can bring out in cases of heated dispute.