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Five reasons narcissists are successful at work — and what you can learn from them

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Narcissists can be very charismatic and are adept at playing office politics, says psychotherapist Amy Morin (author not pictured). Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
Narcissists can be very charismatic and are adept at playing office politics, says psychotherapist Amy Morin (author not pictured). Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, author, and the host of "The Verywell Mind Podcast."
  • She says despite their negative traits, narcissists can often be very successful in the workplace.
  • This is due to their charisma, extreme self-confidence, and willingness to take big risks.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

It's tough to work with a narcissist, but it can be even tougher watching them get ahead at work as a result of their narcissistic behavior. 

Author Amy Morin.
Author Amy Morin.

However, it's common for narcissists to succeed in the workplace. Research shows narcissists tend to get paid more and may be more likely to get promoted to leadership positions.

Here's how narcissists manage to get ahead at work.

1. They embellish their accomplishments

You'll never catch a narcissist downplaying their success. Instead, they'll typically overstate their achievements and exaggerate the role they play in the company's overall success.

While you might see right through their boastful comments, not everyone will recognise their gloating. Narcissists are charismatic and can charm many people into believing them, so some people will be impressed by a narcissist's grandstanding.

2. They take big risks

Whether they're going after the biggest deal in company history or employing a strategy that's never worked in the past, narcissists take huge risks. And of course, some of those risks will pay off.

Even when others warn them that their tactics aren't likely to work out, they remain steadfast in their position. They're so intent on gaining attention for their good work they'll do whatever it takes to succeed.

3. They're good political actors

A narcissist won't waste their time mentoring a junior-level employee or talking to colleagues unless it's going to somehow advance their own career. At work, narcissists know who to take advantage of and who to flatter.

A 2018 study published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal found that individuals with 'dark personality' — aka, socially aversive traits like narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism — know how to play the political game. 

Researchers found that these individuals consider themselves superior and feel entitled to certain privileges. The study also found that these people "seek to obtain favours by flattering others and pretending to like them" and have a ready "willingness to exploit others."

By nature, narcissists lack empathy, so they're not invested in supporting others or caring how other people feel. Consequently, they're more likely to use colleagues to advance their own agendas without feeling bad about who they hurt in the process.

4. They believe in themselves 

Self-doubt keeps a lot of people from reaching their greatest potential. But a narcissist believes they're the best and that arrogance helps them achieve many of their goals.

Whether they're applying for a promotion or launching a new product, they're convinced that they'll succeed. Their unwavering belief in themselves goes a long way toward helping them advance in the workplace.

5. They're undeterred by rejection

Rejection doesn't make them question themselves. Instead, they'll question the person who rejected them. They're more likely to think, "That person doesn't recognise talent when they see it" rather than, "I'm not the best candidate for the job." 

When faced with a public rejection, they'll likely make an excuse or publicly discredit the person who rejected them. Then, they'll likely vow to try again with more determination than ever before. 

Dealing with the frustration

It's frustrating to watch someone with a superiority complex skyrocket themselves to the front of the line. Still, there may be times when you can learn from this behaviour — watching a narcissist take risks or own their success might inspire you to step up sometimes, too.

However, don't let yourself get too distracted by their behaviour. Stay focused on what you can control — your attitude and effort when it comes to your own work.

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