By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I swear that half the people I work with lack empathy and are arrogant and completely self-absorbed. What can I do so they don't make me miserable?
A. Research reveals that most narcissists are aware of their self-absorption. Start by asking a potential hire or someone new to what extent do they agree with this, "I am a narcissist," on a scale of 1-10. Incredibly, truly self-absorbed people will generally give you a high number on the scale.
If you want to beat around the bush more, there are other terrific screening questions to catch your local workplace narcissist. Consider posing the following statements and questions to a person, either verbally or in writing, and see how they respond.
-I feel most people don't understand me and that only exceptional and unusual people really get me.
-If people criticize me, I may react with icy indifference or intense anger.
-If you ran the world do you think it would be a better place or does this thought seem frightening to you?
-Do you like to stand out in a crowd or blend in?
-Do you think there is a lot you can learn from other people or do you think you are much more capable than others?
-Are you very much like everyone else or are you exceptional?
-Are you comfortable depending on others to get things done or do you rarely depend on others to help you?
Some of these are based on the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality and some are from a test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). Oddly enough, the most powerful question in the entire inventory is simply to ask someone if they think they are narcissistic. It turns out that self-absorbed people are so self-absorbed they don't see a problem telling everyone their world is all about them.
The reason narcissists create so much havoc in their workplaces is that they have no empathy and no interest in anyone's agenda but their own. The people who have a full personality disorder will run over anyone to get what they want. They will cheat, lie and manipulate in an effective cold-blooded fashion.
However, even normal people are becoming more narcissistic in our current business environment. A high-tech society obsessed with fame, selfies and image is encouraging an unprecedented epidemic of self-absorption.
In the workplace if everybody doesn't win, believe me, the people who lose try to get even. The only way to create solid long-term profitability is to have empathy for everyone's agenda and negotiate solutions that don't run any one party over.
In the beginning, narcissists are the prettiest most charismatic peacock at any party. They flatter you, charm you and promise you the moon. Once you fall prey to their glamour, you will find that you are only a tool to be used to achieve their own ends.
Before you make your next business decision, next hire or take another job, examine more carefully the level of narcissism in the situation you are about to enter. If you screen out your workplace narcissists, you will find yourself surrounded by grateful, empathic and loyal allies, and your career will thrive!
The last word(s)
Q. I am noticing recurring problems I have on the job. I can easily see how other people put me in bad positions. Can I stop these problems from continuing in the coming year?
A. Yes, ruthlessly examine each and any contribution you are making to these problems and change yourself. Your workplace will change when you do.
Q. I have a coworker who says really rude stuff in meetings. I've been confronting him, and my boss says I'm creating a hostile workplace. Am I wrong?
A. No, but you are jeopardizing your job. Let your boss tackle this guy; you cannot supervise a coworker.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the January 25, 2015 - February 7, 2015 edition.