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Narcissists Dismiss Advice Because They Think Others Are Incompetent

Why do narcissists generally show aversion to advice? A new study analysing the mechanisms behind the link between narcissism and advice-taking provides new insight into the behaviour. The paper, available on ScienceDirect, is published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.


Researcher Edgar E. Kausel from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, has described the behaviour as an epidemic. According to him, the “narcissism epidemic” is indeed an issue in workplaces. With the assistance of his team, he has looked into the possible causes as to why narcissist people dismiss advice.

Could it be that confidence accounts for narcissists declining words of advice? When the researchers evaluated any correlation, they found that confidence was not the cause.

The researchers carried a number of experiments to probe further. They tested the behaviour in light of accountability pressures. The results suggested that narcissists remained unaffected by the concept of accountability. On other hand, people who were more humble when they expected to provide explanations for their decisions would accept advice from others.

Kausel concludes that narcissists decline advice because they think lowly of others – they believe others are not competent. It is not confidence that causes them to eschew advice. Furthermore, narcissists do not curb their self-enhancement in the face of expectations to be assessed.

These findings might constitute invaluable information to business executives, points out a professor of management from the University of Arizona, Jerel Slaughter. This would be specially relevant since past studies have shown that highly narcissistic people tend to have greater chances at being promoted (Kausel explains that this is because they are better at selling themselves).

He believes that institutions should pay more attention at whom they are recruiting and promoting, because good leaders will give due consideration to advice given by both superiors and subordinates for the best interests of the firm while narcissists will not, and thus make the wrong choices. As Kausel points out, previous research shows that CEOs might incline to risky ventures because they do not pay heed to the advice of others.

Slaughter also thinks that narcissism levels of employees should be determined via tests. He adds that development programs can be implemented to assist employees in acknowledging and changing their behaviour.


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