Countering the Age of Narcissism

I try to pay attention to the game as the assistant coach. However, I am bombarded by begging from players on the bench: “Brother Green, can I get back into the game?” I try to ignore by pointing: “Ask the coach.” Every weekend was like déjà vu for me. A bunch of 8th graders were trying to tell us they were just as good as high school athletes.

These 8th graders were undersized and no match for more experienced ‘ballers.’ The basketball league was designed for high school students. I felt they should be graceful to be allowed to play with our high schoolers. Instead, it was a steady stream of complaints and ingratitude from some 8th graders. I wondered how I got stuck with Gen Next.

Today’s organizations face unprecedented competition from all fronts. Many institutions desperately need to infuse their organizations with fresh leadership and new ideas.  Yet, there is a hesitation for this transformation. Many baby boomers argue that the current generation is not ready.  These young workers are called many names such as Generation Y (Gen Y), Echo Boomers, or Millennials (born 1977 to 2002). Most experts predict the generation will be a major factor in society. There are more than 70 million of them.

However, they have been described in the workplace as lazy and self-absorbed with their own worth. Laura Clark, columnist, argues, “Today’s young workers, it appears, believe they deserve jobs with big salaries, status and plenty of leisure time – without having to put in the hours.” According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters study, there is a new breed of graduate ‘divas’ who expect everything to fall into their laps. These people believe they are a hot commodity in the job market. Yet, their managers describe them as ‘unrealistic,’ ‘self-centered,’ and ‘greedy.’

For the first time in American history, organizations have four different generations in their workforce. Sadly, it’s not without problems. Companies don’t understand this young generation. They desire to share in organizational decisions on day one of employment and be promoted instantaneously. With managers who had to ‘pay their dues.’ The Gen Y mentality is a hard pill to swallow.

Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Keith Campbell track this trend of self-absorption in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.  They explain, “Narcissism- a very positive and inflated view of the self is everywhere….Understanding the narcissism is important because its long-term consequences are destructive to society.”  In the 1960s, individuals led causes for the greater good. During the 1970s, there was a focus on self-admiration. By the 1980s, society had totally gone to ‘looking out for oneself.” 

Unfortunately, some managers distort the work value of this emerging generation by stereotyping them as selfish. Baby boomer managers complain about the difficulty of managing Gen Y employees. But, didn’t these baby boomers raise them to be narcissistic anyway? Therefore, it isn’t fair to label them totally as expecting entitlement.  

Twenge and Campbell note, “Parenting became more indulgent, celebrity worship grew, and reality TV became a showcase of narcissistic people.” One must wonder what Gen Y will pass along to their own children.

As more baby boomers retire, a new generation of leaders will replace them. These new leaders will cross age, gender, race, and geography. I certainly hope that Gen Y can overcome the negativism surrounding them and be prepared to accept future leadership roles.  I pray it’s not too late.

 Is the Age of Narcissism solely a characteristic of Gen Yers?  How can organizations infuse the right kind of team-oriented values, given cross generational conflicts?

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green

34 thoughts on “Countering the Age of Narcissism

  1. Narcissism is not just a characteristic of the “Gen Yers”. However, sadly, they are a product of their “right now” culture. Many of them have never known having to wait long for anything, the disappointment of not making the team, or the satisfaction of just knowing you did a good job without the fanfare of reward.
    This new generation is to the corporate world as what Physician Assistants (P.A.s) and nurse practitioners (N.P.s) are to the medical community. However, this particular issue is not a generational issue so much as it is an entitlement issue. The two can be similarly viewed because both issues are made up of the same mindsets. The P.A.s and N.P.s feel as if they are entitled to a special in-road to the primary care setting with full physician practice benefits. While they are filling these much needed slots because physicians have become over specialized in recent years, they specifically want the same benefits as physicians, such as full prescription writing roles. Yet, they don’t want to put the extra work in necessary to obtain these roles or physician status. A physician goes to school for double the time as P.A.s and N.P.s and triple the time with the inclusion of residency.
    Some people fail to realize that it is necessary to work hard and train for a long time to be entitled to do a job worthy of such training. This is the same as the “thankless 8th grade basketball players”. Just because you are given the privilege of running with the big dogs does not give you an entitlement to take over their positions. Just because you have been given an opportunity to continue to learn from those more experienced does not give you the necessary know how and experience it takes to keep up with them. This is true whether it is basketball, within the corporate world, inside the medical community, or at your local retail store down the street. It must be emphasized that these younger, more inexperienced individuals are the future of all entities in America and need to take that burden seriously while enduring suffering of being underlings for a season and keep their eye on the final outcome of a seat at the top in due time.
    However, organizations can infuse the right kind of team oriented values with respect to the cross generational conflicts. According to DiCecco, any manager should “become conscious of any outmoded ways you’ve run your company simply because “that’s the way you’ve always done it.” Hold firm to your entrepreneurial beliefs, but see how you can adapt the expression of them to appeal to this new breed of employee.” Higgins states that there are several networking tips that will melt the generations together into a team alliance such as: leverage existing relationships, value the power of diversity, experience new ways of doing things with an open mind, get involved, and practice active listening. Other conflicts such as the expectation of full benefits of a physician based on association as in the P.A. or N.P. mentality could be counterbalanced with good communication and some nationwide and consistent laws governing the limitations of these practices as well.

    Dicecco, Vince. “Managing Today’s Cross-generational Workforce.” SGIA – Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. Web. 21 June 2010. .
    Huggins, Kim. “Cross-Generational Networking: We Can Learn From Each Other.” Do It In Person. 22 Mar. 2010. Web. 21 June 2010. .

    • Katrina, outstanding points!!!! You said so much.

      However, I want to focus on one thought: “It must be emphasized that these younger, more inexperienced individuals are the future of all entities in America and need to take that burden seriously while enduring suffering of being underlings for a season and keep their eye on the final outcome of a seat at the top in due time.”

      Yes, going thru trial and tribulations build character. Yet, some folks have been shielded from this natural occurrence. Given this reality, how does an organization bring an employee through this growing up phase (you aren’t ‘all a bag of chips)?

      Can we get deeper?

  2. There is no doubt that there is a changing tide in today’s workforce. While hard work, determination, and sacrifice remains to be the recipe for success and prosperity, the “up and comers” of today are rapidly forgetting that fact. As the article states many of these new workers are of the opinion that if they simply get a degree of some kind, they will be carted to the top of the heap in a golden BMW driving along a red carpet! I myself was in that group. I graduated from college thinking that I immediately be getting a great job, with great benefits and a high salary. Man was I wrong. I came to realize that I would have to scratch, claw, fight, and beg for a position of even the most meager of salaries. I had an average upbringing. And so as the blog suggests I do not think that think any blame can be placed on poor or ineffective parenting. I believe that the basic mechanisms of both hard work and the logistics of obtaining employment should fall upon the educational system. Both high schools and colleges should more effectively prepare students to enter the work force.

  3. Ashley Merryman, one of the authors of the 2009 hit book NutureShock, that used science to target issues such as self-esteem and IQ in children said, “It turns out that achievement builds self-esteem, but building self-esteem does not increase achievement—it’s a one-way street, not a two-way.” I think there has been too much sheltering in Gen Y. By creating a self-esteem that is not associated with hard work and achievement, there is little drive to better self and work toward a higher goal. Also, it has created a generation that can’t take criticism and feels that outward rewards are necessary for every achievement.

    As NutureShock suggests, changing the vocabulary when dealing with children to change their drive from one of outward rewards to inner self-fulfillment is one key to linking achievements and self-esteem. One way we may be able to increase the maturity of the rising generation in the workforce is to make them accountable for their achievements or lack thereof. Praise shouldn’t be given haphazardly, and when it is given, it should be focused on the hard work done, not praising the employee’s intelligence, etc.

  4. Collier, I hate to do this, but I am going to have to disagree with you. I DO think that part of the blame is on parenting – not all of it of course, but some of it. I agree that the educational system should more adequately prepare students for the “real world” but it is NOT completely up to them. Children used to learn to tie shoes, use table manners and other similar tasks at home. But increasingly, more and more things are left up to the school teachers – believe it or not, this takes away from time where kids should be learning how to do math, read, etc. The curriculum facilitator for Inskip Elementary School in Knoxville, TN , who has over 20 years in the public school system, says in an interview, “no one takes responsibility…and that carries on right into the schools”. You cannot take the blame off the parents; they should play a role. The parents should be pivotal in preparing their kids for the future and the “real-world”. If they are not preparing their children for the “real world,” you can hardly call them parents. Care-givers, maybe, but parenting implies significantly more.

  5. No, narcissism is a psychological term given to people, not entire generations. Stereotyping an entire generation as narcissistic is analogous to grouping all patients with the same diagnosis together and treating them the exact same way. As doctors in training, we have learned that people need to be treated on an individual basis. With that being said, I do agree that the shared history each generation has together does provoke some similarities within the groups. Generation Y is opportunistic and willing to work; however the work may appear unconventional to those outside of the Generation Y. The atmosphere of the workplace is definitely changing as more generations join the workforce, but different is not always so terrible. “Unlike the generations that have gone before them, Gen Y has been pampered, nurtured and programmed with a slew of activities since they were toddlers, meaning they are both high-performance and high-maintenance” (Armour). Armour makes a great point that members of Generation Y were raised to be ambitious and confident by the baby boomers. I find great irony in the fact that conflict exists in the workplace between one generation and the result of the ideals they passed down as parents, mentors, and leaders.

    Armour, Stephanie. “Generation Y: They’ve arrived at work with a New Attitude.” USA Today, 2005.

  6. Generational conflicts are not new. In their article, Trezsniewski and Donnellan state that in the 1920’s “flappers” were a concern, and according to an article in Time Magazine published in 1967, “Hippies” were a concern. With each new generation entering the workforce, there are differences in their work ethics and values compared to the generation who has already been working for years.
    The new generation needs to take into consideration the values of the older working generations. I think it would be a good idea for older generation workers to mentor the newer generation employees. This would give both parties a chance to see how the other works and what their values are. It is important to consider and try to understand each other’s values and incorporate them into the workplace. This could be beneficial for the workplace and for the company as a whole.

    Trezsniewsk, K.H., & Donnellan, M.B. (2009, May). Are Today’s Young People Really that Different From Previous Generations? American Society of Trial Consultants, 21 (3), 1-11.

  7. The problem of narcissism in the workplace might not be a new concept, but it is one that is becoming more problematic in this new generation. One of the most severe problems is how a narcissistic manager influences the company and his or her surrounding employees. The narcissistic manager will surround himself with enablers or followers that allow him to be the only source of input. They will also make the workplace a hostile environment for those that do not believe in their philosophy. I see the main problem arising in this generation is the ability to cope without being rewarded in the form of bonuses and promotions. An effective manager needs to have the ability to listen to other solutions and ideas in order to make decisions. Older generations that are the current upper level managers will look to the exceptions to the stereotype of this generation to promote and become the future leaders of this organization. If this is made clear to new employees from this generation, they will be forced to change or deal with their stagnant placement in the organization.

  8. Parenting and culture have much to do with the personal values and behavior we display. However, as we become adults we tend to make adjustments to accommodate our immediate demands. One of the needs of every individual is the need to feel important. As such, we strive to satisfy this need by self-proclaiming this importance if we don’t get it from others. This self exaltation, however can become unmeasured and result in narcissism. Still, this is not a new occurrence. Trzesniewski on her book states that “students’ narcissism was no greater in 2006 than in 1976.” I attribute the current emphasis on narcissistic behavior in corporate America as an unwillingness to accept it as a normal human trait and to properly guide it. Every generation brings with it different characteristics and needs as did those of the great depression and the “baby boomers.” This natural narcissistic quality has been present through ever generation, but the awareness of it and the response to it is what has changed.
    Penny Herscher, one of the authors of The Benefits of the Narcissist Generation states that “narcissists have some advantages. Their confidence allows them to take risks others might balk at.” Leadership in corporations should search for ways to motivate their managers to look past their preconceptions about this new generation and find ways to engage them in cooperation. With appropriate guidance and accountability, corporate leaders can educate these energetic and fearless employees to invest their creativity for the good of the company.

    – Herscher, Penny. The Benefits of the Narcissistic Generation. 02 Oct, 2007. 23 Jun, 2010.
    – Trzesnieswki. Is narcissism on the upswing in the young? Studies disagree. 20 Apr, 2009. 24 Jun, 2010

    • I agree with you Miguel that narcissism is an age old intrinsic characteristic that everyone possesses. Is it possible that this issue of Gen Y being narcissistic has come to the forefront because of technological advancements that have allowed employers around the country to collectively accumulate such data about their employees and arrive at such a conclusion? I think this must be the case. The emergence of mass media and the internet have allowed people to discover that this issue is common all over the country. I think if there were such technology prior to the 1980s, the same complaints would have arisen.

      Nevertheless, employers have found ways to cope with it in the past. Perhaps current employers and managers should consult with their elders and past bosses on how they managed such a characteristic of employees.

      We should also not limit the presence of Gen Yers behavior only in the traditional work environment. If we look at sports and the National Basketball Association (NBA) in particular, one can see that a player being narcissistic is detrimental not only to the team, but also the individual player because the player would be characterized as not able to lead a team. An example is Kobe Bryant who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. He has been able to win both the 2009 and 2010 NBA championships because of changing his style of play from self-seeking accomplishments, to passing the ball more often and allowing his teammates to also shine; which ironically rewards him abundantly more. So people, be like Kobe even though he’ll never “be like Mike”.

  9. I don’t believe narcissism is solely a characteristic of Generation Yers, only more prevalent throughout Generation Y. Most Baby Boomers were raised in a time where their parents worked hard, and they learned the value of “putting in time” from what they saw. This generation lives in a time where young celebrities and socialites are praised and overpaid for performing little work and living lavish lifestyles, and this message is inherently conveyed to impressionable Generation Yers as being standard. As a result of the strong work ethic of the Baby Boomers, they receive extravagant incomes and provide things for their children and grandchildren in which they had to work for, which explains Generation Y’s self-entitlement.
    To better manage multiple generations, an organization and it’s workers should first understand that Generation Y is very diverse, and that a label cannot be placed on the entire generation. Gen Y includes lazy individuals, working individuals, self-entitled individuals, and a slew of combinations, but not everyone is expecting quick promotions, large checks, and Sangrias in St. Tropez. The work environment should tell the managers the type of Gen Yer they are dealing with. In a hospital setting there is a ranking, and if a Gen Yer is a physician, clearly they are willing to put in work for benefits. If an individual is a PA, maybe they expect the benefits of being a physician, but don’t want to put in the work, but that is a subjective method that can be employed to assess the type of individual they are working with and managing. From there, the managers of the organization can group the employees into departments with the same goals and benefits.

    Literature Cited
    Martin, C, Tuglan, B. Managing Generation Y. 2001. Pp.17-28

  10. In my opinon Gen Y is probalby as narcisstic as their parents and grandparents were. Whilst this statement may seem to be extreme at the first outlook, the very nature of that which makes us human has not changed. If we have not changed in our physiology, then what is different has to have come from outside. I am of the opinion that Gen Y has one characteristic that sets them apart from generations before them. They are probably the most outspoken generation so far in the history of the work place. I am convinced that the parents and grandparents of Gen Y’ers wanted the same benefits from the workplace, they wanted to take vacations more often, they wanted more money but the difference was that they were not as vocal about their needs and wishes. Why? Could it be that they were raised in different times when their parents inculcated into them different value systems or perhaps TV was not an eculturating factor in their lives. That is the question to be answered. It is therefore imperative that organizations find creative ways to help generation Y’ers develop a more realistic view to employment and corporate culture. At the same time companies need to realise that they also need to be flexible enough to change. In other words both parties need to reach some form of compromise. In USA today Armour speaks of a Xerox company program that encourages Generation Y’ers to “express” themselves. This is a great example of a company changing its culture to meeet the mind set of its new young employees. Companies can also infuse more team oriented values to Generation Y’ers by incorporating team building activities into their daily work activities. Our concept of continuing education should be intergrated into the working day where Generation Yers engage in activities that teach them that the success of the organization is dependant on a “We” vs “I” approach.

  11. Generation Y employees are described as being “fickle, high maintenance and having a sense of entitlement.” While this Narcissism is a characteristic of Generation Y, other generations cannot be completely void of this title either. In my opinion, these characteristics are just more observable and prominent in today’s culture. Every generation has workers that fit these generalizations depending on the values with which they were raised. If parents and others praise a generation all their lives and don’t show them the correct way to deal with failure, the generation will grow up with these current narcissistic generalized values. Generation Y is possibly the generation that is more public and open with their thoughts of entitlement.

    In order to address these cross generational conflicts, managers must get the “different generations communicating so they can appreciate what each seeks and identify what they hold in common.” Managers need to create an environment where employers are dependent on each other to achieve the goals and values of the company and by doing so employees have to depend on each other to reach outcomes. The employees will be able to “discover the creative solutions that can bridge their differences and allow them to interdependently work together to achieve shared objectives.”

    Bujak, Joseph S. “Overcoming Generational Differences.” Healthcare Executive. (Sept/Oct 2009): pp 80-83.

    Macky, Keith., Dianne Gardner & Stewart Forsyth. “Generational Differences at Work: Introduction and Overview.” Journal of Managerial Psychology. Vol. 23 No. 8 (2008): pp. 857-861.

  12. The Age of Narcissism, although dramatized by the Generation Yers, has been around for much longer than the past couple decades. The influence of reality TV and celebrities as well as the general laziness and sense of self-entitlement of the youth today has escalated and promoted the amount of narcissism in society. A meta-analysis by Dr. Jacqueline Bergman showed that “almost two-thirds of recent college students were reported to be above the mean 1979-1985 narcissism score, and the mean narcissism score of 2006 college students approached that of a celebrity sample of movie stars, reality TV winners, and famous musicians.” In addition, the fact that many kids, despite their socioeconomic status, are getting pampered by their parents up until college or even after has resulted in many young adults having trouble with the transition of this self-entitlement to understanding the true selfless role of a leader and manager.

    Organizations could hold seminars that address this exact issue in order to promote effective team-oriented values. The seminars could be held primarily for the Generation Yers, showing that there are many young adults that have the same narcissistic mentality and sense of entitlement. The reality of the situation as well as strategies to overcome this could aid in molding the individuals into becoming better managers.

    Bergman, Jacqueline Z. Daly, Joseph P. Westerman, James W. “Narcissism in Management Education.” Academy of Management Proceedings. 2008, p1-6.

  13. Gen Yer’s are not so much narcissistic but a product of the entitlement given to them from society and then a quest to emulate what they have seen growing up, essentially not knowing any better. The term McMansion is not as esoteric as corporate etiquette when applied to this context. Compounding this argument, the status quo of business behavior is not law but rather a suggestion and subject to contestation. The ability to solve problems and achieve corporate goals are confronted with a new angle of attack and met on Gen Yer’s terms and conditions. Essentially what it boils down to is GenYer’s have a sense of independence and don’t mind the task but want to do it their way. Additionally, they have come to witness such corporate perks by Google like flexible hours, flexible dress code, and the ability to network online to collaborate to solve problems outside of the company. This drives a paradigm shift in Boomers and Gen Xer’s management style to accommodate their workforce. Lastly, experiencing the backstabbing and felonious actions of Enron and AIG execs (Boomers) leaves Yer’s entering the workforce with a lack of the inherent loyalty seen in previous generations.

    Armour, Stephanie 2005. “Generation Y: They’ve arrived at work with a new attitude.”USA TODAY.

  14. The narcissistic attitude displayed by some members of generation Y is a direct creation of the Baby Boomers themselves. The sense of entitlement began after WWII when that generation began to spoil the young boomers back in the 1950’s and it has just continued to grow since then. However, in today’s global economy where Americans are forced to compete more and more with workers in other countries for jobs that can be filled overseas the entitlement attitude will result in total failure. The reality of the situation is that while Gen Y’ers are just entering the workforce, they will be forced to come down off their high horse and adjust their attitudes immediately if they ever want to move out of their parents’ houses. I believe that a decade from now the Gen Y’ers will have a completely different attitude once the reality of life and the modern job market has sunk in, once they realize that fortune and leisure are not going to come easy. According to Tammy Erikson’s article “Generation Y: Really All that Narcissistic?” in the March 3, 2008 issue of Business Week “Critics are concerned that the culture of praise Y’s experienced as a child will reach deeply into the adult world, suggesting they feel insecure if not regularly complemented.” That is the reason I feel Boomers are to blame for the attitude of entitlement now displayed by man Y’s.

  15. Although our generation may be labeled as narcissistic, I would hesitate to allow this to be an appropriate label for our generation. The American culture has changed so much within the past years that new features of modern life make our generation appear more narcissistic than actually so. In fact, in a report by Donnellan, Trzeniewski, and Robins, they claim, “evidence for an increase in narcissism is far from clear-cut and there are good reasons why researchers should be wary of labeling any apparent changes in this multifaceted dimension of personality as evidence of an epidemic.” I think there are ways mangers can take advantage of the positive characteristics of our generation. For one consider how being given special attention and treatment has increased the standards and expectations of our generation. According to Howe and Strauss, “during the 1990’s, aptitude test scores have risen within every racial and ethnic group. Eight in ten teenagers say its ‘cool’ to be smart”. Our generation must continue to be challenged in the workplace, and although I would not say we are narcissistic, I would say our social drive to ‘be the best’ can facilitate our ability to succeed.
    Donnellan, M.; Trzesniewski, K.; Robins, R. An emerging epidemic of narcissism or much ado about nothing? Journal of Research in Personality. Vol. 43, June 2009.
    Howe, N.; Strauss, W. Millennials rising: the next great generation. Random House, Inc. 2000. Pg. 9.

  16. Narcissism is not solely a Gen Y phenomenon. They just happen to have a combination of factors that conspire to channel it. In his book titled Mediated: How Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, Proffesor de Zengotita, exposed the “ego-massaging “ media in which we are all absorbed-1.
    Whether it’s Jack Dorsey founding Twitter or Mark Zuckerberg starting facebook, Millenials’ quest for idealism and inspiration has yielded major revolutions in our society. Even though some of those inventions themselves are used to further channel our self-absorbed ideas.
    The narcissistic nature of gen Y can create workplace conflict. In order to deal with this mindset, many large firms are analyzing the conflict and trying to design new strategies to help older generations understand Gen Y, while at the same time making Millennials more comfortable and understand that they need to work for what they have. An example would be Goldman Sachs’ training programs that use actors to play millennials who aggressively seek more responsibility, feedback, and involvement in decision the making process. After the enactment, employees discuss and debate the generational differences they seen on display and how they can best solve them.
    Cited Sources:
    1-de Zengotita, Thomas: Mediated: How Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It. Bloomsburg. 2005.

  17. The psychological and social term Narcissism is derived from ancient Greek mythology based on the characteristics and behavior of Narcissus. Considering that excessive selfishness has been observed throughout history, I think one must cautious in arguing that this is a new and emerging trend and that only the younger generation is guilty. Many evolutionary biologists argue that the quest for survival encompasses a “me-first” type attitude. There have been many recent studies to suggest that the emergence of social networking has actually promoted the mindset of narcissism by encouraging individuals to become even more self-absorbed in their own personal pages. Much of the data actually correlates that social networking behavior is reflective of actual behavior in the real world. (Buffardi and Cambell, 2008). Regardless of belief in the semantics, source, and even trend of Narcissism, one thing is certain, is that Narcissists do have passion. I think the key for managers is to cultivate and transform that passion which is self-absorbed into a passion that is group and organization informed. Implementing training such as Meyers-Briggs, team building exercises and even psychological counseling can help a narcissist become “self-aware” and realize that others have a role in an organization. If this passion and energy for self can be focused into the organization even narcissists can add value to mangers and the organization.
    1. Kapur, Raman Managing Primitive Emotions in Organizations Group Analysis; Mar2009, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p31-46, 16p,

    2. Buffardi, L. and Campbell, K. Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 10, 1303-131

  18. I think that Neil brought up very good points regarding the increasing popularity of social networking websites perhaps enabling narcissistic behavior in our society today. The workplace certainly cannot help but be affected by this. Penney and Spector found that narcissistic employees “experience more anger than others because of the tendency to maintain constant vigilance to ego threats, and when threats to their egos surface, they are likely to respond.” Resulting counterproductive behaviors are disruptive to the workplace. Behavior patterns rarely spontaneously disappear, so if these are not eliminated, they will chip away at a company’s efficiency, effectiveness, and potentially cohesive workforce. As IT Support Services manager Jean Ritala suggests, involving health professionals such as psychologists in the education of managers and employees of various personality types increases early recognition of that type. Essentially, the more aware one can be of the “warning signs” of a narcissistic employee, the earlier that action can be taken. Likewise, involving HR in the form of staff development workshops, appropriate documentation of any situations, etc. might help in pre-empting disruption.

    1. “Neutralizing narcissists – Dealing with controlling, manipulative bullies in the workplace.” Posted by Ross Arrowsmith. Accessed Jul 4, 2010.
    2. Penney, L. M., & Spector, P. E. (2002). Narcissism and counterproductive work behavior: Do bigger egos mean bigger problems? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 10, 126–134.

  19. I think it has been well-noted that narcissism extends beyond Gen Y and is prevalent throughout all generations. Regardless, the prevalence is increasing and consequently we must look to confront this trend of narcissism in the workplace to ensure successful organizations in the future. Narcissism in the workplace can be highly disruptive and it is often difficult for organizations to protect themselves from this type of behavior. Bradley Wesner, in his paper ‘Responding to the Workplace Narcisssist,’ interestingly states that most studies have looked at Narcissists within leadership position in which many are extremely successful. However, he notes that when in the lower levels of organizations they become much more ‘caustic.’ I think dealing with narcissism in the workplace begins with proper communication. It is important to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the narcissist and set appropriate goals for them to reach. Therefore, success and failure can be judged on quantitative rather than qualitative terms decreasing the potential for grandiosity created within the mind of the narcissist as to his value. By this way, I think the manager captures the ability of the characteristic of the narcissist into a productive realm that benefits the company. This provides a starting point in which managers can deal with narcissistic behaviors.

    Wesner, Bradley S. “Responding to the Workplace Narcissist.” Indiana University Graduate School: July 2007.

  20. Being a product of the Gen Y era, I can appreciate the need for an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Unfortunately, many of my generational peers aren’t aware of that concept. Around the developed world, more and more twenty-somethings are staying home with their moms and dads so they can pursue their interests instead of worrying about secure jobs that will pay off mortgages. (Vencat) However, it is unfair to stereotype an entire population. Meyers Briggs and other personality testing is often beneficial in understanding the different personalities which could prove beneficial in bridging the generation gap. This could possible leave many good jobs available once the baby boomers are no longer physically able to continue working. I believe that the “spoiling” of many of these younger workers resulted in narcissistic personalities which will eventually force them into hardships before they realize the importance of hard work and upper levels of education. When you hit the rock bottom and have nothing people often gain the motivation needed to succeed.
    1. Narcissists in Neverland, Gen-Yers say they are willing to make financial sacrifices to make the world a better place. But how long can they really expect to work less, volunteer more–and count on their aging parents to push back retirement? byEmily Flynn Vencat, Newsweek. October 16, 2007

  21. Narcissists are not confined to Generation Y. I believe that they are found in every generation and in most high ranking positions in Fortune 500 companies. Some characteristics of Narcissists are that they are usually successful; goal orientated, and have no empathy for others. These seem like the characteristics of a “go getter” business person. They are charismatic, well spoken, and funny. They disrespect boundaries and other’s privacy. These are the type of people that one would want working for their company, not against their company. However, narcissists tend to work best by themselves and that is not always their job description. Narcissists can easily manipulate their coworkers to establish control in situations. This would most defiantly ruin company moral and productivity. The article “The It’s all about me syndrome” suggests organizations employ a psychologist to deal with Narcissists. This is unnecessary as most people do not truly have narcissistic personality disorder. I would suggest team building exercises, sensitivity training and employee bonding. If people feel like they are a part of a hard working efficient team then they will be more invested in the mutual success or failure of that team.
    Hoffman, T. (2008). The “It’s All About Me” Syndrome. Computer World , 32.

  22. I want to play devil’s advocate here. This thread has discussed the narcissism of Generation Y and the narcissism that all generations have felt when entering the workplace. But who is to say that Baby Boomers and the Generation X are not being narcissistic as well? The baby boomers might be viewed as narcissistic in that they are entitled to their positions because they have been in the workplace the longest. Generation X may be able to be viewed as narcissistic because they have put in the time and they are undoubtedly the next in line. Generation Y has received the brunt of the narcissistic comments and judgments, but they may just have the unfortunate position of being the youngest and most naïve. We should not be so quick to shake a finger at Generation Y, when other generations may be exhibiting narcissism in their own way. The older generation has been complaining about youngsters since the beginning of time. As the often mis-attributed quote by Socrates says, “Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” And I have little doubt that his parents felt the same way about him and his generation.

  23. In today’s world many youth are highly educated and competitive; Gen Yers are multitaskers, tenacious, and technologically invested. Some of the narcissism previously discussed in your blog might refer to a generational gap in communication, which Greg Hammill (author of “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees”) explains further: “each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits, and motivational buttons. Learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings in the workplace and the world of business.” He further tables workplace characteristics of the four generations currently in the workplace to elucidate some of our differences in work ethic, communication, motivation, and reward system. To work effectively and efficiently, we need to understand our generational characteristics and learn how to use them effectively in dealing with each individual.

    Hammill, Grag. “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees.” Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). 2005. Web. 13 July 2010. .

  24. In order to create an organizational wide set of team-values, the top managers must first understand what causes the difference in each cross generations set of beliefs, cultures, and values. In order to fully understand each section, this requires manager’s to make certain assumptions about people which requires a small amount of stereotyping. Although stereotyping can led to bad decisions, in this case “generalizations are better than assuming everyone operates the same way.”(1) If a manager operates a business based on his personal values and beliefs, there will be many unhappy employees, and possibly a non-functional work environment. After a manager understands where every person comes from, they can produce a work environment that partially applies to each cross generation. For example, being able to give the Veterans a respectful, orderly environment while offering the freedom to use the minds of the technology savvy Generation X. Small changes such as allowing employees to decorate their desk with anything they desire, as long as it is orderly and respectful. This allows Gen X to use their open minds and creativity while keeping the respectful values of the Veterans, and allowing everone to work together in the long-run.
    1.) “Managing Today’s Cross-generational Workforce.” SGIA – Specialty Graphic Imaging Association. Web. 15 July 2010. .

  25. There is much debate on the effectiveness and work ethic of “Generation Yers.” However, there has been no significant data to support or deny the effect of generational conflict or narcissism in the work place. In Millennials’ (Lack of) Attitude Problem,” Kowske lays out the current data as it stands. In fact, Generation Y individuals, according to Kowske et al, are more satisfied with job security, recognition, and career development and advancement, but similar in satisfaction with other generations in pay, benefits, and the work itself. So it seems that Gen Ys are not so much narcissistic, just generally different in outlook. The manager today needs to evaluate intrinsically and discover whether or not the cost of tailoring intervention to each generation is cost effective when compared to the expected benefits.

    Kowske, Brenda J. et al. “Millennials’ (Lack of) Attitude Problem: An Empirical Examination of Generational Effects on Work Attitudes” Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 2 (June, 2010), pp. 265-279.

  26. The narcissistic generation of workers called “gen Yers” is definitely a real problem. But, why did the “gen Yers” become narcissistic. I truly believe that narcissism is not solely a characteristic of this new generation. Upbringing, and peer influences play a huge role in this. Not that those parents are 100% to blame, but I believe that the baby boomers of the 50’s and 60’s raised a generation in the wake of the rebellion of the age. The “Gen Yers” know that they can attain anything they desire. So they stop at nothing to attain that prize. This generation does not seek to be the average co-worker. They want to be doctors, lawyers, fortune 500 CEO’s and


  27. There is clear evidence that the attitude of the future generation of workforce is deteriorating. The philosophy nowadays seems to earn a quick buck, whatever the moral costs may be. The article states that new workers have formed the opinion that just because they earned a college degree, they are entitled the luxuries only people who have put in real work have earned.

    I believe this attitude comes from the fact that the younger generations are seeing the older generations living out of their means. The evidence is everywhere for this. The average credit card debt has skyrocketed for the average household (Weston). In addition, people were taking sub-prime mortgages for properties they clearly could not afford long-term (Arnold, 2007). Perhaps, workers could have sustained this high-maintenance lifestyle; however, the economy tanked and jobs were being shipped overseas. Unfortunately, I don’t think the USA will ever prosper as it did post World War II. It is a simple fact that there are foreign workers willing to do the same work for much cheaper.

    The older generation needs to set a better example for us. This means, they should limit their credit card debts, only buy properties they can afford paying mortgage payments for long term, and not financing purchases that will deteriorate in value overtime.

    Works Cited

    Arnold, C. (2007, August 7). Economists Brace for Worsening Subprime Crisis. Retrieved July 17, 2010, from NPR:

    Weston, L. P. (n.d.). The truth about credit card de. Retrieved July 18, 2010, from MSN Money:

  28. Each generation before us had difficulty with the prior generation so it’s a matter of communication that will help solve this dilemma. Upbringing has much to do with one’s perception. Culture, values, beliefs start in the home and continue to build with exposure through community. Parents are doing a disservice to society by continually spoiling their offspring’s and not instilling in them hard work, sense of authority, and responsibility it takes to be successful. I agree that culture and education has an impact on the mentality of the Millenials, however, our minds develop at an early age and are most influenced within our own homes. Multiple elements of society has caused this age of Narcissism which includes Television and the Internet.
    The best way to create team-oriented values within generations is if they have common goals and incentives. A team is a unit, just like in a basketball team, therefore if the team can either advance together, or not advance at all. If this approach is taken, then cross generational conflicts can subside. Each team has a player with a particular strength and it is vital as a team to utilize these strengths for the common goal of the organization.

    Wolfe , Ira. “Generational Diversity: Trust No One Under 30! .” Success Performance Solutions and Poised for the Future Company (2007): n. pag. Web. 28 Jun 2010. .

    • In my opinion, management shouldn’t be stereotyping or labeling a generation as baby boomers or Generation Y. This isn’t an effective way to manage an organization. A person should be evaluated individually based on their skills and work.

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