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Home > Research Articles > Narcissists brilliant workers, but terrible colleagues

British Psychological Society

Sunday, June 09, 2002

British Psychological Society March 2002 NEWS Blackpool, UK, March 2002 Narcissists brilliant workers, but terrible colleagues Narcissistic people do not make pleasant colleagues, but they perform better than average at tasks that would daunt others, according to new US research. "Narcissists will leave everyone else to do the drudgery and come in at the end to take all the credit, or show up when there's some opportunity to be admired," says Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, who led the research. "But if you need someone to make a crucial presentation or to do something spectacular, they could be good to have around," he adds. The study is the first to find that narcissistic people perform better on tasks that give them the opportunity for glory, Baumeister says. In the mirror The team studied 248 people, who completed questionnaires assessing the degree to which they agreed with statements such as: I am an extraordinary person, I like to look at myself in the mirror, the world would be a better place if I ruled it. They then took part in four tests: the children's board game Operation (a test of manual skill), darts, and measures of arithmetic and creativity. People who scored higher on the narcissism measure performed on average about 20 per cent better on the tests when they were given the chance to shine, says Baumeister. "For example, we'd have an audience present or not present. Or we'd tell them that to do well, they'd have to outperform 95 per cent of other people, or only 50 per cent. Being better than average isn't much incentive to a narcissist, but 95 per cent was something they could really shoot for," he says. Noxious self esteem When given a high or public target to aim for, the more narcissistic people also performed better than those with lower narcissism scores. But the trait is poorly understood, Baumeister says: "We are at a fairly early stage of finding out about these people and what makes them tick." Most people have a degree of narcissism, but at its extreme it is characterised by a "noxious sense of self esteem," he says. "But why people grow up to be narcissists is a really important question and we do not have enough data on that." Baumeister presented his research at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Blackpool. Emma Young, Blackpool