If you think your office is swarming with narcissists, you may just be right.
A recent study by Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, covered in The Sydney Morning Herald, found that narcissists tend to gravitate towards hierarchical forms of business because they value the potential to rise to the top and have power over others. The study also suggested narcissistic people tend to overestimate their level of performance and ability to rise to top spots in their company.
The researchers wrote: "Our research underscores the need for leaders to thoughtfully consider the effects that company structure can have – not only on employees' performance and satisfaction, but also on the very types of people those employees will be."
So, what hierarchical environments foster narcissistic workforces? While upper leadership may over-index for narcissists across industries (for some very interesting reasons), some are likely to attract narcissists throughout their ranks. An article from HealthyPlace written by Sam Vaknin, which was reviewed by an MD, builds upon the Cornell findings to suggest these vocations are home to the most narcissists:
Vaknin points out that professorial and research-based jobs allow their occupants to live a life of intellectual acclaim and accomplishment. Basically, you have people telling you you're brilliant all the time — and because of academia's hierarchical structure, you have a lot of power over students and those who engage with your research. For a narcissist, that's an ideal situation.
2. Corporate Management/Leadership
Many of the articles above suggest that narcissists are particularly motivated — and skilled — at climbing the corporate ladder. Many are so good at climbing the corporate ladder, they then go on to influence and lead others climbing their way to the top. There's a level of prestige and power to being a force in global economics that attracts many narcissistic personalities to dedicating their lives to making it there.
Entertainment is the industry of stars. People at the top of this extremely hierarchical system live externally glamorous and often envy-inducing lives, and can carry a lot of cultural influence. Any narcissist who wants to get to the top would love to be at the top of the entertainment industry due to its power and prestige — so many of them try.
Unfortunately, as Vaknin says, medicine gives its members a certain life-or-death power over people every day. While they may not use this power poorly, they may also revel in it. On top of that, it's a prestigious and admirable line of work — two qualities that are important to the narcissistic type.
Like members of the entertainment industry, people in politics have an inordinate amount of influence over how the world works. Add to that power the game of having to claw your way to the top and many narcissistic personalities are hooked.
When you work at any level of sports, you're the star to someone or you're the one making the star's world spin. To narcissists, the social capital and cultural influence that's embedded in sports is very interesting — and the money and sense of achievement for making it an against-the-odds industry doesn't hurt, either.