Introducing Secure Narcissism as a Predictor of Conflict Resolution
22 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 9, 2008
Researchers and practitioners have long regarded narcissism as a dysfunctional personality type that engages in self-defeating and competitive conflict behaviors. Boulding (1965) defined conflict as incompatible activities or perceptions occurring between individuals or groups such that ones behavior interferes, obstructs, or in other ways makes the behavior of others less effective (Deutsch, 1973). In the organizational context, the effects of narcissistic employees have been mixed (i.e. Hogan & Hogan, 2002). Most narcissistic employees have been found to be self-defeating. Recently, some have been found to possess outstanding job and organizational citizenship behavior competencies (MacCoby, 2001a). The theory of Secure Narcissism presented here proposes that not all narcissistic behaviors are self-defeating and competitive. Some narcissists, Secure Narcissists, engage in constructive conflict behaviors. Two forms of narcissism are differentiated: Type I Insecure Narcissism and Type II Secure Narcissism.
Insecure narcissists are narcissist in the traditional sense. They are individuals who lack empathy for others, are self serving, and engage in competitive conflict with others. Competitive conflict is a form of conflict resolution in which individuals perceive other's progress as interfering with their own (Wong et al., 1999). For example, individuals who boast about their achievements, who do not listen to others, and who act with a sense of entitlement and are socially aggressive are insecure narcissists (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
In contrast, Secure Narcissists are a "positive" type of narcissist. Secure narcissists are individuals who are empathetic towards others and engage in constructive conflict behaviors. Constructive conflict is a form of conflict resolution that focuses on win-win strategies by emphasizing cooperative goals and viewing conflict as a mutual problem that requires common consideration and mutually beneficial resolution (Wong et al., 1999). In situations of conflict, secure narcissists use win-win constructive conflict strategies to align their private goals and the goals of others to attain both individual and other benefits. In situations of conflict, expansive narcissists are engage in constructive behaviors that ameliorate the self and others. The purpose of this paper is to differentiated secure narcissism, a new and previously undefined type of narcissism that engages in constructive conflict behaviors, from the traditional type of insecure narcissism that engages in competitive conflict behaviors.
In the first section of this paper, narcissism is summarized. The negative consequences of narcissism in the organizational context are presented. Research proposing that narcissism can result in positive outcomes for leaders and organizations is discussed. In the fourth section, the theoretical etiology justifying two types of narcissism is introduced. The characteristics that differentiate the two types of narcissists are presented. Next, the most common construct of narcissism, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Hall, 1981), as well as new perspectives in the organizational behavior field are developed. Seventh the relationship between narcissism and empathy, and conflict is discussed; and propositions are developed. Finally, the discussion includes implications of the secure narcissism to individuals, groups, and organizations.
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