Hopefully you never meet one. If you have in your career, this post makes perfect sense.

Mental health studies estimate that narcissists and sociopaths are likely 1-3% of the population. Research suggests an increased prevalence in the American workplace today (Eddy, 2018).

In an unhealthy organization, they could be 5-10% or more of those in or seeking leadership roles. They crave the perceived personal benefits of leadership roles. Real leadership is all service and sacrifice but theirs is a universe of one.

If they get into leadership, employees and customers depart. Ethical and legal controversies, major financial losses, and even criminal cases occur. Trust is gone.

In leadership, they recruit others, create a subculture, and do tremendous damage. Alone, they are a serious threat. With a team, they destroy organizations.

There’s zero self-awareness of their moral deficits. They’re far less competent than they recognize. They see themselves as amazing leaders when no one else agrees.

There’s no perfect personnel process to always catch them before they enter the organization. Surrounded by the right leadership, culture, and team, it will be clear who they really are. If they get in, get them out or get out.

Pay close attention to red blinking lights and act quickly and decisively:

No genuine empathy for the pain or problems of others. They may simulate the socially expected reaction but no real emotion for others

Strained workplace relationships with colleague/subordinates

Focus or obsession with pleasing whoever they think controls their career at the moment

Inability/unwillingness to point out unethical behavior by others

Fabricate results

Instantly discard relationships without emotion

An unhealthy focus on discussing their favorite subject which is themselves

Consistent rationalization, minimization, denial, blame displacement, and justification to any perceived question about their performance – they love to blame others

Never like to clap when others win. Offer little if any encouragement to others

Push for promotions they don’t deserve – it’s the unending sense of personal entitlement

A strained or a show marriage or no marriage – their kids likely have social or legal problems – no happy family life

Different time horizon – they want it all now – they can’t postpone gratification

Little concern over unethical conduct by others – they may even joke about it

May enjoy discussing undetected unethical/illegal acts they committed

No emotional reaction to harming others without any justification

React very poorly to any criticism no matter how accurate – deeply insecure – a huge fragile ego

No genuine relationship with most people – may connect with other narcissists/sociopaths – always most comfortable with those they can control.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them stay, never promote, and leave if they don’t.