Should you fire the narcissist?

Fotolia_35462737_Subscription_Monthly_L-600x399Narcissism is a spectrum disorder. While some people may exhibit a few narcissistic traits, others exhibit full-blown personality disorder.

Leaders often find themselves working alongside narcissists. In fact, some narcissists make great leaders. They have “rock star” qualities. They’re charismatic, visionary and excellent at their trade. But they can also be self-devoted to the point of undermining the entire organization.

Narcissists are adept at developing a strong following and often use these relationships to feed their ego. Typically poor listeners, narcissists are tuned out to the needs of those around them and can demoralize the people who work for them. Inherently insecure, narcissists are incapable of accepting accountability when something goes wrong and are quick to take credit when none is deserved.

Good leaders need to be good listeners. They need to be empathetic. Truly narcissistic people are neither. If you happen to work with one, there are things you can do to ensure that you protect your business and your people.


Narcissists syphon off all the credit for themselves and dispense blame onto others. That’s easier to do when there is no culture of accountability. We recommend that you clarify and communicate the person’s responsibility and accountability. Hold them accountable for their actions and call them out when they takes credit for someone else’s successes.

Leaders must be diligent about this or the narcissist will take advantage of the loose structure and begin to avoid accountability again. Work closely with them and review those things for which they are accountable.


Make accountability a core element of your culture. Hold yourself accountable and require everyone to do the same.

Culture can address another problem endemic of narcissists: ignoring the needs of others. Narcissists must be held accountable for the treatment and development of their team. Companies with healthy cultures do not tolerate people who disregard or trample on those around them. In healthy companies, toxic behavior is not tolerated. That’s usually embedded in the company’s core values. Some narcissists are also receptive to coaching. Push against any effort to self-aggrandize and coach them to listen to others.

Termination / Separation

If, despite rigorous accountability measures and adherence to a zero tolerance policy, your narcissist has not improved, it’s time to cut your losses. The risk to your company and its people is far too great.

Don’t be seduced into thinking they are irreplaceable; that their “rock star” knowledge, intelligence, and personality are central to the company’s success. Because with a toxic rock star, nothing can be further from the truth.