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Narcissistic bosses worsen companies’ competitive advantage

March 1, 2023

When different units of the same company share information, it increases performance and creates a competitive advantage for the business. But new research from the University of Washington (USA) reveals that narcissistic leaders hinder the transfer of knowledge, impeding the flow of information. According to the study published in the Strategic Management Journal, a feeling of superiority leads these people to overestimate the value of internal knowledge and underestimate the value of external knowledge.

“Narcissism affects people’s desire to be distinctive,” study co-author Abhinav Gupta, associate professor of management at the UW Foster School of Business, told Valor. “It is correlated by people wanting glory for themselves. We hypothesized that business unit heads who have these traits would be the ones who would say, ‘We don’t want to work with you. We have enough skills and knowledge to work independently.’ This was strongly confirmed based on our research design.”

The authors surveyed business units at a headhunting company in China that help organizations recruit talent and search for technical staff. These units must share knowledge on how to build talent pools, identify skills and persuade potential clients to accept offers.

The study, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and involving researchers from Renmin University of China, Peking University, Shangdong University and Tsinghua University, found that unit head narcissism can impede knowledge sharing. This tendency waned in complex or rapidly changing environments because narcissists had an excuse to seek outside ideas. But when companies have high competition between units, narcissists are more tempted to step aside and differentiate themselves from other units.

Source: Strategic Management Journal