Dennis Duchon, the Toby and Brenda McKenzie Professor in Business, in the Department of Management, recently published two articles in premier journals, discussing how organizations fall prey to their own narcissism. The articles make the case that a narcissistic culture leads not only to unethical behavior but also to ruin.
Similar to a person’s personality, businesses have identities that reflect their core values and beliefs. Businesses seek to protect their identities by rewarding behaviors that will sustain a positive sense of self. Sometimes, however, sustaining identity turns into relieving anxiety, and when this happens the business’s culture takes on the qualities of narcissism. The narcissistic business is self-absorbed to an extreme, and soon employees collectively begin using self-aggrandizing behavior, a sense of entitlement, and denial to reinforce their collective self-absorption. Narcissistic businesses lose touch with reality, and their decisions become increasingly erratic. Their sense of entitlement leads to institutionalizing unethical and even illegal practices. The hold of a narcissistic identity is so powerful that people who are, in conventional terms, smart and capable see nothing wrong with what they are doing. Narcissism makes them stupid. The business meanwhile suffers, and may even fail.
Duchon’s research has focused in the areas of leadership and organizational decision making, particularly how bias creeps into decision-making processes.
Smith, A., Plowman, D.A., & Duchon, D. (forthcoming). A qualitative study of high reputation plant managers: Political skills and successful outcomes. Journal of Operations Management.
Duchon, D. & Drake, B. (2009). “Organizational Narcissism and Virtuous Behavior.” Journal of Business Ethics, 85(3): 301-308.
Solansky, S., Duchon, D., Plowman, D., & Martinez, P. (2008). “On the Same Page: The Value of Paid and Volunteer Leaders Sharing Mental Models in Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 19(2): 203-219.
Duchon, D. & Burns, M. (2008). “Organizational Narcissism.” Organizational Dynamics, 37(4): 354-364.
Andrade, L. Plowman, D., & Duchon, D. (2008). “Getting Past Conflict Reduction: A Complexity View of Conflict.” Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 10(1): 23-38.