The psychologists define a narcissist as a person with a personality disorder in which the individual is excessively preoccupied with issues of personal superiority, power, prestige and vanity. Let me give you an example which the New York Times described recently that may fit this description.
Martha Stewart is the chairwoman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She owns 26 million shares and control 90% of the voting rights of the company. The company has lost money eight of the last ten years and the stock price sits at $2.50, versus $34 in 2005 when she got out of prison for making criminal false statements regarding the insider trading charges brought by the SEC.
The New York Times article pointed out that as chairwoman, Martha replaced the two financial experts on the board of directors with her hairdresser and put him on the compensation committee. Her annual pay in 2009 was $1.7 million and it was raised to $2.0 million for 2010 and 2011 (the company lost -$15, -$10, and -$16 million respectively in those three years). She received a $3 million retention bonus in 2009, and gets a minimum of $2.0 million for an “intangible assets” license agreement which gives the company rights to portray her lifestyle. She also recently got $1.8 million of stock options. Additionally, she receives expenses for personal fitness, a driver, security services, fees of on-air performances, and several other things that all add up to $1.0 million per year. When asked, her view is “I should be paid twice what I am being paid.”
So…what are my career tip? There are two:
1.) Stay Away from Narcissists – These people do not have your best interests in mind. Don’t work for one and don’t hire one to work for you. Their single minded objective is building up themselves in any way possible; money, prestige, comfort, etc. Collateral damage along the way is irrelevant to them.
2.) Don’t Become One – Success does funny things to people. Too often we see examples where people become very impressed with themselves and start to believe they really are superior. This greatly detracts from their ability to realize that success is always temporary and you better focus on the future and how to take advantage of the changes that will be occurring.
One more thing…You won’t have any trouble spotting these people, but beware, it is very hard to sense when you are becoming one!