Why Narcissism Creates Unjust Cultures

This is the final of five blogs covering the potential workplace triggers that make up the SCARF model (NeuroLeadership Institute). SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. When one of these is threatened, an amygdala hijack is likely. Today’s focus is Fairness. When we have a set of clear values and expectations that we hold all members of our team to, we can Nurture Growth and develop a truly fair and just environment.

Fairness is a perception of impartial and just treatment, free of bias or injustice. In the work environment, fairness is working together with a shared purpose and a single set of shared expectations of behavior and treatment of one another. As leaders, we can threaten fairness by a narcissistic tendency to focus on what we can gain from our position and power. We create an environment where the staff’s sole focus is to please us and, at the extreme, followers will tell the leader what he or she wants to hear rather than the actual truth. The leader then becomes disconnected from the reality of the situation.

The narcissistic manager’s tendency to favor those who share their narrow view of reality creates opportunities and advancement for a select few, regardless of their true value to the organization. This lack of individual effort making a difference can cause the outgroup to be extremely disillusioned and disengaged. Since only a few of the team are actually heard and can contribute, the organization creates blind spots to new opportunities and threats. This results in an organization that is slow to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

Enlightened leaders demonstrate a balance of confidence and humility, practicing gratitude to all who contribute to the success of the department. This connects everyone to a compelling shared purpose. These leaders establish a clear set of values and principles for which all staff are held accountable. The shared purpose and fairness in the department builds not only trust but strong loyalty among the members—reinforced by genuine gratitude. Through the diversity of opinion and perspectives, new opportunities are capitalized on and threats are dealt with proactively. The genuine dignity provided to all staff creates a firm but fair style that holds people accountable for their performance, yet also provides them with the opportunity to grow and develop.

When we have a set of clear values and expectations, that we hold all members of our team to, we can Nurture Growth and develop a culture that is truly fair and just, resulting in an agile approach to the marketplace and innovation within the industry.