Teams are often used in organizations to combine talent and enhance overall performance. However, selecting team members without also considering personality traits that may influence teamwork can prevent the team from rising to its full potential. Researchers (Grijalva, Maynes, Badura, & Whiting, 2020) examined the influence of narcissism as a personality trait that can damage long-term relationships and negatively affect how the team works together. The team setting provides an easy opportunity for narcissistic members to take advantage of others’ effort and make decisions that benefit the individual rather than the team as a whole.
NARCISSISM, COORDINATION, AND PERFORMANCE
The researchers used data from teams in the National Basketball Association to examine how team narcissism influences team coordination. They found the team level of narcissism, meaning the average narcissism level across all team members, relates to lower team coordination overall. Because one team member high on narcissism can have a larger influence than others, the researchers also found that just one team member with a high level of narcissism negatively influenced team coordination. Finally, the researchers examined whether the narcissism of an individual in a core team role influenced team coordination, and again found it related to lower team coordination. Through its influence on team coordination in each of these ways, team narcissism then negatively related to team performance, meaning higher narcissism was related to lower team performance.
THE ROLE OF TEAM FAMILIARITY
The negative effects of narcissism often emerge over time rather than right away. Though narcissistic members may appear charming and competent at first, their arrogance and overconfidence harm relationships and team processes over the course of multiple interactions. Therefore, the researchers also considered the role of team familiarity, the amount of shared experience the team builds over time. The researchers anticipated that the negative influence of team narcissism on team coordination and team performance would be stronger when the team has more familiarity since there are greater amounts of those negative team interactions.
The researchers found that more team familiarity intensified the effects of average team narcissism and having a core team member with a high level of narcissism. When teams had high familiarity and high narcissism, coordination suffered. However, for teams with high familiarity but low narcissism, team coordination improved. On the other hand, teams with low familiarity did not show much difference in coordination between low and high team narcissism since there was not enough time for those negative effects to emerge. Overall, this shows how the harmful influence of team narcissism on team coordination and team performance happens over time after teams have developed familiarity.
Team narcissism prevents the development of coordination in teams that would normally occur as members get to know each other, ultimately leading to lower team performance. Even for teams with high levels of technical skill, team narcissism can cause them to perform worse than expected. Organizations should consider the narcissism of team members and intervene early before it can have a negative influence on team coordination. Though narcissistic individuals tend to be attracted to more powerful positions, organizations would benefit from avoiding placing such individuals in core team roles. As this may not always be possible, another approach an organization can take is to have at least some compensation be based on team performance rather than just individual performance. This could encourage narcissistic team members to collaborate and align personal goals with team goals.
Grijalva, E., Maynes, T. D., Badura, K. L., & Whiting, S. W. (2020). Examining the “I” in team: A longitudinal investigation of the influence of team narcissism composition on team outcomes in the NBA. Academy of Management Journal, 63(1), 7-33.