According to new research from the NEOMA Business School, vulnerable narcissistic leaders are especially likely to irritate employees during crises.
Birgit Schyns, distinguished professor of people and organisations at NEOMA, and co-authors analysed survey data on workers in the UK education sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Respondents reported their levels of irritation and Coronavirus-related worry in five weekly surveys and their experiences with vulnerable narcissistic leadership – an unstable form of leadership characterised by covert feelings of entitlement.
The study finds that employees subjected to this kind of behaviour reported feeling more irritation in general, and this irritation worsened in weeks when they were exposed to higher amounts of vulnerable narcissistic behaviour from those in charge.
“Resources are often already stretched thin in crisis situations. Vulnerable narcissistic leaders strain them further, for instance, by giving employees no guidelines on accomplishing goals or blaming others for their shortcomings. Employees already short on time and energy must invest more in making sense of their leader’s behaviour.
“The researchers suggest organisations should watch out for red flags of narcissistic leadership, such as punishing others for taking the initiative, as the irritation this causes followers can lead to more severe mental health impairments.
“Followers can be protected by implementing checks and balances and adjusting HR practices to better deal with these behaviours,” says Professor Schyns.