Friday, June 08, 2020

Another kind of inflation threat

We seem to be turning into a society based on narcissism and egotism, if recent survey results are correct.

Narcissism—defined as a positive and inflated view of the self—is on the increase, especially amongst people born after 1982. That’s the conclusion of a recent survey. And narcissism and egotism aren’t just a problem for individuals. These mental states fuel greater selfishness, materialism, lack of concern for others, and, it is claimed, violence and substance abuse. In the workplace, the effects of increasing egotism and narcissism are plain to see in bullying bosses and arrogant executives. Narcissism is also a major supporter of Hamburger Management, that cheap and shoddy imitation of leadership that defiles so many corporations today. It’s time to call a halt.
The current (July/August 2007) edition of The Atlantic magazine reports a survey of more than 16,000 students pointing to a continuing rise in narcissism since 1982. I posted an article (Who is the highest flier of them all?) a little while ago on the negative impact of individual narcissism amongst managers, but it’s worth reminding ourselves of the problems it causes, even to whole organizations (The Narcissistic Organization).
Sadly, narcissism isn’t only found in a few people at the top of organizations. It is an affliction of many bosses. When it strikes, it causes them to claim ideas their subordinates dreamed up, belittle other people’s achievements, and demand unquestioning “loyalty” and adulation from all around them.
That’s why I couldn’t resist sharing a few quotes from this post on Flying Solo, an Australian site. The article is called “Is your ego taking over?,” It fits so well with the post I put up here yesterday (Beware! Ever more egotists are at large . . . and they're dangerous). Here is just a flavor of an interesting article that you should read in full:
Sure, it’s perfectly natural to feel somewhat disappointed when such situations [ . . . feelings of inadequacy when you’re being challenged or when a client or colleague has rejected an idea you’ve proposed. . . ] arise. But what if you’re feeling this way the majority of the time? What if the feelings derived from such situations consume your thoughts to the point where you feel deflated, vulnerable or even depressed?

Now, be honest with me here: does it feel like your ego is taking a constant beating?

If yes is your honest answer, it just might be likely that you possess an inflated ego. Unlike being naturally confident and believing in yourself, an inflated ego is over-believing in yourself to the point where it can actually hold you back.
Check out their list of signs that egotism may be creeping up on you. These particular ones seem to me to be classic symptoms of macho, Hamburger Management:
  • You consider being “right” as the most important thing. Hamburger Managers can’t admit to being wrong, since that would involve both slowing down for long enough to find what they should have done instead, and listening to others. Besides, denting their own self-image isn’t part of the deal. Image is extremely important to such people—mostly because they haven’t got too much else going for them. Billions of dollars of corporate cash is expended (and lost) every year by executives determined to prove that they are right and all the rest of the world is out of step.
  • You feel the world owes you something. Another typical Hamburger Manager thought. Always being quickest, easiest, and above all cheapest ought to count for something, right?
  • You honestly believe you’re above everyone else. Why do Hamburger Managers believe this? Because their bosses are always telling them it’s true. How else can they be kept at full stretch all the time, working obscene hours and forcing everyone underneath them to do the same? But do those same bosses believe it? Of course not. They’re the truly superior ones, obviously. Those so-called high-fliers underneath them are mostly being duped with empty promises.
  • You often walk around feeling very proud. Pride isn’t always so bad in itself. Like ambition, it can be a powerful driver towards some very worthwhile achievements. What matters is the subject: what you are feeling proud of. If it’s cutting corners, driving costs down regardless of the effect on others, finding ways to con people into doing extra work for no reward, getting rid of “awkward” people who ask too many questions, or screwing your customers to inflate your profits, you aren’t just an egotist and a Hamburger Manager. You’re a Certified Asshole too.
  • You are never a beginner at anything! Of course, most Hamburger Managers believe this because it’s nearly true. They’re never beginners because they never begin anything new. All their actions, thoughts, and attitudes are copied from the standard play-book of conventional management myths and reach-me-down answers.
  • You justify and defend absolutely everything. Macho types can never accept any changes from what they have decreed. That would be to admit to weaknesses. Nor can they recognize personal mistakes—particularly those produced by their constant, habit of making “intuitive” (read “instant and ill-considered”) decisions. Everyone else’s carefully prepared arguments are ignored, because their personal gut-feel is infallible. Everyone else has to compromise or step down, so they never have to lose a point.
Narcissism, egotism, and Hamburger Management are bad for everyone in the workplace. For the employees, who are continually harassed, manipulated, stressed out, and bullied. For the shareholders or owners, whose cash is used to further inflate the already monstrous egos of the ruling executive elite, and who have to pick up the bill for all of management’s mistakes (including the hidden ones). The customers, who are routinely ripped off to generate the endlessly growing profits necessary to sustain management’s self-image. The state, whose tax income is minimized by all kinds of trickery, some of it close to, or past the borders of, illegality. And the public at large, who see more and more of the nation’s wealth being tied up in the hands of a very few people. And who find that the public interest is no match for the desires of well-funded pressure groups and lobbyists.

Only today’s habitual emphasis on short-termism and hype over substance keeps the whole sorry mess alive. When you bring it into the open, there’s no justification for continuing to pander to so many hyper-inflated egos.

It’s past time to call a halt and get back to something like sanity. Freedom doesn’t mean allowing anyone and everyone to do whatever they like. That’s anarchy, and it’s what we have more and more of in upper reaches of the corporate world today. Of course business dislikes rules and regulations. That doesn’t mean some aren’t needed to cool an over-heated corporate world. Being civilized means restraining those urges that are not consistent with an ethical and compassionate way of living. Unbridled freedom soon becomes no freedom at all. Unrestrained corporate activity is already well along the way to producing an uncivilized workplace culture for all save a very few.

Why not slow down and think carefully, before it’s too late?

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Peter Crocker said...

Thanks Carmine, loved your take on Hamburger management and the ego inflation threat. Your expansion on the ego self-analysis checklist was also very insightfult.

6:06 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Peter.

I'm glad that you found it useful.

Keep reading, my friend.

6:25 AM  

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