Organizational Behaviour

Playing Well Together: Working in Teams

The millennial generation struggles to work well in teams. Just ask them.  They will tell you. And so will their employers.  Ability to work in teams has been identified by employers as an important skill for colleges and universities to develop in students.

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I suspect part of this is a decline in empathy which has been accelerating over the past ten years. But there has to be something more. Perhaps the rise in narcissism that Jean Twenge has been discussing also plays a part in our inability to work in teams.  Twenge notes in her recent book on narcissism that one in ten Americans in their twenties have narcissistic Personality Disorder, and one in four lean towards narcissism on the scale. This has increased dramatically over the past ten  years. 

So I looked at the Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI) to find out why. There are seven sub-scales to the NPI: Authority, Self-Sufficiency, Superiority, Exhibitionism, Exploitatitiveness, Vanity, Entitlement. 

All of these sub-scales made sense to me, except Self-Sufficiency.  I have always been taught that being self-sufficient was a good thing, not narcissistic.   However, too much Self-Sufficiency can be a bad thing. Self-sufficiency is over-confidence in one’s own abilities and a resulting perception that you don’t have much to learn from others, and that you can live your life any way you wish.  If you are particularly high on Self-Sufficiency, perhaps you don’ t see the need to work with others, or respect their opinions. 

Add high Self-Sufficiency to high Superiority and Entitlement, and you have a recipe for disaster when working in teams.  Having a little humility might be a good thing, when working with others. 

If you’re interested, you can take the NPI yourself.  If you’re honest with yourself, it might be a bit of an eye-opener.  Maybe it’s time to get your ego in check.  Good leaders know that they need others to be successful.  Do you?

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