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HomeNewsArchivesNarcissists Don't Play Well: Watch Out for Those on Your Team

Narcissists Don't Play Well: Watch Out for Those on Your Team

Aug. 30, 2008 – What constitutes a team? There are probably lots of definitions, but essentially, I see a team as a group of people all doing what they do best in order to achieve a common goal.This means that we acknowledge that we all have different strengths and different weaknesses, and we try to work together so that one person's strengths outweighs the other person's weaknesses, for the common good. It doesn't really matter if it is a sports team, a work team or a family team, the same principles apply.
Teamwork, or being a team player, means that sometimes you set aside your ego, or your hurt feelings in order to achieve that goal. It means that you understand that the whole is greater than the sum of its' parts, and that you are not the sole source of power or control.
Teamwork means that you can subordinate your needs – often emotional – to those of others. This, of course, requires that you be an adult, not just chronologically, but that you understand and can practice the act(s) of deferred gratification. In other words, you put off immediate pleasure – doing what would make you look or feel good – so that far reaching goals can be achieved. This means that winning is not everything, but relating fairly and for the betterment of the group is more important that personal gain.
In the Virgin Islands, perhaps because we are so small, we seem to have a disproportionate number of large egos. We have people for whom being in the limelight is more important than getting their work done. People who cannot admit when they do not know something, and who will do things which may be damaging to others rather than admit that they don't know.
What appears large is in fact fragile, as most people with disproportionately large egos are usually hiding behind insecurities. Their need to make themselves look and feel important is really an attempt to make themselves believe that they are important. Those who lose their tempers publicly are usually demonstrating that they have not left that childish stage of development where they believe that the world operates around and about them. They still believe that they are still the center of the universe. Most of us have learned temper control by age four (4) or five (5). They do not see their behavior as inappropriate, because they see themselves as "special". An excellent example of this was recently cited in a Daily News article by Les Payne about Jesse Jackson, where he was described as reaching in front of Nelson Mandela's body to needlessly straighten his tie, just as the camera was about to click. This, he suggested was a clear positioning before the cameras, and an unwillingness to share the limelight with anyone – even the revered Mandela on occasion of his ninetieth (90th) birthday.
We don't need to name names. I am sure each reader can identify at least five people they know who fall into this description. The most well known are politicians, but they fall into every walk of life. While they may be reluctant to see themselves this way, they can be assured that those around them know who they are.
We can label them, if we choose, as "narcissistic personalities". Straight out of the "Diagnostic and Statistic Manual" embraced by therapists: psychologists, psychologists and social workers throughout the country. That description includes how charming these persons can be, how pleasant and often attractive – until they do not get their way. Then they transmorph into the child having a temper tantrum previously described. But the point is not just to be able to recognize and label them, but to be aware of how they have kept the Virgin Islands from moving forward, since they are such poor team players. Their being so wrapped up in themselves prevents them from working well with others, and places self-gain ahead of the needs of the territory.
This is where the same techniques used on such a child: isolation, exclusion until their behavior changes, and finally something they will really feel, a loss of wages if the behavior continues. Consequences are almost the only way of altering behavior. Positive reinforcement when possible, and, if not, negative ones. Without taking these actions our narcissists will continue their work for "me" instead of "we." We can no longer afford the luxury of this behavior if the Virgin Islands is to move forward peacefully.

Editor's note: Iris Kern, Ph.D., is a special advisor to the attorney general and commissioner of police for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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