Can narcissism benefit your organization?

In real estate one of the first rules you learn is that a client’s real estate portfolio is usually pretty closely related to their organizational structure. The more offices there are, the more hierarchical the company. The more global the offices there is typically a lot of independence happening. It is hard to micro-manage from a distance.

Harvard Business Review has a research article titled “Narcissists Don’t Like Flat Organizations.” This should not come as a surprise. Your typical narcissist wants to have control and flatness in the org chart reduces control. Going flat disperses control and decision making to a greater number of people spread throughout the various levels of the business. My experience is that it primarily benefits the younger superstars that are willing to spend extra time to make good ideas become a reality. Remove their roadblocks and amazing things can happen.

The thing about flat though is that as many bad ideas happen as good. There can be a lot of noise about not much. Narcissists also have a tendency try and constantly shift their piece of the business away from flat which creates conflict and angst with the employees who want the independence.

It’s this conflict that needs to be taken into account before going flat.  If you want to really have a flat organization you must be willing to squash kingdom building when it starts. If you aren’t willing to do this then you cannot move to a flat org structure. It will often be more beneficial to stay in the structured form because the disconnect between what’s on paper and how managers behave can lead to more unhappiness and unproductiveness than would be theoretically gained from a shift to flat.


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