with people with narcissistic personality disorders
Tips by Donald Burleson
Most computer professionals have a very high opinion of themselves
as suggested by these
Computer Motivational Posters, but everyone agrees that computer
people have a very high opinions of themselves.
I have a BA degree in Psychology and I've found that the course
work of memorizing personality disorders was by-and-large a too much
theory and psycho-babble, but it's fun to diagnose street
schizophrenics ("look over there, that hobo pooping on the
sidewalk has a copromanic disorder"). I'm no
fan of the trend to label every weirdo with a DSM V code just so
that they can have a "clinical" diagnosis. Sometime, nuts is
just nuts, and you can get way too clinical. For example, have you
seen the recent crap on
Anyway, there are many "common sense" parallels to people with
personality disorders, and I'm dealing with a computer professional
who has a a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Other terms I hear used to describe NPD victims include "prick",
"assh*le", and "twit", but I've learned that there is a lot that a
savvy computer guy can do to get along with the computer narcissist,
and get them to cooperate.
Because I work exclusively with computer professionals, I'm
exposed to all sorts of personality disorders, a regular DSM-V of
weird behavior, but narcissism is right up there at the top of the
Personally, I think that many of the narcissists that I meet in
the computer profession got their low self esteem from being
picked-on as the class "geek", and the behaviors of many
narcissist's that I've seen remind me of the "98 pound weaklings"
that I used to see getting teased and tormented in the playground.
Now, I'm not a psychologist, but I've noticed that it's helpful
to have an understanding of the motivators of various personality
types, especially narcissistic personality disorders.
I firmly believe in
Personality profiling for Business
Success, so lets take a closer look at the information
people to hurl
When I was
studying for my degree in Psychology we learned that people who
frequently insult others may have a deep-seated neurosis.
According to psychologists, people with an unwarranted sense of
accomplishment often present as arrogant, elitist snobs, and are
known to hurl insults at anyone who threatens their fragile
self-esteem (also, see my related notes on the
Narcisstic personality disorder).
Psychologist Dr. Beatty has coined the term "Flamer
Personality Disorder" (FPD), to describe people with a history
of insulting others.
Inside the narcissistic personality
Narcissistic personality disorders seem rampant among computer
professionals, as here we see some major traits of people with
narcissistic personalities, characterized by strong feelings of
being ashamed of themselves all-the-while presenting a grandiose
||The old saying "He is a legend in his own mind"
describes to-a-tee someone with narcissistic personality
disorder and these types of weirdoes are super-common in the
computer science and information technology industries where
geeks and misfits can become zillionaires, despite their
crippling mental problems.
The Office Narcissist
For a real treat in office narcissism, I love the NBC TV show "The
Office", where the manager has a fancy certificate on his wall
declaring "Michael Scott is the proud owner of a Seyko Timepiece"
and the other twit who relishes his made-up job title of "Assistant
to the Manager"! Evidently,
some British folks agree that this is narcissistic and find the
American version of "The Office" as a hilarious exercise in weird
narcissism "Employing both over-the-top narcissism and self-delusions of
My list of Narcissistic personality
When I see anyone with low self-esteem covered-up by a grandiose
presentation, I always suspect a narcissistic personality.
These are the characteristics that I look out for:
- Rigid, inflexible thinking - Anyone with a different
approach is seen as personally attacking the narcissist.
Rules rule, and some narcissists get inappropriately angry when
they see little things, like grammar errors. I knew a
narcissistic computer programmer who would refuse to answer any
e-mail that used non-accepted word abbreviations! - ("My
way is the ONLY RIGHT way and any other way is WRONG, WRONG,
- Cannot be wrong -
The narcissist is never, ever
wrong, and they like to present "proofs" that they are correct.
The narcissist cannot accept responsibility for making a mistake
and they are expert at diverting the blame to others - ("It's
not my fault. I lost that promotion because my team let me
- Arrogant, boastful and pretentious - These are people
with stupid/fake certificates and awards on their walls, the
kind of people who exaggerate their accomplishments or use
inflated job titles like "Engineer, Physicist" in their resume
job histories. - (i.e. "I'm a Sanitation Engineer").
This narcissistic trait is especially prevalent in computer work
where people elevate themselves to "expert" status, and then
treat people in a demeaning way when they get questions ("Boy,
now that's a really stupid question. Where did you go to
- Aggressive responses to criticism - ("How dare he
criticize me? That lying bastard, I swear I'll get even,
if it takes years").
essay notes that it especially difficult to do anything
critical with the narcissist because they see the criticism as a
threat to their self, making them great fun during job
"Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or
her own sense of adequacy, the narcissist seeks to be
admired by others. However, the narcissist's extremely
fragile sense of self worth does not allow him or her to
risk any criticism."
Working with the
entertaining site has a great description of how a narcissist
reacts to criticism, something I've witnessed many times.
"Narcissists react angrily to criticism and when rejected,
the narcissist will often denounce the profession which has
rejected them (usually for lack of competence or misdeed) but
simultaneously and paradoxically represent themselves as
belonging to the profession they are vilifying."
This article titled "The
Narcissistic Boss" has a great insight on dealing with a
"he suggests workers bite the bullet and allow a
supervisor to take credit for their ideas. Such sacrifice may
eventually "accrue to your benefit, because the boss comes to
rely on you,"
If you recognize any narcissist traits in a boss or co-worker
it's never a good idea to confront them directly. Make notes,
do your homework, and use a Machiavellian approach so that you can
manipulate them when necessary. Ah, we need to discuss the
Machiavellian personality, and the
MMPI Mach scale sometime. . .
A clinical list of Narcissistic personality
article on dealing with narcissistic children has a good list,
and has some of the items that I noted.
Reality distortion and Inability to See and Hear --
The child sees situations through his own sense of woundedness
and neediness. . .
Mood Switching --The child's fractured self is
caught in mood swings. She may go back and forth between "I'll
be good" and pouting or outrage because she isn't getting what
she wants. . .
Poor Impulse Control and Frustration Tolerance --
The child is highly reactive to outside stimuli that seem to
threaten his sense of self and cannot delay gratification. He
wants things NOW! . . .
Poor Ego Boundaries and Need for Control
child cannot view things from any other perspective other than
his own. He is so caught in his own neediness that he cannot
feel empathy for others.
Denial of Uncomfortable Feelings
--The child keeps
the focus on what he wants not how he feels. His constant
demanding keeps him from feeling the pain inside.
Frequent Anger and Rage --The child substitutes
anger and tantrums as a way of keeping her uncomfortable
feelings from being experienced. She becomes a master of
rationalization and justification of her explosive actions . . .
Need for Admiration --The child erroneously
believes that he is special and should be given special
privileges. . .
Grandiosity and Fantasy --The child spins grandiose
fantasies to cover up the internal wounds of his fractured self.
He sets up elaborate fantasy schemes of winning, becoming
powerful or gaining revenge for injustice. Daydreams of becoming
rich and famous without talent or hard work are common.
Idealization and Devaluation of Teachers or Therapists
--The child will make you feel that you are wonderful and
special as long as you humor her. "As long as you give me what I
want, you are the ideal person for me" . . .
Externalization of Blame --The child cannot allow
the bad feelings of being at fault for anything. He/she/they/YOU
are the problem! He avoids feeling vulnerable by blaming others.
Most computer professionals have a very high opinion of
themselves as shown by these
I just want to say thank you. It
has made my day, and given me some good food for thought in how to
deal with a peer at work who fits this profile perfectly. Not to
mention a few laughs. ;) I have ruined my last day being upset by
You sure got it right when you said, "Because I work exclusively
with computer professionals, I'm exposed to all sorts of personality
disorders, a regular DSM-V of weird behavior, but narcissism is
right up there at the top of the heap. "
I couldn't agree more. I've worked in IT for years, and it seems to
be a refuge for the maladjusted; maybe folks who can't get any other
kinds of jobs. This is what can sometimes make it so damned
frustrating to work in IT. It's not the work, it's the people and
all their convoluted passive aggressive nonsense.
Anyway, your site gave me a laugh. I like your computer motivational
posters. You have to laugh to keep your sanity in this line of work.