The primary trait of narcissism is self aggrandizement; a personality disorder which destroys relationships, families, and even civilizations. Chances are, you have seen it in people who bully, kiss-ass, and manipulate their way into positions of power regardless of the effect on coworkers or the group.
A self-aggrandizer will tend to derail people’s efforts, and sometimes their careers, when the glory of success might go to someone else. This behavior can devastate an organization, yet the cause is rarely brought to light and dealt with because the self-aggrandizer is focused on his or her own success rather than the success of the organization. That focus invariably includes schmoozing with higher authorities and assigning blame to others. Sadly, this often means coworkers and subordinates are privately described to the boss as incompetent, lazy, and even as liars so that their input is not sought after.
Narcissism makes for believable villains in novels, but is all too common in real life. I began recognizing the signs at the national laboratory where I worked.
I’ve seen it before in industry when small companies gets bought out by a corporate giant, and then ruined by new executives who need the prestige of running a great company, but can’t connect the downward spiral following their takeover with the fact that they took over.
Visiting scientists, who are essentially the customers of the lab, are quietly dismayed by the pervasive unhappiness that oozes through the ranks of employees. And science is not served; the fabulous technology is still there, but the people who best understand and operate it have been driven away, replaced by people who crave greatness and choose to take it from others rather than earn it themselves.
I now work at a great company with really nice people who make electronics for medical devices, and I am much, much happier.