by Rick Brenner
When an organization is coping in the Narcissistic pattern, it's driven by its love of itself and disregard for everything and everyone else. No other organization, no person, nothing external to itself is of any worth or value, except perhaps as support or utility to itself. The Narcissistic organization is prepared to use, abuse, or exploit anyone, any idea, or any other organization, including its organizational parent, to further its own ends.
This is a portion of an essay on Organizational Coping Patterns — patterns of organizational behavior relative to stressful, challenging situations.
Two complementary perspectives characterize the Narcissistic organizational coping pattern — Love of itself, and a willingness to use anyone or anything to advance its own interests. To support its Love of Self, the organization refuses to acknowledge any failure of its own, or the possible superiority — in any respect — of any other organization. The hallmark of Narcissistic organizational coping is a risk-everything approach to avoidance of seeing any of its own imperfections. Symmetrically, it projects vulnerability, weakness, and limitation on any organization it sees as related to itself.
As it tries to make meaning of the world around it, and the organizations with which it interacts, it adopts any interpretation that permits it to continue to see itself as flawless, favoring those interpretations that degrade the worth of others, other organizations, or the world at large. In this it has much in common with the Blaming organizational coping pattern, except that Narcissistic coping is less focused — the denigration of the Other that we find in Narcissistic coping isn't restricted to a single Other. Moreover, since it has regard only for itself, consistency and logic are unimportant — it might explain two independent failures using mutually contradictory arguments.
In Narcissistic coping, the organization finds it difficult to execute any of the forms of reflective learning that have become so valuable to other organizations. Retrospectives, "lessons learned" exercises and the like, which involve acknowledgment of imperfection, are particularly challenging. If they're attempted, a sense of hollowness or unreality can accompany them, as the organization works out ways of identifying "opportunities for improvement" while at the same time refusing to acknowledge any serious error.
To move from Narcissistic coping to Congruence, inquire about what's missing — make the missing elements visible to all. In Narcissistic coping, the organization sees only Self — ignoring both Context and Other. To move the coping stance towards Congruence, begin with Self, asking what-if questions that presume the Narcissistic view. In the first example above, the claim is made that "People will wait for [our product] because they know it will be the best." Check that out in more detail. You might ask:
In Narcissistic coping, it's rare that the organization would
have done the financial modeling, market research, or risk management
studies to back up the proposed strategy, because all of these
activities involve acknowledgment of Other or Context. If you
can bring these activities about, the results could be the basis
of a sound decision. If the organization plows ahead without
this backup, the foolishness of the decision to proceed will
be obvious to many people. That alone could bring about a change. Top