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Abstract

Prior research demonstrated that narcissism fosters the attainment of higher managerial ranks in organizations. However, it is not known whether climbing the corporate ladder also fosters the development of narcissism over time. Whereas prior work consistently adopted a unidirectional perspective on narcissism and career attainment, this study presents and tests a bidirectional perspective, incorporating long-term development in narcissism in relation to and in response to long-term upward mobility. To this end, a cohort of highly educated professionals was assessed three times over a 22-year time frame. Extended latent difference score modeling showed that, over the entire interval, within-person changes in narcissism were positively related to within-person changes in upward mobility. This was in line with our first hypothesis which described a positive co-development between both processes over time. However, when reciprocity was analyzed in a time-sequential manner, i.e. from the first career stage to the second, we found more support for narcissism predicting later upward mobility (Hypothesis 2) than for the reverse effect from mobility to later change in narcissism (Hypothesis 3). Moreover, this effect from upward mobility to subsequent change in narcissism was negative, indicating that higher career attainment during the first career stage inhibited (rather than fostered) subsequent growth in narcissism. In sum, these results indicate that narcissism continues to demonstrate room for development over the course of people's careers. However, future research is needed to further clarify the exact nature of the effects that career experiences such as upward mobility have on this developmental process.
Climbing the corporate ladder and within-person changes in narcissism: Reciprocal
relationships over two decades
Bart Wille1, Joeri Hofmans2, Filip Lievens3, Mitja D. Back4, and Filip De Fruyt1
1Ghent University, Belgium
2Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
3Singapore Management University, Singapore
4University of Münster, Germany
Accepted version of paper in press at Journal of Vocational Behavior. This paper is not the copy
of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article.
Date of acceptance: August 26, 2019.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bart Wille, Department of
Personnel Management, Work and Organizational Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan
2, 9000 Gent, Belgium;
Email: bart.wille@ugent.be
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Abstract
Prior research demonstrated that narcissism fosters the attainment of higher managerial ranks in
organizations. However, it is not known whether climbing the corporate ladder also fosters the
development of narcissism over time. Whereas prior work consistently adopted a unidirectional
perspective on narcissism and career attainment, this study presents and tests a bidirectional
perspective, incorporating long-term development in narcissism in relation to and in response to
long-term upward mobility. To this end, a cohort of highly educated professionals was assessed
three times over a 22-year time frame. Extended latent difference score modeling showed that,
over the entire interval, within-person changes in narcissism were positively related to within-
person changes in upward mobility. This was in line with our first hypothesis which described a
positive co-development between both processes over time. However, when reciprocity was
analyzed in a time-sequential manner, i.e. from the first career stage to the second, we found
more support for narcissism predicting later upward mobility (Hypothesis 2) than for the reverse
effect from mobility to later change in narcissism (Hypothesis 3). Moreover, this effect from
upward mobility to subsequent change in narcissism was negative, indicating that higher career
attainment during the first career stage inhibited (rather than fostered) subsequent growth in
narcissism. In sum, these results indicate that narcissism continues to demonstrate room for
development over the course of people’s careers. However, future research is needed to further
clarify the exact nature of the effects that career experiences such as upward mobility have on
this developmental process.
KEYWORDS: narcissism; managerial level; career attainment; personality development
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Climbing the Corporate Ladder and Within-Person Changes in Narcissism:
Reciprocal Relationships Over Two Decades
Although it is commonly believed that in organizations ‘the cream rises to the top’,
research also shows that climbing the corporate ladder is associated with dark side, derailed, or
aberrant personality tendencies, and particularly with narcissism (e.g., Ahmetoglu et al., 2016;
Grijalva, Harms, Newman, Gaddis, & Fraley, 2015; Harms, Spain, & Hannah, 2011; Wille, De
Fruyt, & De Clercq, 2013). Moreover, the prevalence of narcissistic executives appears to have
increased over the last two decades, which has sparked scholarly interest in the consequences of
this dark personality trait in managers (Buyl, Boone, & Wade, 2019; Chatterjee & Hambrick,
2007, 2011; Engelen, Neumann, & Schmidt, 2016; Martin, Cote, & Woodruff, 2016). Indeed,
accumulating evidence shows that narcissists’ risky strategies and investments (e.g., Wales, Patel,
& Lumpkin, 2013; Zu & Chen, 2015) can significantly endanger organizations’ success in the
long run.
Despite this recent awareness, relatively little is known about the directionality of the
relationship between narcissism and career attainment. Is narcissism more common for people
higher on the corporate ladder because they are selected into upper echelons because of their
narcissism-related traits? Or do experiences associated with the attainment of these higher-level
roles foster the development of narcissistic tendencies? Disentangling these alternative
explanations is critical if one wishes to comprehensively understand narcissism in corporate
settings and take adequate measures to manage and control it. For instance, if narcissism grows
as people climb up the corporate ladder, then screening out people with high levels of this trait
when selecting for managerial functions (e.g., Engelen et al., 2016) is a relevant but insufficient
measure. In this particular case, monitoring levels of narcissism over time, especially when
people have experienced upward transitions, is equally important.
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Such an inquiry into within-person changes in narcissism throughout people’s careers first
requires a new conceptual perspective on narcissism in which the trait is no longer seen as “set
like plaster” once adulthood is reached (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 1994). Importantly, there is
increasing awareness in the organizational behavior (e.g., Woods, Lievens, De Fruyt, & Wille,
2013), management (e.g., Tasselli, Kilduff, & Landis, 2018) and careers (e.g., Woods, Wille, Wu,
Lievens, & De Fruyt, 2019) literatures that personality is not unchangeable, but instead continues
to develop throughout the entire life course. Moreover, the bulk of research on personality
development documents a dynamic interplay between personality and outcomes in different life
domains (Specht, Egloff, & Schmukle, 2011). That is, personality traits not only predict long-
term outcomes, but are at the same time influenced by exactly these same outcomes, a
mechanism referred to as the corresponsive principle (Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005; Roberts &
Caspi, 2003). In this regard, anuntil now untestedexplanation for the positive association
between narcissism and career attainment might be that, after being selected into higher level
jobs, people’s narcissistic tendencies are further amplified as a result of professional successes.
There is currently a glaring lack of knowledge on the developmental trajectories of
narcissism in adulthood, let alone on the specific conditions that may influence it (Grijalva &
Harms, 2014; Orth & Luciano, 2015; Tasselli et al., 2018). With regard to narcissism
development, some preliminary research has demonstrated age differences in narcissism,
showing that older people tend to score lower on narcissism compared to younger people (Foster,
Campbell, & Twenge, 2003; Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010). However, the cross-sectional
nature of these data does not allow firm conclusions about intraindividual change and
development of this construct across time. Instead, such age differences have mainly been used to
inform the debate on the (non-)existence of generational differences in narcissism (e.g., Roberts
et al., 2010; Trzesniewski, Donnellan, & Robins, 2008a; 2008b). In addition to this cross-
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sectional work, and more relevant to the current study, a handful of investigations have looked at
within-person changes in narcissism using longitudinal designs in which participants are tracked
across several years during young adulthood (i.e., under age 30) (Carlson & Gjerde, 2009; Grosz
et al., 2019; Orth & Luciano, 2015). Across all three studies, virtually no mean-level
intraindividual change in narcissism was observed during early adulthood.
Turning to the conditions that may influence narcissism development, Grosz et al. (2019)
considered 30 discrete life events that may explain differences between people in intraindividual
change in narcissism, including some events that relate to people’s work life (e.g., starting a new
job). However, much of this work was exploratory in nature and it was conceptually unclear how
several of the considered life events are related to narcissism development. Moreover, a notable
limitation of this approach was that the life events were only assessed once at the end of the time
period, which makes it impossible to disentangle whether life events caused changes in
narcissism, or changes in narcissism caused life events to occur.
Against this background, the current paper aims to contribute to this literature in three
distinct ways. First, this work presents a unique longitudinal investigation of narcissism, looking
at change and stability of this construct across a large and meaningful period of time, namely the
first twenty years of people’s professional careers. Unlike previous longitudinal research in this
area, the current study is not restricted to early adulthood, but instead considers a broader age
range to get a more comprehensive picture of narcissism development in adulthood (i.e., from age
22 to 44). Second, the present study zooms in on one theoretically relevant catalyst of narcissism
development during this stage of life, namely mobility on the corporate ladder. Given that
narcissism and upward mobility are both connected to the higher-order motive of getting ahead
(Grijalva & Harms, 2014) it seems warranted to investigate the co-development of these two
processes across a long and meaningful period of time. Third, little is currently known about the
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temporal dynamics of the way in which narcissism development influences and is influenced by
life experiences, in particular career development. By scrutinizing the reciprocal relationships
between narcissism and career attainment in a time-sequential manner, i.e. from one time interval
to the other, this paper investigates how within-person change in one construct (i.e., hierarchical
rank within an organization) during one’s initial career stage influences within-person change in
the other construct (i.e., narcissism) during the next career stage and vice versa.
From a practical perspective, our results can inform organizations about potential side-
effects of upward mobility. Obtaining insight into the developmental properties of narcissism is
important because the highest levels of narcissism have been related to various unethical and
exploitative organizational behaviors, interpersonal deficits, and overall leader ineffectiveness
(see Buyl et al., 2019; Campbell et al., 2011; Grijalva & Harms, 2014; Grijalva et al., 2015;
O’Reilly, Doerr, & Chatman, 2018).
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
We begin our investigation by describing the main theoretical mechanisms through which
(a) narcissism enhances career attainment and (b) work experiences influence personality
development. Next, we extend existing theory by explaining how narcissism and career
attainment may foster each other over time, ultimately culminating in a bidirectional perspective
on narcissism and career attainment.
Narcissism and Its Predictive Effects on Higher Career Attainment
Although different conceptualizations of narcissism have been adopted in careers,
organizational behavior and management literatures, a common thread running through these
definitions is that narcissism entails characteristics such as a grandiose self-concept, feelings of
superiority, self-centeredness, and sense of entitlement (e.g., Ackerman et al., 2011; Morf &
Rhodewalt, 2001). Given that some of the hallmark characteristics associated with narcissism are
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associated with the motive to “get ahead” (Grijalva & Harms, 2014), much of this work in the
organizational sciences has studied narcissism in relation to ascendancy up the corporate ladder.
Indeed, narcissism levels are typically higher for people in higher positions in organizations (e.g.,
Ahmetoglu et al., 2016; Brunell et al., 2008; Engelen et al., 2016; Zhu & Chen, 2015).
This association between narcissism and higher career attainment is commonly explained
in terms of a selection effect whereby individuals with narcissistic tendencies select themselves
into higher level positions and/or are selected into these positions. Self-selection implies that
people actively seek out roles that are consistent with their self-appraisals. For people with
grandiose self-concepts which is a hallmark characteristic of narcissism (Campbell et al., 2011;
Paulhus & Williams, 2002) self-selection processes will operate in that these people will seek
out work roles that offer leadership opportunities and positions that society perceives as ‘high-
status’ (Campbell & Campbell, 2009). Moreover, narcissists typically have a stronger need for
achievement and power (“getting ahead”) than for close and intimate social relations (“getting
along”) (Miller, Price, Gentile, Lynam, & Campbell, 2012; Rhodewalt & Morf, 1995; Rogoza,
Wyszynska, Mackiewicz, & Cieciuch, 2016). Accordingly, narcissists usually prefer situations
and are more strongly motivated in situations in which there is a perceived opportunity for glory
and status (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002).
Besides self-selection, narcissists also have a greater chance of being selected into higher
level positions. Many of narcissists’ characteristics, such as being socially dominant, extraverted,
and having high self-esteem, match the conception of the prototypical leader (Deluga, 1997;
Ensari, Riggio, Christian, & Carslaw, 2011; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002). Experimental
small group research showed that, during brief interactions, narcissists behave more dominant
and expressive, which makes them being perceived as more assertive and leaderlike (Leckelt,
Küfner, Nestler, & Back, 2015). The employment interview is exactly such a short-term
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interaction wherein people with stronger narcissistic tendencies can display a range of self-
presentation behaviors and, as a result, tend to perform well (i.e., receive better evaluations;
Paulhus, Westlake, Stryker, & Harms, 2013). Moreover, it seems that narcissists are particularly
advantaged when it comes to being promoted into top-level positions. Not only do people at the
top of organizations (e.g., CEO’s) demonstrate higher narcissism levels themselves, but research
also found that CEO’s tend to prefer people with similarly high narcissism levels when other
upper-echelon positions in the organization (e.g., director positions) are filled (Zhu & Chen,
2015).
Taken together, narcissistic people not only actively seek out higher level jobs, but the
selection process can also take a passive form when more narcissistic people are perceived as a
better fit for higher level jobs by organizational gatekeepers with selection or promotion
authority.
The Effect of Work on Personality Development
Over the past decade, research has accumulated showing that personality not only
predicts, but is also predicted by our life experiences, including those at work (Tasselli et al.,
2018; Woods et al., 2013). The idea that personality continues to develop throughout adulthood
in interaction with our environment is consistent with major developmental theories in
psychology, including Baltes’ (1987) life span development perspective. More specifically, a
core assumption of the life span perspective is that personality does not simply passively unfold
as a consequence of the prewired maturational programs or the mechanistic reaction to
environmental stimuli; instead, personality develops out of a constant and active process of the
individual’s transactions with changing internal (e.g., biological) and external influences (Baltes,
Lindenberger, & Staudinger, 2006).
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Within the personality development literature, the Neo-Socioanalytic model of personality
(Roberts & Nickel, 2017) is currently among the most widely used perspectives to further clarify
such dynamic interactions between internal traits and external situations. More specifically, a
basic tenet of this theory is that investing in age-graded social roles, such as school, work, and
family, is one of the driving mechanisms of personality development (i.e., the social investment
principle; Roberts & Woods, 2006). Drawing on this broad theory, more specific frameworks
such as the Attraction-Selection-Transformation-Manipulation (ASTMA) Model (Roberts, 2006)
and more recently the Demands-Affordances TransActional (DATA) model (Woods et al., 2019)
have also been developed to clarify the dynamic association between personality and role
experiences, particularly at work. A common thread running through these frameworks is the idea
that the association between personality and (work) role characteristics or experiences is
bidirectional rather than unidirectional, with traits shaping our roles (i.e., manipulation) and role
characteristics and/or experiences shaping traits (i.e., transformation).
In addition, we can turn to the Personality and Role Identity Structural Model (PRISM;
Wood & Roberts, 2006) to describe at a more micro-level the processes through which
personality and work influence each other (e.g., Wille & De Fruyt, 2014). The PRISM presents a
hierarchy with multiple levels of varying breadth: (a) the general identity, representing how the
person sees him/herself in general; (b) role identities, which represent perceptions of narrower,
context-specific dispositions (e.g., “how I see myself in a professional context”); (c) aggregated
role outcomes, such as general thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns within a role; and (d)
single and concrete experiences occurring in a given role. In the PRISM, role identities are of
particular importance because they might offer a way to understand how life experiences affect
personality traits over time. Specifically, when an individual commits to a social role, his or her
personality is expected to gradually shift to reflect the expectancies of that role. This happens
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because specific patterns of behaviors and feelings within these roles are rewarded (or punished)
on the basis of role requirements and expectations, which in the long run gradually changes
personality in response to these contingencies.
In the current work, we use the PRISM to explain how career attainmentas an outcome
of one’s professional functioning may foster the development of narcissism over time.
Specifically, drawing on the PRISM, we argue that repeated success (i.e., concrete role
outcomes) may convince people with latent narcissistic tendencies that they are really better than
others at work (i.e., role identity), an idea that, over time, can become solidified in their
personality (or general identity).
This final step, i.e. the spillover from one’s work role identity to one’s general identity,
involves both associative (implicit) and reflective (explicit) learning processes (Wrzus & Roberts,
2017). For example, repeated attention to praise by significant others (e.g., colleagues at work)
and the associated experience of intense positive affect following the praise, have been argued to
form an implicit pathway for narcissistic qualities (Brummelman et al., 2015). This process can
further be strengthened by external reinforcement, such as other’s verbal or non-verbal reactions
to narcissistic behaviors. In addition to association, also reflective processes maintain and
strengthen personality by consciously thinking about one’s past experiences, behavior, thoughts,
and feelings (Wrzus & Roberts, 2017). These explicit reflections can involve very short
experiences, such as thinking about a specific ego-boosting experience at work, or longer,
multiple experiences, such as the accumulation of professional accomplishment that led to a
promotion decision.
The Bidirectional Perspective on Narcissism and Career Attainment: Hypotheses
Drawing on the mechanisms described above, we propose an integrative, bidirectional
perspective on narcissism and career attainment (see Figure 1). The upper half of the model
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shows the widely acknowledged selection processes, active and passive, which explain the
predictive effects from narcissism to higher career attainment. What is novel for this literature on
narcissism, however, is that the proposed model also includes a reverse path, capturing the idea
that higher career attainment also stimulates the development of narcissism over time (i.e., lower
half of the model in Figure 1). This reverse path explains how objective indicators of career
attainment can become assimilated in a role identity, which specifies how one sees him or herself
at work based on concrete role experiences and aggregated role outcomes. Through a
combination of associative and reflective mechanisms, this role experience information can
slowly transmute up to the general disposition level. The assumption that a person’s general
identity, including one’s level of narcissism, is formed of a combination of more context-specific
identities is a fundamental developmental hypothesis (e.g., Gergen, 1991), suggesting that role
identities show a particular mediating role between life experiences and personality change.
Combined, this bidirectional perspective incorporates a fundamental condition of human
life course development which has been ignored in narcissism research to date, namely that the
associations between individual traits and life conditions reflect two mutually supportive life
course dynamics: Social selection and social influence (Roberts, Donnellan, & Hill, 2012). Social
selection refers to the processes through which the individual’s personal characteristics shape
his/her social conditions, whereas social influence (cf., ‘socialization’) refers to the processes
through which contextual conditions shape the individual’s characteristics. The combined effect
of these two processes is that personality traits help shape an individual’s life experiences, which
in turn facilitate the development of personality traits across the life span, eventually resulting in
a corresponsive mechanism (Caspi et al., 2005) or gain spiral. This means that the effect of life
conditions on personality is to deepen or amplify the personal characteristics that are
prospectively associated with those conditions in the first place. When applied to narcissism and
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career attainment, this perspective predicts that narcissistic tendencies facilitate upward mobility
and, as a response to this success, people’s narcissistic tendencies are further strengthened. This
means that the bidirectional perspective on narcissism and career attainment proposes a positive
feedback loop between narcissism and upward mobility over time. In line with the mechanisms
described above, this translates into three hypotheses.
Our first hypothesis focusses on the end result of the proposed positive feedback loop,
which is co-development (i.e., development in similar directions; Orth, Erol, Ledermann, &
Grob, 2018) between narcissism and upward mobility over time. This means that increases
(decreases) in managerial level are expected to go hand in hand with increases (decreases) in
narcissism over the same period of time. More formally, we hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 1: There is positively correlated change between narcissism and managerial
level across the same period of time.
Correlated change is essential to life span perspectives because it expresses the
fundamental idea that people develop in interaction with their environment (Hertzog &
Nesselroade, 2003). However, correlated change does not offer any insight into the nature of the
time-sequential relations between variables over time, or how narcissism predicts subsequent
upward mobility and vice versa. Therefore, the next two hypotheses zoom in on these respective
selection and socialization effects, explicitly testing the nature of the bidirectional relation
between narcissism and upward mobility. First, selection means that we expect narcissism to
positively predict subsequent upward mobility, or more formally:
Hypothesis 2: There is a positive time-sequential effect from narcissism at Time T on
subsequent change in managerial level at Time T+1.
Finally, the bidirectional perspective also entails socialization effects, which means that upward
mobility is expected to positively predict subsequent increases in narcissism, or more formally:
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Hypothesis 3: There is a positive time-sequential effect from career attainment at Time T
on subsequent change in narcissism at Time T+1.
METHOD
Design and Participants
Data came from a longitudinal project on personality and career unfolding in a Belgian
college alumni sample (for extensive descriptions of this project see De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999;
Wille et al., 2013). Three months prior to graduation (1994; wave 1), a large cohort of final year
college students (N = 934), representing a wide range of study majors, enrolled in this research
program and provided baseline personality information. Up till now, four follow-ups of this
sample have been conducted: After 1 year on the labor market (1995; wave 2), after 15 years
(2009; wave 3), after 16 years (2010; wave 4) and after 22 years (2016; wave 5).
Prior research used waves 1 to 4 from this dataset to investigate the long-term predictive
validity of general (i.e. Big Five) personality traits with regard to individual career paths (Wille,
Beyers, & De Fruyt, 2012; Wille & De Fruyt, 2014; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2010) and career
success (Vergauwe, Wille, Hofmans, & De Fruyt, 2017; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2013). Further,
this panel was also used to investigate the long-term predictive validity of dark side personality
tendencies assessed at the career start (wave 1) with regard to future career outcomes assessed 15
years later (wave 4; Wille et al., 2013).
The current study extends previous research by adding a new wave and thus by focusing
on the temporal dynamics between narcissism and higher career attainment over a 22-year time
frame. More specifically, this study is the first to use this panel to model changes in narcissism
across time, and to investigate how these changes predict and are predicted by career
development over time. To this end, we relied on data collected in 1994 (wave 1; further referred
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to as T1 in the current study), 2009 (wave 3; further referred to as T2), and 2016 (wave 5; further
referred to as T3). These waves were selected because they all included a measure of narcissistic
personality. Participants mean age was 22.59 (SD = 2.23), 37.33 (SD = 1.67), and 44.37 years
(SD = 1.79) at T1, T2, and T3 respectively.
The sample sizes across the three assessment waves vary according to the variables that
are considered (see Table 1) and selectivity in dropout was examined in several steps. With
regard to attrition between T1 and T2, continuers (n = 361) were compared to dropouts (n = 572)
in terms of T1 narcissism scores (note that at T1 managerial level was zero for everyone). The
result indicated no significant univariate difference in narcissism between both groups (p = .099).
With regard to attrition between T2 and T3, continuers and dropouts were compared on T2 scores
on narcissism as well as on T2 managerial level. Again, continuers’ (n = 224) scores on T2
narcissism were not significantly different from dropouts’ (n = 142) scores (p = .816). Similarly,
continuers (n = 164) did not score significantly different from dropouts (n = 77) in terms of T2
managerial level (p = .258). Finally, we also ran Little’s (1988) multivariate test using the SPSS
Missing Value Analysis module (Howell, 2007). Missingness was completely at random
(MCAR; χ2 = 43.33, df = 51, p = .769), which indicates that the probability of nonresponse (or
dropout) in this sample is unrelated to any of the assessed study variables.
Measures
Narcissism (T1, T2, and T3). Our measurement of narcissism adhered to a model of
subclinical personality pathology which operationalizes personality dysfunctioning in terms of
the underlying traits. Specifically, the Personality Disorder (PD) additive count technique (Miller,
Bagby, Pilkonis, Reynolds, & Lynam, 2005) was used to generate Five-Factor Model (FFM)-
derived estimates of narcissism based on ratings from the NEO PI-R (Dutch version; Hoekstra,
Ormel, & De Fruyt, 1996). The NEO PI-R is a 240-item Likert-type self-report personality
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questionnaire measuring 30 narrow facets which are typically combined into five higher order
domains (the Big Five). However, this facet-level information can also be used to assess
disordered personality at a subclinical level, including narcissism. Specifically, the FFM PD
count technique relied on expert-generated prototypes to identify a selected set of NEO PI-R
facets which are at the heart of narcissistic PD (Miller, Reynolds, & Pilkonis, 2004). As a result,
the narcissistic count score is computed as a linear combination of 13 NEO PI-R facets, using the
following formula:
Narcissism = N2 + N4(R) + E1(R) + E3 + E5 + O3(R) + O4 + A1(R) + A2(R) + A3(R) +
A4(R) + A5(R) + A6(R),
whereby (R) indicates that the facet must first be reverse scored before computing the
count score. Table A1 in the appendix gives an overview of the various NEO PI-R facets
included in the narcissism count score and how they are manifested.
In terms of the validation of this measure, several studies provided strong support for the
convergent validity evidence of the narcissistic count score in relation to more direct measures of
narcissistic symptomatology (Miller et al., 2005; Miller et al., 2008). The approach is also widely
applied across various domains in psychology (e.g., Ahmetoglu et al., 2016; De Fruyt et al.,
2009; Maples et al., 2010; Miller, Few, Lynam, & MacKillop, 2015; Watts et al., 2013). Last but
not least, this approach is instantiated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013) as a core part of
describing PDs, including the narcissistic PD in section III.
It is common in longitudinal research to test for measurement invariance (MI) of the
assessed constructs across time. To the best of our knowledge, there is no specific procedure to
conduct MI analyses in case of compound scales, such as the narcissistic compound included in
this study. So, we performed a MI analysis for each of the 13 personality facet scales which are
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considered the building blocks of the compound. To this end, for each facet we first examined
whether the same factor configuration held across time (i.e., configural invariance) by estimating
a single confirmatory factor analysis model in which all model parameters not required for
identification purposes were estimated freely at all time points. More specifically, apart from the
factor variances (which were fixed to one) and the factor means (fixed to zero), all model
parameters were freely estimated. Second, metric MI was tested by constraining the factor
loadings to be equal across time. To this end, we tested a model in which the factor means were
fixed to zero, the factor variance at T1 was fixed to one and the factor loadings were constrained
to be equal across T1, T2 and T3. Finally, scalar MI was evaluated by also constraining the item
intercepts to be equal across time. In this model, the factor mean at T1 was fixed to zero, the
factor variance at T1 was fixed to one, and both the factor loadings and item intercepts were
constrained to be equal across T1, T2 and T3. Each time after having placed additional
constraints on the model, we tested change in model fit using ∆CFI. As Meade, Johnson, and
Braddy (2008) argue, when ∆CFI values exceed .002, this suggests that at least one of the
constrained parameters is non-invariant (see also Nye, Bradburn, Olenick, Bialko, & Drasgow,
2019). In case this happened, we explored potential causes of noninvariance using the
modification indices. That is, the parameter constraint found to contribute most to model misfit
was removed (i.e., the constraint with the largest modification index), and the model was
subsequently re-estimated and re-evaluated. The results of this procedure are reported in Table
A2 in the Appendix. For the bulk of facets, even the most constrained models still demonstrated
decent model fit. So, it appears there is sufficient evidence in favor of our approach to use the
narcissism items for making comparisons across time.
Managerial level (T2 and T3). We assessed self-report managerial level at T2 and T3 via
five response categories: 1 = below management level, 2 = lower management job, 3 = middle
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management job, 4 = top management job in a small company (less than 250 employees) and 5 =
top management job in a large company (more than 250 employees). This measure is in line with,
for instance, Stroh et al.’s (1992) 4-point scale of managerial career success (i.e., 1 = non-
management/professional, 2 = lower management, 3 = middle management, and 4 = upper
management). For the current study, upper or top management was split into two subcategories to
allow additional differentiation at the high end of the distribution. We specifically differentiated
between top management in small versus large companies based on the logic that the latter tend
to require a taller hierarchy, meaning that the attainment of top levels is more challenging and/or
requires more upward mobility (as compared to smaller organizations).
Analyses
To test the dynamic interrelationships between narcissism and managerial level, we
modeled the longitudinal data using the extended multivariate Latent Difference Score (LDS)
model of Grimm, An, McArdle, Zonderman, and Resnick (2012). This model is an extension of
the traditional multivariate LDS model in that it not only models level-on-change relationships,
but also tests how previous changes relate to subsequent changes. That is, whereas the traditional
multivariate LDS model tests only whether inter-individual differences (i.e., level) in one
variable predict intra-individual differences (i.e., change) in another variable, the extended
multivariate LDS model additionally tests whether intra-individual differences (i.e., change) in
one variable trigger intra-individual differences (i.e., change) in the other variable. This is of
critical importance for this study because the idea that narcissistic tendencies facilitate upward
mobility and that these success experiences in turn further strengthen people’s narcissistic
tendencies implies testing whether changes in narcissism predict subsequent changes in career
success and vice versa.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 18
Figure 2 displays all paths of the tested model and Table 2 gives an overview of all
parameters that are particularly relevant for the current study. Note that several paths in Figure 2
are unlabeled (e.g., between NT1 and NT2) which indicates that these are fixed equal to 1; other
paths have the same label (i.e., ϒN , βN) which means that they are constrained to be equal over
time (see also Grimm et al., 2012). The extended multivariate LDS model consists of two coupled
univariate LDS models: one for narcissism (shown in the upper half of the figure) and one for
managerial level (shown in the lower half of Figure 2)
1
. In both univariate models, the observed
score at time Trepresented by the squares in Figure 2is separated into a true score at time T
(i.e., the ellipses in Figure 2) and a unique score at time T (i.e., the ε terms in Figure 2). To create
the latent difference scores, the true scores are specified to follow a fixed-unit autoregressive
process according to which the true score at time T+1 consists of the true score at time T plus
change in the true score from time T to T+1 (i.e., the Δ terms in Figure 2).
As Figure 2 shows, there are no data for managerial level at time T1: At time T1, all
participants were still students. Thus, managerial level was 0 for all participants at the start of the
study. This peculiarity in the data has a number of important implications. First, although we
have an intercept parameter for narcissism (capturing inter-individual differences in narcissism at
T1), the intercept parameter for managerial level was omitted from the model because everyone
started at zero. Second, as managerial level was 0 at T1, the true score of managerial level at T2
captures both the level of managerial level at T2 and change in managerial level between T1 and
1
Based on a reviewer’s suggestion, we also tested this model including participants’ study major as a control
variable. In this model, study major serves as a predictor variable for the intercept and slope of narcissism and the
slope of managerial level. However, the obtained results were completely in line with what we currently report (i.e.,
without major as a control). The results from the model including study major can be downloaded from
https://osf.io/htcmj/?view_only=9f165b9b82304f1ca86a2fb7753030e3.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 19
T2. Hence, it is used both in the autoregressive process of T3 and for testing the change-to-
change relationship between managerial level and narcissism.
The temporal dynamics of narcissism and managerial level are captured in several ways
(see also Table 2). First, SN and SML represent the linear slopes of narcissism and managerial level
respectively, and therefore capture constant, linear change across the entire time period. In
addition, the model contains two parameters which grasp the time-sequential dynamics of
narcissism and managerial level, or how both constructs evolve (separately) from one time point
to the other (Kim-Spoon & Grimm, 2016). Specifically, the β parameters in Figure 2 capture
proportional change, meaning that they tell us to what extent change in narcissism at time T+1
depends on the level of narcissism at time T. Note that, for the current analyses, the β parameters
(i.e., T1T2 and T2T3) were constrained to be equal over time. Finally, the ϕ parameters
capture dual change (or change-to-change), meaning that they reveal whether change in
narcissism (managerial level) from time T to time T+1 depends on change in narcissism
(managerial level) from time T-1 to time T.
Apart from capturing the temporal dynamics within each univariate model, the dynamic
interrelations between the two univariate LDS models are modeled via a set of coupling
parameters. First, two coupling parameters capture the interrelations between narcissism and
managerial level across the entire time interval. More specifically, the latent slope factors of
narcissism and managerial level are correlated (i.e., ρSN,SML), which allows testing whether changes
in both variables across the entire time interval are related (i.e., co-development; Hypothesis 1).
In addition, the initial level (intercept) of narcissism and slope of managerial level are correlated
(i.e., ρIN,SML), which offers a first test of the idea that narcissism predicts increases in managerial
level (i.e., selection; Hypothesis 2) across the entire time interval.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 20
Second, three coupling parameters capture time-sequential interrelations between
narcissism and managerial level, or how both variables influence each other from one time
interval to the other. Estimating the effects of initial narcissism on subsequent change in
managerial level (i.e., proportional change; ϒN) and the effect of change in narcissism on
subsequent change in managerial level (i.e., dual change; ζN) represent two additional tests of the
proposed selection process (i.e., Hypothesis 2). Similar as for the βN parameters, the γN
parameters were constrained to be equal over time. Finally, estimating the effect of managerial
level at T2 on subsequent change in narcissism (i.e., ζML) allows testing whether upward mobility
has an effect on later growth in narcissism (i.e., socialization; Hypothesis 3). Note again that,
because there was no data about managerial level at T1, this last effect can represent dual change
as well as proportional change.
The model was tested using Bayesian estimation in Mplus version 7.31 (Muthén &
Muthén, 2012). Although Bayesian analysis has only recently gained attention in the
management literature (Zyphur & Oswald, 2013), it has some important advantages over
traditional inferential methods (Bidee et al., 2017). Two key advantages are that Bayesian
estimation flexibly deals with data that violate standard analysis assumptions and that it allows
testing models that are hard to fit (for a detailed discussion of Bayesian analysis see Kruschke,
Aguinis, & Joo, 2012). Due to the non-normality of the managerial level scores and the high
complexity of our model, Bayesian estimation seemed particularly well suited. In contrast to the
traditionalfrequentistapproach, Bayesian analysis does not yield p-values or confidence
intervals. Instead, it produces per parameter a probability distribution of the parameter given the
data by combining prior parameter distributions with the data using Markov Chain Monte Carlo
algorithms (Kruschke et al., 2012; Zyphur & Oswald, 2015). Based on these posterior
distributions, credibility intervals are constructed, referring to the likelihood that the interval
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 21
covers the true parameter value, based on the observed data (Yuan & MacKinnon, 2009). For
example, a 95% credibility interval of [1.00, 2.00] means that there is a 95% chance that the true
parameter value ranges between 1.00 and 2.00. As Bayesian analysis combines prior parameter
distributions with the data to iteratively approximate the posterior parameter distributions, one
needs to specify the prior distributions before the analysis. In this paper, we used the default,
uninformative Mplus priors.
It is important to note, finally, that all reported parameters estimated in this modeling
framework represent unstandardized coefficients. We therefore caution against making any
inferences with regard to the strength of the reported effects.
RESULTS
Descriptive Analyses
As a first step, we tested the relationships between all observed study variables. As can be
seen in Table 1, there were moderate positive relationships between narcissism at T1, T2, and T3
and between managerial level at T2 and T3. Narcissism and managerial level were also positively
correlated, suggesting that people with higher levels of narcissism hold higher managerial levels,
and that this relationship held across waves.
Latent Changes In Narcissism And Managerial Level
In the next step, we modeled latent changes in narcissism and managerial level and their
connections over time (see Table 2). Results from the upper half of the model show that, on
average, participants demonstrated no significant linear growth in narcissism over the 22-year
interval (SN = .09; 95% credibility interval = [-.04, .21]). Importantly, the variance associated
with this linear slope reveals that this should not be interpreted as a complete absence of slow-
paced change in narcissism, but rather as the result of statistically significant between-person
differences in the way individuals narcissism levels evolved over time (Var(SN) = .03; 95%
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 22
credibility interval = [.02, .04]). Individual slope estimates varied in this sample from -.61 to .27,
illustrating how some people showed decreases and others showed increases, and these opposite
trajectories cancelled each other out at the mean level. Moreover, the intercept of narcissism was
negatively related to the slope, meaning that people who have higher initial levels of narcissism
show less increase or even a decrease in narcissism over the 22-year period (ρIN,SN = -.45; 95%
credibility interval = [-.56, -.32]). Turning to the time-sequential changes, there was little support
for proportional change, meaning that change in narcissism between Times T and T+1 did not
depend on the level of narcissism at Time T (βN = -.04; 95% credibility interval = [-.08, .01]).
Instead, we did find support for dual change relationships, revealing that change in narcissism
between T1 and T2 negatively predicted change in narcissism between T2 and T3 (ϕN = -.76; 95%
credibility interval = [-.90, -.61]).
With respect to upward mobility, on average, participants managerial levels increased
(SML = .82; 95% credibility interval = [.69, .96]) although there are significant between-person
differences in this linear trend (Var(SML) = .62; 95% credibility interval = [.44, .85]). Regarding
the time-sequential changes, managerial level at T2 negatively predicted change in managerial
level between T2 and T3 (ϕN = -.53; 95% credibility interval = [-.68, -.34]). As managerial level
at T2 captured both managerial level at T2 and change in managerial level between T1 and T2,
this finding suggests that people who are already at a higher level increase less (i.e., proportional
change), that people who increased more in managerial level show less upward mobility in the
next period (i.e., dual change), or that a combination of proportional change and dual change is at
play.
Associations Between Narcissism And Managerial Level Over Time
Finally, Table 2 also presents the results for the coupling parameters linking narcissism to
managerial level over time, which allows us to test the central elements of the proposed
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 23
bidirectional perspective on narcissism and career attainment. First, consistent with our
expectations (Hypothesis 1), results showed a positive correlation between the slopes of
narcissism and managerial level, implying that greater increases in narcissism over the entire 22-
year interval go together with greater increases in managerial level across the same period of time
(ρSN,SML = .35; 95% credibility interval = [.19, .50]) .
Second, two model parameters also provided support for Hypothesis 2, which predicted
that narcissism positively predicts upward mobility. More specifically, the intercept of narcissism
was positively related to the slope of managerial level, meaning that higher initial levels of
narcissism at career start predict stronger growth in managerial level over the entire 22-year
interval (ρIN,SML = .17; 95% credibility interval = [.05, .29]). In addition, time-sequential paths
showed that there is a positive effect from narcissism at Time T on subsequent change in
managerial level at Time T+1 (i.e., proportional change; ϒN = .03; 95% credibility interval = [.01,
.09]). However, this time-sequential effect was not significant when change in narcissism was
used to predict subsequent change in managerial level (i.e., dual change; ξN = -.58; 95%
credibility interval = [-.94, .11]). This indicates that levels of narcissism, not change in
narcissism, predict future upward mobility.
Finally, in contrast to our expectation (Hypothesis 3), the effect of (change in) managerial
level on subsequent change in narcissism was significant but negative (ξML = -.04; 95%
credibility interval = [-.06, -.02]). Once again, as managerial level at T2 captures both the level at
T2 and change in managerial level between T1 and T2, this finding implies that either the
managerial level, or the change in managerial level, or a combination thereof negatively predicts
subsequent change in narcissism.
DISCUSSION
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 24
The presence of narcissistic features in people in the highest echelons of organizations has
become a topic of intense public debate and has also caught a lot of scholarly attention. What
characterizes this stream of research is that, until now, it relied on a purely unidirectional
perspective in which narcissism was considered the (stable) predictor, whereas career attainment
served as the outcome which develops over time. Although it has often been suggested that the
attainment of higher-level positions might also increase individual narcissism, until now
“acquired situational narcissism” (Campbell et al., 2011, p. 273) has not yet been tested
longitudinally. This is problematic in light of the growing evidence for plasticity in people’s
personality traits, and more specifically in view of the influence of work-related experiences on
patterns of personality development (e.g., Tasselli et al., 2018; Woods, Lievens, et al., 2013;
Woods, Wille, et al., 2019). Therefore, the current paper sought to investigate the dynamic and
reciprocal relationships between narcissism and upward transitions on the corporate ladder.
Hence, we responded to recent calls in management (e.g., Grijalva & Harms, 2014; Tasselli et al.,
2018) and personality (e.g., Grosz et al., 2019) literatures to investigate the developmental paths
of this critical domain of personality functioning.
We first introduced an alternative theoretical framework that connects two mutually
supportive life course dynamics, i.e., social selection and social influence or socialization,
whereas previous research on narcissism and career attainment considered only half of the story
by focusing exclusively on selection effects. Relying on this perspective, the current study
extends the existing literature on narcissism and vertical mobility in three ways. First, it
highlights that adult narcissism is not fixed as plaster, but that there is room for development as
people grow older and give direction to their organizational careers. An important finding in this
regard is that there was no clear pattern of normative growth or loss in narcissism across the
entire 22-year interval. For instance, based on social investment theory (Roberts & Wood, 2006),
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 25
one could argue for an average decrease in narcissism because the developmental tasks
accompanying social investment run contrary to the model mind sets of narcissists. More
specifically, being hostile to the interests of others, which is a key element of narcissism, would
preclude making deep and long-lasting connections with other people, which are necessary to
succeed in the interpersonal roles of adulthood (Roberts et al., 2010). The current findings
underscore that long-term change in narcissism exists, but also show that the direction and
magnitude of this change vary significantly between persons. Subsets of individuals are
increasing and others are decreasing and thus offsetting each other’s change, resulting in no
mean-level change overall (Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006). The assumption hereby is
that at least part of this interindividual variation in intraindividual change can be related to
differences in the types of environments to which people are exposed (Caspi & Roberts, 2001).
Delving into these environmental experiences, a second contribution is that our findings
provide support for long-term positive co-development of narcissism and career growth over
time. This form of correlated change (e.g., Allemand, Zimprich, & Martin, 2008; Wille et al.,
2014) provides evidence of personality and social roles enhancing one another over time, which
is a cornerstone of neo-socioanalytic approaches to personality (Roberts & Nickel, 2017). The
current study is one of the first to apply this perspective to dark personality, in particular
narcissism and how it relates to career advancement over time. Higher managerial positions are
indeed a useful social platform for obtaining the narcissistic goals of self-enhancement, via, for
instance, social status, material goods, admiration, and social power. These positions, as argued
by Campbell and Campbell (2009), rather reinforce having power over others (agentic concerns)
than forming close, warm relationships with others (communal concerns); a combination of
environmental factors that closely matches narcissists’ natural preferences.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 26
As a third key contribution, the present study delved deeper into the dynamic interaction
between narcissism and upward mobility through means of time-sequential analyses. There was
clear support for the idea that narcissism fosters individual career advancement over time, a
process we explained as selection effects in the proposed bidirectional perspective. In addition,
the present study was the first to demonstrate that there is also a reverse effect, from career
attainment to subsequent change in narcissism, although this effect was in the opposite direction
compared to what was expected. More specifically, people with steep career growth during the
first stage of the career had smaller growth in narcissism during the next stage, which seems to
indicate that the longitudinal recursive relationship between these variables is discontinuous
rather than a clean gain spiral (Kim-Spoon & Grimm, 2016). In other words, there are boundaries
to the extent to which narcissism and career growth enhance each other over time; a finding
which can be linked to the contextual reinforcement model of narcissism (Campbell & Campbell,
2009). According to this model, narcissism is beneficial in the “emerging zone”, which includes
new leadership positions and leadership in chaotic situations. In contrast, narcissism is harmful in
the “enduring zone”, which includes long-held leadership positions and leadership in stable
situations.
Although a certain level of narcissism at the start of one’s career seems to facilitate
upward mobility, once these higher-level roles are obtained, there is less pressure for continuous
increases in narcissism. Indeed, there seems to be an optimal level of narcissism in relation to
managerial effectiveness (Grijalva et al., 2015), and the co-development of narcissism and career
growth may in part be regulated by this principle. Specifically, as extremely high levels of
narcissism hinder rather than facilitate effective functioning in these roles, a phase of stabilization
rather than a continued increase of narcissism seems beneficial once individuals have reached a
certain echelon in the hierarchy.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 27
With regard to practical implications, the finding that narcissism continues to develop
throughout one’s career is crucial information for organizations given the many undesirable
outcomes that are associated with more elevated levels of this trait. In particular, it highlights that
single-shot assessment of narcissism might not be indicative of a person’s trait standing after a
certain period of time, particularly following the experience of upward transitions. In addition to
screening for narcissism when individuals are hired (e.g., Engelen et al., 2016), organizations
might therefore also benefit from monitoring narcissistic tendencies over time to keep track of
people who start displaying or developing feelings of inflated self-worth.
Strengths, Limitations and Future Research Directions
The current study is the first to investigate how narcissism and career attainment
interrelate over time. Changes in narcissism were tracked across more than two decades, covering
the stages in which people’s careers are established and consolidated. Furthermore, the
availability of three measurement points allowed exploring the reciprocal nature of the co-
development between narcissism and career attainment, thereby separating within-individual
change trajectories from between-person differences. This is consistent with the conceptual build-
up for the study which described how individuals change over time from a developmental
perspective, and how understanding the trajectory of individual-level personality sheds new light
on the association between narcissism and career attainment.
That said, three limitations of this study should be acknowledged. First, the time-
sequential analyses looking at how narcissism predicted subsequent change in managerial level
(and vice versa) were limited in the current study because there were only three measurement
points available. This means that the entire 22-year period could only be divided into two rather
long time intervals with little insight into the developmental processes that unfolded within these
two periods (and how they affected each other). Clearly, increasing the number of measurement
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 28
points would enable more detailed time-sequential analyses which will offer a more fine-grained
picture of how narcissism and career attainment continuously influence each other.
Second, future work might address the mediators and moderators of the dynamic
association between narcissism and career attainment. Our conceptual model proposed that role
identity mediates the effect of higher attainment on change in narcissism, but more research is
needed on the specific types of associative and reflective learning processes that foster the
spillover from one’s work role identity to one’s general identity (Wrzus & Roberts, 2017). For
instance, the link between career attainment and narcissism might be explained by perceived
rewards and status that accompany higher level jobs, or by different task-related demands that
activate specific personality states (e.g., Woods et al., 2019). To further disentangle these
processes, future research can, for instance, also measure the concrete work experiences that are
associated with taking up managerial responsibilities, and how these influence people’s mindset.
Theory on personality development at work specifies that the repeated activation of certain traits
in response to particular work demands is key to understanding long-term personality change
(Roberts, 2006; Woods et al., 2019). Although prior research has begun to investigate how
personality states can fluctuate at work (e.g., Judge, Simon, Hurst, & Kelley, 2014; Debusscher,
Hofmans, & De Fruyt, 2016a, 2016b), little is known about how managerial activities in
particular influence momentary fluctuations in narcissistic tendencies.
Next to these mediating mechanisms, future work can refine our proposed bidirectional
perspective on narcissism and career attainment by describing and testing moderators of the
socialization process, particularly the association between work role identity and general identity.
For instance, the degree to which a particular life role (e.g., work) is central to a person’s identity
might play a role in studying reciprocal effects between these role experiences and identity
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 29
development. Only in case of high work centrality, concrete experiences and outcomes associated
with this life domain might have an effect on higher level identity development.
A final limitation relates to the measure of narcissistic personality that was used in the
current study. Specifically, by using the FFM narcissistic count score, our analyses treated
narcissism as a unitary construct, which is common in applied psychology. However, more recent
work in personality and social psychology makes a distinction between more agentic/extraverted
and more antagonistic/disagreeable aspects of grandiose narcissism (e.g., Back, 2018; Back et al.,
2013; also see Crowe, Lynam, Campbell, & Miller, 2019; Krizan & Herlache, 2018; Wright &
Edershile, 2018). It remains to be examined to which extent these facets of narcissism also have
distinct career-related outcomes and different developmental determinants.
Conclusion
Despite recent awareness that personality continues to develop throughout the entire
lifespan, prior research treated narcissism as a stable characteristic when establishing its
correlates in the work setting. Addressing this constraint, this paper presented and tested a
bidirectional perspective on narcissism and career attainment in which both dynamic constructs
are proposed to co-develop and influence each other over time. Partly confirming our
expectations, climbing the career ladder seems to go hand in hand with increases in narcissism in
the long term. However, the precise nature of the reciprocal relationship between both variables
remains somewhat unclear, particularly the negative time-sequential effect from higher
attainment to subsequent change in narcissism. We hope that future research further tests and
refines this bidirectional perspective by adopting more intensive longitudinal designs, including
additional mediating and moderating variables, and considering more differentiated measures of
narcissistic personality.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 30
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Table 1
Correlations between all study variables
M
SD
n
3
4
1. NarcisismT1
2.70
.25
933
2. NarcisismT2
2.69
.25
366
3. NarcisismT3
2.64
.24
293
-
4. Managerial levelT2
1.07
1.14
241
.30***
-
5. Managerial levelT3
1.28
1.28
335
.27***
.68***
Note. T1 = 1994; T2 = 2009; T3 = 2016. *p < 05; **p < 01; ***p < 001.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 43
Table 2
Summary of parameters estimated in the extended latent difference score model
Parameter
Description
estimate
95%
CI
Hypothesis
Upper half of the model: Latent changes in Narcissism (N)
Parameters capturing dynamics across the entire time frame
Intercept (IN)
Inter-individual differences in narcissism at the
start of the study interval
2.70
[2.68,
2.72]
-
Slope (SN)
Linear rate of intraindividual change in narcissism
across the entire study interval
.09
[-.04,
.21]
-
ρIN,SN
Correlation between narcissism intercept and
narcissism slope
-.45
[-.56, -
.32]
-
Parameters capturing time-sequential dynamics (from one time period to the other)
Proportional
change (βN)
The effect of narcissism at Time T on subsequent
change in narcissism at Time T+1
-.04
[-.08,
.01]
-
Dual change
(ϕN)
The effect of change in narcissism T1T2 on
change in narcissism T2T3
-.76
[-.90, -
.61]
-
Lower half of the model: Latent changes in Managerial Level (ML)
Parameters capturing dynamics across the entire time frame
Slope (SML)
Linear rate of intraindividual change in managerial
level across the entire study interval
.82
[.69,
.96]
-
Parameters capturing time-sequential dynamics (from one time period to the other)
Dual /
Proportional
change (ϕML)
The effect of change in managerial level T1T2
on change in managerial level T2T3
-.53
[-.68, -
.34]
-
Coupling parameters linking Narcissism to Managerial Level over time
Interrelations between N and ML across the entire time frame
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 44
ρSN,SML
Correlation between narcissism slope and
managerial level slope
.35
[.19,
.50]
H1
ρIN,SML
Correlation between narcissism intercept and slope
of managerial level
.17
[.05,
.29]
H2
Time-sequential interrelations between N and ML
Proportional
change ϒN
The effect of narcissism at Time T on subsequent
change in managerial level at Time T+1
.03
[.01,
.09]
H2
Dual change (ζN)
The effect of change in narcissism T1T2 on
change in managerial level T2T3
-.58
[-.94,
.11]
H2
Dual /
Proportional
change (ζML)
The effect of managerial level at (T1)T2 on
change in narcissism T2T3
-.04
[-.06, -
.02]
H3
Note. Except for the correlations, all parameter estimates are unstandardized coefficients in this
modeling framework.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 45
Figure 1. The bidirectional perspective on narcissism and career attainment.
NARCISSM
CAREER
ATTAINMENT
Concrete role experiences
Aggregated role outcomes
Work role identity
Active: Getting Ahead
Behavior
Passive: perceptions of
leaderlike behavior
Association
&
Reflection
SELECTION
SOCIALIZATION
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 46
Figure 2. The extended latent change model connecting levels and changes in narcissism (upper
half) to levels and changes in managerial level (lower half). Unlabeled paths are fixed equal to
one, whereas parameters with the same label (i.e., ϒN , βN) are constrained to be equal over time.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 47
Appendix
Table A1
Overview of the NEO PI-R facets included in the narcissistic count score
NEO PI-R facet
Manifestation
A5(R): Low Modesty
Arrogance, grandiosity and conceit
A3(R): Low Altruism
Self-centeredness, selfishness and exploitation
A6(R): Low Tender-Mindedness
Lack of empathy
A2(R): Low Straightforwardness
Manipulativeness
A1(R): Low Trust
Tendency toward suspiciousness
A4(R): Low Compliance
Uncooperativeness
N2: High Angry Hostility
Tendency to become enraged (e.g., when criticized)
N4(R): Low Self-Consciousness
Absence of feelings of embarrassment
E1(R): Low Warmth
Formal, reserved and distant in manner
E3: High Assertiveness
Dominance and forcefulness
E5: High Excitement-Seeking
Craving for excitement and stimulation
O3(R): Low Openness to Feelings
Muted affects
O4: High Openness to Actions
Preference for novelty and variety
Note. (R) indicates that the facet must be reverse scored before the count score is computed.
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 48
Table A2
CFA-models testing measurement invariance across time
MODEL
Χ2
df
p
CFI
RMSEA
Agreeableness 1
1. Configural Invariance
454.36
225
<.001
.941
.033
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
472.72
239
<.001
.940
.032
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
591.20
252
<.001
.913
.038
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
548.05
251
<.001
.924
.036
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏5𝑡1 free
506.95
250
<.001
.934
.033
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏2𝑡1 free
487.97
249
<.001
.939
.032
Agreeableness 2
1. Configural Invariance
303.31
225
<.001
.976
.019
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
322.42
239
<.001
.975
.019
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
367.03
252
<.001
.965
.022
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
336.34
251
<.001
.974
.019
Agreeableness 3
1. Configural Invariance
509.13
225
<.001
.885
.037
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
529.74
239
<.001
.882
.036
2a. Partial Invariance of the factor loadings - Model 2 + 𝜆7𝑡1 free
526.54
238
<.001
.883
.036
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
563.86
251
<.001
.873
.037
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
554.31
250
<.001
.877
.036
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏2𝑡1 free
543.23
249
<.001
.881
.036
Agreeableness 4
1. Configural Invariance
326.51
225
<.001
.950
.022
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
344.07
239
<.001
.948
.022
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
449.33
252
<.001
.903
.029
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
361.77
251
<.001
.946
.022
Agreeableness 5
1. Configural Invariance
887.19
225
<.001
.807
.056
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
902.85
239
<.001
.806
.055
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
1046.38
252
<.001
.768
.058
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏3𝑡1 free
1004.33
251
<.001
.780
.057
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏5𝑡1 free
973.77
250
<.001
.789
.056
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
920.06
249
<.001
.804
.054
Agreeableness 6
1. Configural Invariance
387.72
225
<.001
.921
.028
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
402.89
239
<.001
.920
.027
3. Invariance of item intercepts
483.53
252
<.001
.887
.031
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
451.01
251
<.001
.903
.029
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏6𝑡1 free
434.74
250
<.001
.910
.028
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
419.51
249
<.001
.917
.027
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
412.60
248
<.001
.920
.027
Extraversion 1
1. Configural Invariance
536.72
225
<.001
.896
.039
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
544.12
239
<.001
.898
.037
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
734.18
252
<.001
.839
.045
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏3𝑡1 free
646.57
251
<.001
.868
.041
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 49
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
609.45
250
<.001
.880
.039
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏6𝑡1 free
573.14
249
<.001
.892
.037
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
562.62
248
<.001
.895
.037
3e. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3d + 𝜏3𝑡2 free
555.21
247
<.001
.897
.037
Extraversion 3
1. Configural Invariance
527.55
225
<.001
.933
.038
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
550.87
239
<.001
.931
.037
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
691.24
252
<.001
.902
.043
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏5𝑡1 free
593.88
251
<.001
.924
.038
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
574.33
250
<.001
.928
.037
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
563.92
249
<.001
.930
.037
Extraversion 5
1. Configural Invariance
380.30
225
<.001
.939
.027
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
399.23
239
<.001
.937
.027
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
494.86
252
<.001
.905
.032
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
450.72
251
<.001
.922
.029
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
426.47
250
<.001
.931
.028
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏5𝑡1 free
418.25
249
<.001
.934
.027
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + 𝜏6𝑡1 free
409.35
248
<.001
.937
.026
Neuroticism 2
1. Configural Invariance
539.48
225
<.001
.901
.039
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
547.55
239
<.001
.903
.037
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
752.26
252
<.001
.843
.046
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏2𝑡1 free
632.64
251
<.001
.880
.040
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
602.60
250
<.001
.889
.039
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏6𝑡1 free
585.69
249
<.001
.894
.038
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
567.51
248
<.001
.899
.037
3e. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3d + 𝜏5𝑡2 free
561.70
247
<.001
.901
.037
Neuroticism 4
1. Configural Invariance
289.79
225
<.001
.976
.018
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
523.53
239
<.001
.896
.036
2a. Partial Invariance of the factor loadings - Model 2 + 𝜆2𝑡1 free
303.16
238
<.001
.976
.017
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
488.58
251
<.001
.913
.032
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏2𝑡1 free
410.54
250
<.001
.941
.026
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏6𝑡1 free
333.60
249
<.001
.969
.019
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏3𝑡1 free
310.15
248
<.001
.977
.016
Openness 3
1. Configural Invariance
396.84
225
<.001
.933
.029
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
413.86
239
<.001
.932
.028
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
493.55
252
<.001
.906
.032
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 + 𝜏8𝑡1 free
454.53
251
<.001
.921
.029
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
443.04
250
<.001
.925
.029
3c. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
434.60
249
<.001
.928
.028
3d. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3c + 𝜏2𝑡1 free
428.27
248
<.001
.930
.028
Openness 4
1. Configural Invariance
396.47
225
<.001
.930
.029
2. Invariance of the factor loadings
409.88
239
<.001
.930
.028
3. Invariance of the item intercepts
538.98
252
<.001
.882
.035
3a. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3 +𝜏6𝑡1 free
484.12
251
<.001
.904
.032
CHANGES IN NARCISSISM 50
3b. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3a + 𝜏7𝑡1 free
433.91
250
<.001
.924
.028
3C. Partial Invariance of the item intercepts - Model 3b + 𝜏4𝑡1 free
423.62
249
<.001
.928
.027
Note. CFI refers to the Comparative Fit Index, and RMSEA to the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation.
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Chapter
In this chapter, I present a theoretical framework that is aimed at explaining the complex and seemingly paradoxical structure, dynamics, and consequences of grandiose narcissism: the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept (NARC). I first very briefly review the state of research on grandiose narcissism, showing that the content conceptually aligned with, and the measures typically applied to assess, grandiose narcissism can be sorted into more agentic and more antagonistic aspects that show unique nomological networks, dynamics, and outcomes. Then I describe a novel self-regulatory perspective, the NARC, which distinguishes between these agentic and antagonistic aspects of grandiose narcissism. According to the NARC, narcissists overarching goal to create and maintain a grandiose self can be pursued by two social strategies (narcissistic self-promotion and narcissistic self-defense) that translate into two sets of dynamics (narcissistic admiration and rivalry) with distinct affective-motivational, cognitive, and behavioral states that tend to have different social consequences (social potency and conflict). The NARC is meant to provide a clearer understanding of what grandiose narcissism is, how it works, and why it produces a rich variety of seemingly contradictory outcomes. I continue by presenting a summary of existing empirical evidence for the validity of the NARC, underlining its two-dimensional structure, the distinct mental and behavioral dynamics of narcissistic admiration and rivalry, and their unique intra- and interpersonal as well as institutional outcomes. Finally, I outline an agenda for future research that focuses on how admiration and rivalry combine, fluctuate, and develop within persons. © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018.
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This article focuses on an emergent debate in organizational behavior concerning personality stability and change. We introduce foundational psychological research concerning whether individual personality, in terms of traits, needs, and personal constructs, is fixed or changeable. Based on this background, we review recent research evidence on the antecedents and outcomes associated with personality change. We build on this review of personality change to introduce new directions for personality research in organizational behavior. Specifically, we discuss how a view of personality as changeable contributes to key topics for organizational behavior research and how this new approach can help broaden and deepen the scope of personality theory and measurement. The study of personality change offers a range of new ideas and research opportunities for the study of organizational behavior.
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Although some researchers have suggested that narcissistic CEOs may have a positive influence on organizational performance (e.g., Maccoby, 2007; Patel & Cooper, 2014), a growing body of evidence suggests that organizations led by narcissistic CEOs experience considerable downsides, including evidence of increased risk taking, overpaying for acquisitions, manipulating accounting data, and even fraud. In the current study we show that narcissistic CEO's subject their organizations to undue legal risk because they are overconfident about their ability to win and less sensitive to the costs to their organizations of such litigation. Using a sample of 32 firms, we find that those led by narcissistic CEOs are more likely to be involved in litigation and that these lawsuits are more protracted. In two follow-up experimental studies, we examine the mechanism underlying the relationship between narcissism and lawsuits and find that narcissists are less sensitive to objective assessments of risk when making decisions about whether to settle a lawsuit and less willing to take advice from experts. We discuss the implications of our research for advancing theories of narcissism and CEO influence on organizational performance.
Chapter
As part of the resurgence of interest in personality development, we wrote several theoretical pieces outlining the Neo-Socioanalytic Model of Personality Development. In this chapter, we clarify why we developed this framework and how it differs from other personality frameworks. We also discuss how well components of the framework, such as the principles of personality development, have held up over time. We conclude with recommendations on improving the model and for future research to better test predictions from the model.