‘Generation Y’ and Narcissism


In order to enhance success in business life, the characters and features of the employees should be understood and evaluated carefully by the managers, leaders and business actors. In today's business life, Y ’generation is increasing rapidly. For this reason, understanding the characteristics of y generation is of utmost importance in order to evaluate what changes in business life and take precautions. Additionally, narcissism has been examined for many years by different disciplines as an important personality trait affecting the life of the person by scholars. Specifically, scholars in management emphasized the narcissim and its effects on workplace behaviour. In this context, it is necessary to evaluate the narcissistic tendency of the Y generation in order to understand the long-term changes in business life. In this study, we discussed the effects of the narcissism, which is one of the important personality traits, on the work behaviors and the narcissistic tendency of y generation.

Keywords: NarcissismGeneration Yorganizationwork behaviour


Narcissism, which has been the subject of psychology studies for many years, is now increasingly used to define the behavior of employees in organizations. This enhancement in general attention has collide with an increase in research attention on narcissism from those in workplace behaviour. As it is known, narcissism is an important personality characteristic affecting the life and perceptions of the person. For this reason, it is necessary to understand and evaluate the components. However, despite the increasing number of studies, there is confusion about the structure of narcissism. This complexity roots from the truth that narcissism has complex structure and difficulty of research (Blair, Hoffman, & Helland, 2008).

The workforce in today’s organization get diversified, for example cultural, gender and important one generations. The generational school of thought defend that managers must realize the impact and work options of dissimilar generations to be efficient. Researchers claim that every generation has a parallel philosophy of life, due to attitude to common social events and historical during their formative years. Even if every member of a generation will have inhabited the same life cycle, but they will have a shared common awareness which composes a ‘generational personality’. Today, most of the employees in business life are members of Generation Y (Trzesniewski, Donnellan, & Robins, 2008b). They have dissimilar occupational perception than previous generations. They have dissimilar expectancies and aims related to the work life and their characteristics impacts the organisational strategies of the firms to a great comprehension. (Arnett, 2013).

In this study, we investaged narcissim in organization behaviour context and the effect of narcissim in aspects of generation Y. This study begins by describing narcissism, as well as the theories used to define it. Then, we emphasized the roled leadership then the relationship between nercissim and performance, counterproductive work behaviour, entitlement and last but not least we investigate general issues. Finally, we evaluated the characteristics of the Y generation and the narcissistic tendencies.

What is narcissism?

Basic definition

For a long time, narcissism has been researched with growing attention in social, clinical and personality psychology. However, in the last period, narcissism has take more interest in research targeting non-clinical fields. Behavioral scientists considered narcissism to be a very important factor in changing people's behavior and the structure of the organization (Brown, Budzek, & Tamborski, 2009). For this reason, the concept of narcissism has undergone many different research and identification processes. Narcissism is a wide personality symptomatology that includes a magnificent sense of self-assertion, weak self-control, lack of empathy imaginations of unlimited power, entitlement and an inability to tolerate criticism (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Narcissism includes an exaggerated view of self; fantasies of success and control; and a request to have this self-love strengthen by others (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). Than, much research has focused on the measurement of narcissism, and problematic behavior, like impulsivity. The most known narcissistic measurement tool, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), contains items relate to leadership, magnificent exhibitionism and a sense of entitlement (Raskin & Hall, 1979). The psychiatric and clinical literature identifies narcissism as a personality disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). In the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), NPD is described as incuding a widespread version of grandiosity (in imagination or behavior), and a lack of empathy, a stable need for adoration, beginning by early adulthood and present in a diversity of contexts, as indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria (e.g., “A grandiose sense of self-importance”; “A need for excessive admiration’’; ‘‘A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love’’) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Also, in a proposed alternative model cited in DSM-5, NPD is characterized by moderate or greater impairment in personality functioning, manifested by characteristic difficulties in 2 or more of the following 4 areas, such as identity, self-direction, empathy, intimacy. In addition, NPD is characterized by the presence of both grandiosity and attention seeking (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The researchers state that the three components of narcissism must be evaluated separately. The first of the three components is the narcissistic self is defined by positivity, uniqueness and specialness, arrogance, a desire for respect and power and a sense of entitlement. Second, narcissistic relationships include low levels of emotional intimacy, empathy and kindness. However, there are exploitative and destructive relationships without emotional depth. They prefer to build relationships in which people serve themselves. Third, there are narcissistic tactics for providing inflated self-views. For instance, narcissistic people search out opportunities for admiration and attention, glory and play games in relationship. When narcissists think they are successful in a subject, they feel good and report high life satisfaction. (Sedikides, Rudich, Gregg, Kumashiro, & Rusbult, 2004). In the opposite case, they feel they have failed, have a tendency to depression, and behave aggressively (Miller, Campbell, & Pilkonis, 2007). The most important point to be considered in these studies; is a distinction between unhealthy, narcissistic self-love with a healthy self-confidence. It is necessary to pay attention to the properties of APA and a number of features when reaching this separation. For example, narcissistic people are inclined to overrate their skills and positive conclusions of their behaviours with important risk-taking treatments in decision making. For instance, narcissists overrate their future grades and are more likely to admit risky discussions in a laboratory betting game (Farwell & Wohlwend- Lloyd, 1998; Campbell, Goodie, & Foster, 2004). Also, narcissistic individuals exaggerate their achievements, stay away from criticism and communicate only with people who admire them. (Resick, Whitman, Weingarden, & Hiler, 2009). To others, narcissists appear self-promoting, aggressive, proud and arrogant. The threaten-egotism supposition provides that narcissists usually refuse negative feedback, but if publicly criticized, then they are likely to reply aggressively (Brown et al., 2009).

Theoretical models of narcissism

For many years, researchers have been investigating how narcissism develops across the life. Empirically and conceptually, narcissism establishes bridges normal functioning and pathological (Miller et al., 2009). In many years, researchers have developed several approaches and models that are useful for understanding narcissism. Although these theories do not claim exact “right” or “wrong” direction, they enable us to evaluate from a wider perspective while looking at narcissism.

One of the most important theories about narcissism is personality trait. They argue that narcissism can be a part of a person's character and can be observed throughout life. The feature approach of narcissism argues that the narcissism is a personality trait that can be measured and evaluated such as the Big Five, HEXACO or Five Factor Model (FFM). We expect narcissistic people to get high or low scores from these measuring instruments depending on the characteristics of the narcissist (Paulhus, 2001). For example, narcissism should primary qualifyed by low scores on pleasantness and high scores on extraversion.

Self-regulation models, another important model of narcissism, focus on how diversified ingredients such as the narcissistic self, relationships, motivations, and self-regulatory strategies relate in a dynamic connection to drive narcissistic behavior. This theory emphasizes that identifying motivational sources of narcissistic behaviors is extremely important and states that narcissism will be better explained by the presence of these resources. Researchers have identified four main sources of motivation in this context. That include a sense of entitlement, self-enhancement, a need for power and approach orientation (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, 2004). Self-regulatory strategies are used by narcissists to protect a sense of entitlement, self-enhance, social status and keep power, etc. There is a wide variety of narcissistic self-regulatory strategies. This strategies contain bragging and attention seeking, also fame seeking, and self-serving biases (Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides, & Elliot, 2000). Kohut (2013) evaluated narcissism both as a normal stage of development and as a form of pathology. Conceptualized as a ordinary subject of development, Kohut claimed that people progressively move away from apparent narcissism across the life stage. Children are, by internal, narcissistic and self-focused according to adult norms of behaviour. In the natural stage of development, the narcissistic tendency is slowly disassembled and reintegrated into a wholesome mature self that includes converted components reproduced from the early narcissistic self. Finally, social investment theory arguing that narcissism will decrease with age (Roberts, Wood, & Smith, 2005; Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010). Social investment theory adopts common truths with Kohut's theory. According to this theory, with the increase in the age of people, the number of responsibilities and the people with whom they are connected will increase. It can be given as an example of the responsibilities that people get into business life, believers start working together, have a family and have children. This situation will cause the person to evaluate events more socially instead of just thinking about himself / herself. In such a way, the narcissism will decrease with age (Trzesniewski & Donnellan, 2010).

Organizational issues and narcissism


Leadership is the art of influce a group of people to act towards gaining a common goal. Leaders are of great importance for the achieve of the objectives and sustainability of the institutions. (Graen & Schiemann, 2013). Leadership and narcissism are two concepts that have important effects on each other. Therefore, the effects of leadership and narcissism must be examined and analyzed together (Resick et al., 2009). The self-confidence and extroversion which form the basis of narcissim are also the main components of the leadership (Grijalva, Harms, Newman, Gaddis, & Fraley, 2015).

The relationship between narcissism and leadership has been examined by scholar (Galvin, Waldman, & Balthazard, 2010; Judge, LePine, & Rich, 2006). Studies show that narcissists’ characteristics are “leaderlike,” such as having high self-confidence, extraverted and being socially dominant (Ensari, Riggio, Christian, & Carslaw, 2011; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002). In addition to these similarities, these two concepts are closely linked to social skills and charisma (Brunell et al., 2008). For leadership, a number of behaviors that contribute to positive first impressions are closely related to the narcissism; such as use fascinating facial expressions, use verbal humor, well-dressed and display self- confidence body movements (Back et al., 2010). Furthermore, in experimental studies, it was observed that narcissistic individuals had the potential to emerge as leaders in leadership group work and have leadership potential (Nevicka Ten Velden De Hoogh, & Van Vianen, 2011). Narcissistic personalities are constantly run across in top management and leadership positions. The list of powerful CEOs that professedly have appropriate the “narcissistic profile” is long; Bob Nardelli Jack Welch, , and Larry Ellison have all been classify narcissistic CEOs by the popular business edition (Resick et al., 2009).

On the other hand, a discrete set of researches has found a negative relationship between leadership and narcissism (Blair, Hoffman, & Helland, 2008; Resick et al., 2009). According to research results, these negative outcomes include, managerial turnover and surges in firm performance (Hogan & Hogan, 2001; Resick et al., 2009). Also, in the studies conducted in the last decade, it has been suggested that the ethical scandals experienced by the firms can be caused by the association in the narcissim and leadership (Hogan & Hogan, 2001; Campbell & Campbell, 2009). The Center for Creative Lidaydan (CCL) has determined that executives have major reasons for inappropriate behavior. These reasons are closely related to the definition of narcissism such as (a) being arrogant, cold; (b) being overly ambitious, (c) insensitivity (bullying); (d) betraying trust (McCall & Lombardo, 1983).

Despite the growing number of studies focusing on the relationship between narcissism and leadership, there was no consensus has been reached concerning narcissism’s impact on leadership. There are many conceivable reasons for this incoherence of past findings. This question is often encased in terms of “bright” side and “dark” side of narcissistic behaviour (Hogan & Kaiser, 2005). Same personality can include both a bright and dark side. As we understand in research the bright side of narcissism is easy to detect and analyze, but the dark side is more difficult to examine. Narcissism is a ‘‘outcomes’’ (Campbell & Campbell, 2009). In other words, narcissism is linked to outcomes for the social and self environment that can be both negative and positive.

3.2. Performance

Performance is a concept that indicates what an individual or group doing a job can achieve in relation to the intended goal though subjective and objective measures. Performance is an indicator of the extent to which an individual or group can reach the goals and standards set for him / her for the purpose that he / she wants to achieve. Employees' high performance in the workplace is an important factor for them to feel successful and self-confidence (Roberts & Robins, 2000). Also, in studies conducted, it was found that there is a close relationship between narcissism and self-confidence. That’s why, performance measurement in organizations is extremely important for self-confidence, which is one of the important components of narcissism (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002).

Studies have found inconsistent results regarding the impact of the narcissism on performance. Some of the researchers find a positive relationship between narcissism and performance, while others find the opposite (Wallace & Baumeister, 2002; Robins & Beer, 2001). This may cause how the performance is measured. Narcissists to have unreasonable views of their performance capacity, such that they think themselves more competent or capable than their ability. If narcissists are asked to evaluate their performance, they will consider themselves positively. Because narcissists have high self-esteem and self-perceptions. (Judge et al., 2006). Moreover, some researchers found that that narcissism have different relation with task performance and contextual performance. Actually, research has consistently indicated that personality traits are strong forecaster of contextual performance than task performance (Hattrup et al., 1998; LePine & Van Dyne, 2001; Motowidlo & Van Scotter, 1994). Primarily, the characteristics of narcissistic tendencies are not compatible with the contextual performance structure. As mention previously, narcissists are inclined lack empathy, aggressive behavior, and egotistical behavior. Accordingly, narcissists should be unseemly to conduce positively to the organization’s climate by a good support and being courteous, helping others for the greater good. A second reason is that consist of contextual performance are more discretionary and less rewarded than task performance. Therefore, narcissism should play an important role in forecasting contextual performance because there is fewer motivation in the “situation” regarding which particular types of behavior to present. Finally, narcissists prioritize their own interests and goals than others (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001). Narcissists will be more likely to conduct effort toward operations that reflect task performance given that directly rewarded than contextual performance.

Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB)

Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB) is defined as voluntary behaviors aimed at harming organizations or employees. CWB can be classified in five dimensions as proposed, which include sabotage, abuse, withdrawal, theft and production deviance (Spector et al., 2006). Studies show that narcissistic people think and entitlement that normal standards do not apply to them. This belief leads to the increase variety of CWB, such as embezzlement, bullying, white-collar crime, aggression, and workplace incivility (Bogart, Benotsch, & Pavlovic, 2004).

Narcissism is diagnostic in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V as “comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Additional defined criteria for narcissism include a bias to be exploitative, arrogant, and entitled (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The narcissism measured in the area of organizational behaviour will be lower, less-debilitating levels than in the clinical psychology field. Unfortunately, this does not indicate that the destructive effects have been completely eliminated. It is somewhat supposed that narcissism will also be linked with counterproductive work behaviours. CWBs refer to willing behaviours that infringe important organisational norms and menace the well-being of the organisation or employees (Grijalva & Newman, 2015). Researches prove that, narcissists have been shown to act out in exceptionally aggressive behaviors when their self-confidence is menaced (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998). To explain these inclination, introduced the theory of menaced aggression and egotism, which suggests that individuals who have high self-respect but are supersensitive to threats to their self-respect tend to knowledge more negative emotions (i.e. hostility, anger, fear, frustration etc.) and these negative emotions afterwards lead to disruptive outbursts (Penney & Spector, 2002). According to this theory, they found that narsisistic persons experienced more anger, which anticipated their disposition to commit CWBs.

‘Generation Y’at Work: Implications of narcissism

Over the past years the decade’s subject of generations has replaced from the area of biology to sociology and more recently to business behaviour. Followers of generational perspectives discuss that all generation’s character have an inimitable set of personalities made up of faiths, attitudes, expectations, and values, which effects their attitude usually as well as in the workplace. These factors have led to some innovations in order to organize and manage intergenerational relations in the workplace. Scholars showed that generational differences impact retention, recruitment, communication types, usefulness of technology, performance level, leadership styles as well as development and training (Terjesen, Vinnicombe, & Freeman, 2007). Nowadays, researches in this area have accelerated due to the increase in the proportion of generation Y in business life. Because understanding the characteristics and tendencies of the generation Y is helpful in explaining the events that will occur in business life.

The generation-to-generation increase in narcissism has been an important subject that attracts researchers' attention and it has been published across a diversity of various journals. The researchers conducted a variety of meta-analysis studies and long-term study to understand the change in narcissism over the years. One of the meta-analysis studies emphasized to a rising, up in narcissism of nearly one third of a standard deviation from the 1980s to 2006 (Twenge & Campbell, 2008). The appearance increase in narcissism, coupled with other signal of growing self- focus, created the basis of the feature that people born after 1970 should be defined as "Generation Me" (Twenge & Campbell, 2008). This pronounced generational change is central to Twenge’s (2006in cited in Twenge & Campbell, 2008) description of ‘‘Generation Me’’ (people born in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s) as entitled, egotistical, and self-absorbed. Twenge and Campbell (2008) supposed that these generational features are due to self-esteem. According to Twenge's claim, this was because of the tolerant and underhanded attitudes of the parents of the 70s. According to, Twenge’s thesis, they argued arising adulthood with their self-regard blown up to the point of narcissism, with terrible, conclusions for themselves and their society. Most of research approve that the NPI predicts some negative outcomes, from militancy after threat to lack of empathy (Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008; Twenge & Campbell, 2001). If this claims were true, the results of it would be prominent in the attitude of today’s adults.

On the other hand, later studies have found different relations between Y Generations and narcissism. Even if university students can represent all populations, there would still be cause to suspicion Twenge’s thesis that narcissism has increased among young populations in recent decades. On the contrary, other meta-analysis conducted at university students also found the opposite results. After these results researches determined that Twenge’s was unmerited (Trzesniewski et al., 2008b Donnellan, Trzesniewski, & Robins, 2009; Trzesniewski & Donnellan, 2010). According to different analyses, indicated no increase in narcissistic tendency from the mid-1970s to the present (Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010). As a result of these studies, there is one more important data were obtained. Actually, the conclusion that every generation of younger people are more narcissistic their elders. So that, every generation is Generation Me. In accordance with these findings, it will be more appropriate to make various social and organizational arrangements. Narcissism tendency includes risky and impulsive behaviors. Therefore, studying the risky behaviors of Y generation will be guiding to our research. In direct discrepancy to Twenge’s theory, rates of risk behavior have considerable, decline in the past 20 years over a spacious range of attitudes. Besides, there have been serious decreases in unusual behaviors, such as, teen pregnancy, violet crime and automobile accident. For instance, violent crime has reduced as well, by about one third. (Cross, Copping, & Campbell, 2011). Meanwhile, especially young adults show unheard-of admission for people who are dissimilar from themselves and are participating in society service at record high rates. Also, positive attitudes have increased, such as behaviours toward persons of dissimilar ethnicities and volunteering, accepting and tolerant amid young people. These findings are contradictory with the claim that the Y generation is a narcissist. When we evaluate the relationship between the generation of narcissists and Y generation, it is possible to say that a generation with different characteristics than previous generations is in business life. In this context, it is extremely important to examine the workplace behaviors of the Y generation (Terjesen et al., 2007; Gursoy, Maier, & Chi, 2008). A number of different results have been found in studies conducted to understand the workplace behaviors of the Y generation. While this concentrate on self-development has been explained as one narcissistic tendency of this younger generation, nevertheless, it has also been give notice that their focus on career development will conclusion in them becoming the highest productive workforce in history (Twenge & Campbell, 2008). Researches proposed that long-term career relationships have relocated short-term ones (Baruch, 2004). Accordingly, the Y generation has been found to be prone to leaving work and looking for new jobs. In order to be able to adjust these balances in the workplace, trends in generation Y should be carefully measured.


Understanding organizational dynamics is extremely important for the organization to achieve goals and objectives and sustainability. Today, understanding the behaviour and emotions of employees and making organizational arrangements accordingly is one of the most important elements for organizations. One of the most important guide for understanding the employees is their personality traits. Narcissism is a personality trait that has been studied for many years by many different disciplines, especially psychology literature. In studies conducted, studies have also increased in the field of organizational behavior due to the fact that the tendency of narcissism is considered as an important phenomenon affecting the whole life of the individual. Within the scope of this research, the relationships between the narcissism and the three basic workplace behaviors were examined. It has been observed that narcissistic people think that they deserve the best and their organizational behaviors are reflected in the most important ones. This can be cited as examples of studies that suggest that narcissistic individuals deserve more than others. In addition, the low level of empathy makes it difficult for colleagues to understand and reflect on workplace behavior. In addition to being successful leadership includes understanding and guiding people. This aspect of narcissism can adversely affect leadership. But at the same time, significant differences have been identified between studies. This may be the cause of the differences of results, one of the most remarkable reasons can be the difference in generation. As you know, the place of Y generations in business life is increasing and even they are managers. In this context, it is thought that narcissism shows significant differences between generations in terms of explaining the dynamics in the workplace. Despite difficulties in researching generations, this research area is of great importance to organizational researchers, because generations are at the center of a wide variety of organizational phenomena. Issues ranging from organizational change, socialization, career development, successive planning, and new integration are naturally shaped by generation dynamics. Recent studies in the genealogy of Y and the narcissism have brought new perspectives. It shows that the Y generation is different from other generations and shows different characteristics in the narcissus. For this reason, there are important gaps in the literature regarding the studies in this area. As a result, the workforce is changing and the organizational dynamics should change as well. Measurement of the effect of the relationship between the generational and the narcissistic on organizational behaviors will prevent the possible problems and positively affect the performance of organizations and employees.

Future studies will be able to carry out the studies of workplace behavior of the Y generation by studying this paper. Future research examining this possibly could be useful for organizations looking for reducing the detrimental effects of CWBs. Also, future research extending these findings to the narcissism of the Y generations, particularly with esteem to negative work place behaviors, could be especially interesting. In addition, examining the different workplace behavior of the Y generation will contribute significantly to organizational behaviour and human resource management literature.


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Erdil, O., Müceldili, B., & Artar*, M. (2019). ‘Generation Y’ and Narcissism. In & M. Özşahin (Ed.), Strategic Management in an International Environment: The New Challenges for International Business and Logistics in the Age of Industry 4.0, vol 71. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 267-278). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2019.10.02.24