Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Narcissists and computer scientists

Because I work with computer professionals, I'm exposed to all sorts of personality disorders, a regular DSM-V of weird behavior, but neurotic narcissism is right up there at the top of the heap.

Now, I only have a BA degree in psychology but I've developed a good nose for personality accessment, a critical skill for any consultant.

You are special

Last week Janet got an invitation to a computer conference, noting that she is a "well-known Oracle expert"! Now, while Janet does have a bachelors degree in Computer Science and 15 years experience, that hardly qualifies her as a well-known expert . . .

This flattering invitation appears to be targeted to narcissistic database professionals, and I suppose that there are people who are delusional enough to believe these flippant kudos and make plans to attend!

You are special, and so is your money

In my blog note “Are you a Man of the Year?”, I noted that there are thousands of narcissists with low self-esteem who will purchase accolades to make them feel better about themselves. One hallmark of a computer narcissist is that they are extremely gullible about self praise and very susceptible to nominations for any sort of praise. Here’s one for the "Eagle award" that I just dreamed up. If you want one, send me the cash, and I'll get it right out to you:

Becoming a legend

The old saying "He is a legend in his own mind" describes folks with narcissistic personality disorder, and it's distressing that I work in computer science and information technology industries where geeks and misfits can become zillionaires, despite crippling neurotic problems that would make them unfit for almost any other profession:

The Office Narcissist

For a real treat in office narcissism, I love the NBC TV show "The Office", where the manager has a fancy certificate on his wall declaring "Michael Scott is the proud owner of a Seyko Timepiece" and the other twit Dwight Schrute, who relishes his made-up job title of "Assistant to the Manager"!

Narcissists love plaques and awards, and they sometimes make-up their own, usually involving their own name:

The self-absorbed blogger

The latest craze of blogging has great appeal to narcissistic people, and it’s hilarious to watch narcissists build monuments to their greatness on the web. This psychologist has defined a special “Flamer Personality Disorder” or FPD, noting that “ex” members of forums and newsgroups have this disorder. Also, my acquaintance Mike Reed, has some great insights in his superb “Flame Warrior” cartoons. This is how Mike pictures bloggers, in this case, a highly-respected Oracle blogger:

In Canada (a foreign country north of the USA), they even give-out impressive awards to bloggers:

What a great idea! Here I a motivational poster that I developed for just for bloggers. My guess is that they won't "get" the irony:

The computer narcissist is also identified as a “serial bully” and they are quickly spotted by their habit of insulting others, often with self-aggrandizing statements like “You obviously don’t have the intellect to understand me”, or publishing treatises with grandiose titles like “People who are dumb and unaware of it”, and similar double-edged taunts, often calculated to build-up their poor self-image while putting-down others.

My list of Narcissistic personality characteristics

When I see anyone with low self-esteem covered-up by a grandiose presentation, I always suspect a narcissistic personality. These are the characteristics that I look out for:

Rigid, inflexible thinking - Anyone with a different approach is seen as personally attacking the narcissist. Rules rule, and some narcissists get inappropriately angry when they see little things, like grammar errors. They also overreact to the mildest criticism.

Cannot be wrong - The narcissist is never, ever wrong, and cannot accept responsibility for making a mistake, usually diverting the blame to others - ("It's not my fault. I lost that promotion because my team let me down").

Arrogant, boastful and pretentious - These are people with stupid/fake certificates and awards on their walls, the kind of people who exaggerate their accomplishments or use inflated job titles like "Engineer, Physicist" in their resume's.

Aggressive responses to criticism - ("How dare he criticize me? That lying bastard, I swear I'll get even, if it takes years"). This essay notes that it especially difficult to do anything critical with the narcissist because they see the criticism as a threat to their self, making them great fun during job performance reviews:

"Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or her own sense of adequacy, the narcissist seeks to be admired by others. However, the narcissist’s extremely fragile sense of self worth does not allow him or her to risk any criticism."