Organizational Integrity

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Narcissistic organizations can often be identified by what used to be called the “good old boy” system. Favors and positions are granted on the basis of some secret parameters that are indiscoverable by those not in the system. In other words, certain people seem to get ahead in spite of incompetence or conformity. Leadership is made up of those who are not leaders, at least not in a way that builds others. Instead, major leaders in the narcissistic organization are chosen for their looks or for the image they bring to the organization. How minor leaders are chosen will seem to be a mystery.

In my experience, it doesn’t matter whether leaders are chosen by election or by appointment in the narcissistic organization. The goals of the organization will be accomplished either way. And, somehow, the goals of the organization are different from the goals of the members of that organization.

Many people have joined organizations—churches, clubs, even businesses—only to find that these organizations change over the years. The values and standards become something less than what they were. The church that once stood strong for the truth is now willing to compromise Scripture and tradition. The business that once held to high standards of honesty and transparency now seems to focus only on what will make more money. The club that once was open and welcoming and respectful of others is now filled with cliques and gossip and comparisons. Things are not the same, and it is a mystery how they changed.

No matter how hard you work for the organization or how well you contribute, you are never chosen for leadership. Instead, the ones who are chosen seem to be prideful and willing to use others. Once in a while a good person slips in, but he or she doesn’t seem to last long. If you are chosen for leadership, you may owe certain people or there may be certain expectations of you that were not in place before.

Years ago I became part of an organization with a good reputation. I was honored to be a part of it. However, I was told quickly that the organization was a “good old boy” network. That meant certain people had more respect and privilege than others, based, I thought, on their connections within the group. For the most part, I was right, but there was more to the story as the years went on.

For the next 30+ years, I worked for the organization and sacrificed time and energy for it thinking that I was somehow contributing to a greater good. I held a minor office because I was willing to work. Any greater office was out of reach because I was not one of the “good old boys.”

At the same time, I watched as this organization began to compromise more and more of its principles, even to the point of changing its list of core values. Some of those chosen for leadership had little or no previous connection with the organization. Some were of questionable character but looked good up front. I noticed that dishonesty became almost a leadership requirement. Self-promotion and projecting superiority replaced any idea of sacrificial service.

What I came to understand was that the changes happened gradually as those in leadership began to think of themselves above whatever rules or values the organization held. Candidates for leadership were evaluated by how they could move the organization toward some unacknowledged goal. Values could be compromised as long as the person desired would serve to further that goal.

To put it more plainly, some among the leaders had decided that the organization should grow at almost any cost. New leaders were chosen (elected or appointed) on the basis of their usefulness in helping the organization grow. Solid workers who had done well over the years were ignored simply because their loyalty to the “old” values limited their willingness to compromise. Compromise would be necessary for growth to happen.

So, when you look at your church or business or club and wonder why things have changed so much, ask what the goals are. How do the current goals (even if unofficial and unspoken) contrast with the goals when you first came? You may well be able to pinpoint the time or the leadership that began the compromises and changes.

When an organization is willing to compromise (fudge, equivocate, accommodate, etc.) its values, watch out for the narcissists. The ideal organization—in the mind of the narcissist—is one that claims high and strong values but is willing to “bend” those values behind the scenes. If certain people get treated a little better than others, if some can get by with things or get more privileges, then the narcissists will come in like flies. And the organization will welcome them if the goals of current leaders are different from the stated goals of the members.

Do you wonder why some churches seem to slip toward the “dark side”? Do you wonder why a good business becomes one that sees its customers as only sources of money and its employees as tools to be used? Do you wonder why your club has become exclusive and judgmental? As you begin to see narcissists in leadership, ask what goals were changed along the way and why the doors were so open for the narcissists.


Filed under Narcissism

5 responses to “Organizational Integrity

  1. 20:20

    I can’t help but think not for profit organizations that rely primarily on volunteers are more susceptible to abuse of authority by narcissistic leaders. Even if advancement and leadership roles are not your individual goal, you can and probably will get used up even if you have a paid position. This has been my experience. 

    You take the abuse (they take and take and take) and ignore red flags because you “think” it is for the greater good, only to find the main objective of the leaders is to take, or even steal all the credit. You eventually realize you aren’t working for the “church” or “God” or the “community” but for a narcissistic good old boy who does whatever it takes to impress other narcissistic leaders and to secure his or her own position. And if you don’t take the abuse, they find someone else who will or you get fired. Just like that!

  2. cfeather54

    This resonates with me like the Liberty Bell being rung 1 inch from my head. Amazing insights! My ex narc wife fell into such an organization and was quickly absorbed by the Queen Bee’s charisma. I warned it her it was a good old boys club, in this group’s case, a good old girls club, because it was led by this beautiful woman. The group’s whole purpose is to support her job, although they are supposed to be developing leaders. It has become a gateway to opportunity in the county because she sits on a number of boards and in order to get a job with one of those nonoprofits you’re expected to go through the program ($3K) and support all of its fundraising. The group has no accountability as to its mission and all the board members are grads of it and her flying monkeys. It works in tandem with an economic development group that also does nothing except raise money to pay its highly paid Executive Director. Because most elected officials are program grads, the cities budget money to send their employees through the program. Again, a gateway to jobs. When I criticized the group for its exclusivity, the director would not confront me directly but rather held an emergency meeting with my estranged wife, who filed for divorce thereafter. She chose her narc leadership group over me. And they rewarded her with a job within the economic development group heavily influenced by the Queen Bee. Recently, I lost my job in county government and I am sure the Queen Bee had a hand in that. These organizations exist simply for the benefit of the leader. So sad. So much money wasted and opportunity denied. And we wonder why we are stuck in the status quo. It is because it works for the narcissists.

  3. Onward

    “The values and standards become something less than what they were. The church that once stood strong for the truth is now willing to compromise Scripture and tradition.” I remain dismayed by Evangelical leadership that turns a blinds eye to narcissistic behavior resulting in Biblical and social infractions while embracing the current administration because their (Evangelical leadership) “objectives” are seemingly being answered. The danger is the alienation of those who might come to Christ but think otherwise after viewing the hypocrisy of so called “Church Leaders”. Thank God that He is not dependent upon men to achieve his objectives. Remember Ishmael.

  4. Sheila

    All my life I was taught so many rules and I tried to be an obedient child, but I could never meet the standards. My Narc mother was so strict when I was little and I always just wanted to please her. Even after she became a Christian she became so strict about all the rules instead of just excepting the grace of Jesus and the whole reason He died for us. I didn’t realize this until after I became a Christian, thinking it would finally be the most obedient thing I could do for my mother. Then I realized just why our relationship suffered. Because when I gave my life to Jesus, His standards were not like hers. She could see I was beginning to know the truth through my salvation and how she was losing her control over me. When I began to turn more toward Jesus and less towards her narcissism, she immediately threw the “Honor Your Mother and Father” Commandment at me. I was just a new Christian at the time so I have to say it worked and she was able to control my mind with it for a little while, but once I became more submerged in the Word and Jesus’ teachings, I was able to pull away from her brainwashing. Thank God I’m more free than ever, especially mentally. I will still always love my parents and have forgiven them, but the only person I will ever honor first, is my Lord Jesus! Everything else will fall into place!

  5. In the 1980s, I worked for very large, very well-known TV ministry for close to three years. I left when our department head, and a vice president that I had never seen before, met with us and explained to us that we needed to lie to the people we spoke with on the phones.

    Of course, they did not call it lying. They “justified” what we were told to say, with twisted semantics. But it was a lie, period.

    The reason they wanted us to lie? The leaders at that meeting explained that donations were drying up at an alarming rate, due to recent scandals among several other big TV ministries. The lie they wanted us to tell was intended to increase donations and save our department, half of whom had already been laid off due to lack of funds.

    At the end of their presentation, our department head asked if anyone had any questions. I was the only one who raised my hand. I said, “I am not saying that I am holier than anyone else or that I have never lied. But aren’t we supposed to trust God to supply all of our needs?” I was invited to talk with the department head in private in her office. “How can you work for me if you don’t trust me,” she said. “I have been wondering the same thing” I told her, as I gathered my things and left.I

    The sad thing is that I lost my faith after that, and wandered far from the Lord for the next 15 years, nearly destroying my life in the process. But I can’t blame anyone for my choices but myself. I had my eyes on man, and woman, not on God. Today I am so deeply grateful that He welcomes His prodigal children with joy and open arms! I am His now forever — even if the mountains crumble and fall into the sea!

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