It’s Narcissist Friday!
I remember a seminar speaker who told us about tying ties. Now, most men no longer even know how to tie a tie, but there was a time when that was important. Actually, this speaker was talking about how leadership passes down. Today, I might suggest that he was teaching about institutional narcissism.
He told a story about a certain leader who tied his tie in a strange way, at least strange to this speaker. He had never seen anyone tie a tie like that. However, as the leader introduced others from his organization, the speaker noticed that each man tied his tie in the same strange way. This was a puzzle for the speaker until he met the district manager of the organization. Guess how he tied his tie!
The point the speaker wanted to make was that leadership filters down. The point I want to make is that some organizations value conformity too highly.
As you go through life, you will encounter a variety of organizations: churches, civic clubs, workplaces, interest groups, and more. Some of them will be fun. Some will be safe. Some will be toxic. The problem is that you rarely see which is which at the beginning.
Let’s face it. Some organizations are narcissistic. That means they will use you and discard you. Your only value is to serve the organization. I have written on this before, but it will suffice to say that it doesn’t even take narcissistic leaders for this to happen. There is something about the values of an organization that will set the organization above the individual. Many churches, denominations, and Christian organizations (schools, missions, etc.) fall into this. So do other organizations and businesses. I have known managers who went to work only to find their belongings packed and handed to them as they surrendered their keys. The business didn’t need them anymore. And didn’t care. The examples are numerous.
So, how do you know if an organization is narcissistic? One warning sign is conformity. When you see an almost empty-minded conformity, you are probably seeing a controlling and devaluing organization. Jargon (in-house words and acronyms), mannerisms (tying ties), and even values or perspectives can all be part of how the organization requires unity. In other words, they all talk and act alike.
Why? Why do people conform in this way even while they don’t realize they are doing it? Because of the pressure to fit in. Certain organizations cultivate an us-them attitude that makes those inside feel superior or protected. Fitting in becomes so important that individual identity is sacrificed.
In these organizations, you will only be valued as a useful part of the group. The only identity that matters is that of the group. If you don’t conform, you become an outsider. If you don’t conform enough, you will be suspected as an outsider. To be an outsider is to be inferior and rejected.
So, what do you do? First, you avoid these groups. Not all churches are like this. Not all businesses or clubs. Second, if you discover that you are a part of such a group, you can leave. Be prepared to be shunned or mocked, but don’t be controlled. Third, you can remain in the group as long as you understand what is happening and choose to remain true to yourself. The group may allow you to be a suspect insider for a while.
No, you can’t trust such a group. As long as you remain suspect, they will turn on you with surprising speed and finality. But remember that they will turn on any member who doesn’t conform enough or in certain ways. The group might cover many indiscretions for insiders, but commit the wrong sin and you will find them without mercy.
It seems to me that organizations lean toward narcissism and abuse naturally, but especially when they work hard to perpetuate the life and identity of the group. You should always be ready to walk away.