Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 96, Issue 1, pp 79–93 | Cite as

Accounting as a Facilitator of Extreme Narcissism

  • Joel H. Amernic
  • Russell J. Craig
Article

Abstract

We add texture to the conclusion of Duchon and Drake (Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 2009, 301) that extreme narcissism is associated with unethical conduct. We argue that the special features possessed by financial accounting facilitate extreme narcissism in susceptible CEOs. In particular, we propose that extremely narcissistic CEOs are key players in a recurring discourse cycle facilitated by financial accounting language and measures. Such CEOs project themselves as the corporation they lead, construct a narrative about the corporation and themselves using financial accounting measures, and then reflect on how their accounting-constructed performance is perceived by stakeholders. We do not present empirical evidence about whether the use of accounting language and measures leads to unethical behaviour by extreme narcissistic CEOs – although the conclusions of Duchon and Drake (2009) suggest empirical support is probable. Rather, we focus on developing alertness to the potential for accounting, when engaged by an extremely narcissistic CEO, to be a precursor or implement of unethical behaviour.

Keywords

accounting behaviour chief executive officer discourse language leadership narcissism psychology 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aho, J.A.: 1985, ‘Rhetoric and the Invention of Double Entry Bookkeeping’, Rhetorica 3(1), 21-43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amernic, J. and R. Craig: 2006, CEO-speak: The Language of Corporate Leadership (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal and Kingston).Google Scholar
  3. Amernic. J and R. Craig: 2007, ‘Guidelines for CEO-speak: Editing the Language of Corporate leadership’, Strategy & Leadership 35(3), 25-31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anand, V., B.E. Ashforth and M. Joshi: 2004, ‘Business as Usual: The Acceptance and Perpetuation of Corruption in Organizations”, Academy of Management Executive 18 (2), 39-53.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, R.E. and M.E. Tirrell: 2004, ‘Too Good to be True. CEOs and Financial Reporting Fraud’, Consulting Psychology Journal 56, 35- 43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Araujo, L. G. Easton: 1996, ‘Strategy: Where is the pattern?.’ Organization 3, 361-383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barlow, D.H. and V.M. Durand: 2005, Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach (Wadsworth, California).Google Scholar
  8. Bazerman, M.H., D.A. Moore, P.E. Tetlock and L. Tanlu: 2006, ‘Reports of Solving the Conflicts of Interest in Auditing are Highly Exaggerated’, Academy of Management Review 31, 43-49.Google Scholar
  9. Berger, L.L.: 2004, ‘What is the Sound of a Corporation Speaking? How the Cognitive Theory of Metaphor can Help Lawyers Shape the Law’, Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors 2, 169-208.Google Scholar
  10. Boddy, C.R.: 2006, ‘The Dark Side of Management Decisions: Organisational Psychopaths’, Management Decision 44, 1461 -1475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bratton, W.: 2002, ‘Enron and the Dark Side of Shareholder Value’, Tulane Law Review 76: 1275-1361.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, A.D.: 1997, ‘Narcissism, Identity, and Legitimacy’, Academy of Management Review 22, 643-686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burchell, S., C. Clubb, A. Hopwood, J. Hughes and J. Nahapiet: 1980, ‘The Roles of Accounting in Organizations and Society’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 5, 5-27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Campbell, W.K., A.S. Goodie and J.D. Foster: 2004, ‘Narcissism, Confidence, and Risk Attitude’, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 17, 297-311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Castellano, J.F. and S.S. Lightle: 2005, ‘Using Cultural Audits to Assess Tone at the Top’, CPA Journal 75 (2), 6-11.Google Scholar
  16. Chatterjee, A. and D.C. Hambrick: 2007, ‘It’s All About Me: Narcissistic Chief Executive officers and Their Effects on Company Strategy and Performance’, Administrative Science Quarterly 52, 351-386.Google Scholar
  17. Christian, C.: 2005, ‘Accounting for Derivatives at Fannie Mae: A Cautionary Catalogue of Accounting Errors’, Bank Accounting and Finance 19(1), 13–20, 47–48.Google Scholar
  18. Clarke, F.L., G.W. Dean and K. Oliver: 2003, Corporate Collapse: Regulatory, Accounting and Ethical Failure (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne).Google Scholar
  19. Clements, C. and Washbush, J.B.: 1999, ‘The Two Faces of Leadership: Considering the Dark Side of Leader-follower Dynamics’, Journal of Workplace Learning 11, 170 - 176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crosby, A.W.: 1997, The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600 (Cambridge University Press, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  21. Cuno, J.: 2005, ‘Telling stories: Rhetoric and leadership, a case study’, Leadership 1, 205-213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Duchon, D. and B. Drake: 2009, ‘Organizational Narcissism and Virtuous Behavior’, Journal of Business Ethics 85, 301-308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Estes, R.: 1996, Tyranny of the Bottom Line (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA).Google Scholar
  24. Gallhofer, S. and J. Haslam: 1991, ‘The Aura of Accounting in the Context of a Crisis: Germany and the First World War’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 16, 487-520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gardner, H.: 1999, ‘The Vehicle and the Vehicles of Leadership’, American Behavioral Scientist 42, 1009-1023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Glad, B.: 2002, ‘Why Tyrants Go Too Far: Malignant Narcissism and Absolute Power’, Political Psychology 23: 1-37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goldman, A.: 2006, ‘Personality Disorders in Leaders: Implications of the DSM IV-TR in Assessing Dysfunctional Organizations’, Journal of Managerial Psychology 21, 392-414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goleman, D. and Boyatzis, R.: 2008, ‘Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership’, Harvard Business Review 86 (9), 96-104.Google Scholar
  29. Gordon, J.N.: 2002, ‘What Enron Means for the Management and Control of the Modern Business Corporation: Some Initial Reflections’, University of Chicago Law Review 69, 1233-1250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Graves, O.F., D.L. Flesher and R.E. Jordan: 1996, ‘Pictures and the Bottom Line: The Television Epistemology of U.S. Annual Reports’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 21, 57-88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hare, R.: 1994, ‘Predators: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us’, Psychology Today 27 (1), 54 - 61.Google Scholar
  32. Hopwood, A.: 1987, ‘The Archaeology of Accounting Systems’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 12, 207-234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ittner, C.D., D.F. Larcker and M.V. Rajan: 1997, ‘The Choice of Performance Measures in Annual Bonus Contracts’, Accounting Review 72, 231-255.Google Scholar
  34. Jakobwitz, S. and Egan, V. 2005, ‘The Dark Triad and Normal Personality Traits’, Personality and Individual Differences 40, 331- 339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kelley, R.E.: 1992, The Power of Followership (Doubleday, New York).Google Scholar
  36. Kets de Vries, M.: 1994, ‘The Leadership Mystique’, Academy of Management Executive 8, 73-89.Google Scholar
  37. Kets de Vries, M.: 2004, ‘Organizations on the Couch: A Clinical Perspective on Organizational Dynamics’, European Management Journal 22, 183-200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kets de Vries, M.: 2006, ‘The Spirit of Despotism: Understanding the Tyrant Within’, Human Relations 59, 195-220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kets de Vries, M. and D. Miller: 1985, ‘Narcissism and Leadership: An Object Relations Perspective’, Human Relations 38, 583-601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lasch, C.: 1979, The Culture of Narcissism (Norton, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  41. Levine, D.P.: 2005, ‘The Corrupt Organization’, Human Relations 58, 723-740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Levinson, H.: 1994, ‘Why the Behemoths Fell: Psychological Roots of Corporate Failure’, American Psychologist 49, 428-436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lubit, R.: 2002, ‘The Long-term Organizational Impact of Destructively Narcissistic Managers’, Academy of Management Executive 16, 127- 138.Google Scholar
  44. Maccoby, M.: 2003, The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership (Broadway Books, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  45. Mattessich, R.: 1987, ‘Prehistoric Accounting and the Problem of Representation: On Recent Archaeological Evidence of the Middle-East from 8000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.’, Accounting Historians Journal 14, 72–91.Google Scholar
  46. Miller, P.: 1994, ‘Accounting and Objectivity: The Invention of Calculating Selves and Calculable Spaces.’ In A. Megill (ed.): Rethinking Objectivity, 239-264 (Duke University Press, Durham, NC).Google Scholar
  47. Mitchell, A. and P. Sikka: 1993, ‘Accounting for Change: The Institutions of Accountancy’, Critical Perspectives on Accounting 4, 29-52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mouck, T.: 2004, ‘Ancient Mesopotamian Accounting and Human Cognitive Evolution’, Accounting Historians Journal 31, 97-124.Google Scholar
  49. Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.: 2006, ‘Report of the Special Examination of Fannie Mae’, www.ofheo.gov. Accessed 21 March 2006.
  50. Paulhus, D.L. and Williams, K.M.: 2002, ‘The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy’, Journal of Research in Personality 36, 556 - 563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pech, R.J. and Slade B.W.: 2007. ‘Organisational Sociopaths: Rarely Challenged, Often Promoted. Why?’, Society and Business Review 2, 254-269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Power, M.: 2004, ‘Counting, control and calculation: Reflections on measuring and management’, Human Relations 57, 765-783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Race, T.: 2002, ‘New Economy Executives are Smitten, and Undone by Their Own Images’, New York Times July 29, www.narcissisticabuse.com/nytimesarticle.html. Accessed 4 November 2004.
  54. Ramamoorti, S.: 2008, ‘The Psychology and Sociology of Fraud: Integrating the Behavioral Sciences Component Into Fraud and Forensic Accounting Curricula.’ Issues in Accounting Education 23, 521 - 533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schwartz, H.S.: 1991, ‘Narcissism Project and Corporate Decay: The Case of General Motors’, Business Ethics Quarterly 1, 249-268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Singh, J.: 2008, ‘Impostors Masquerading as Leaders: Can the Contagion be Contained?.’ Journal of Business Ethics 82,733-745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Swieringa, R.J. and K.E. Weick: 1987, ‘Management Accounting and Action’, Accounting, Organizations and Society 12, 293-308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. The Economist: 2005, ‘The Ones that Got Away’, 376 (8437), 70.Google Scholar
  59. Volkan, V.D.: 1988, The Need to have Enemies and Allies (Aronson, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  60. Wakefield, R.L.: 2008, ‘Accounting and Machiavellianism’, Behavioral Research in Accounting 20, 115 - 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wallace, H.M. and R.F. Baumeister: 2002, ‘The Performance of Narcissists Rises and Falls with Perceived Opportunity for Glory’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 82, 819-834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Welch, J.: 2001, Jack: Straight from the Gut (Warner, New York, NY). Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joseph L. Rotman School of ManagementUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.University of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations