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Organizational Narcissism as an Adaptive Strategy in Contemporary Academia

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Universities around the world are undergoing a marketisation process in order to respond to consumer-oriented demands. Despite priority shifts, universities have remained traditionally hierarchical and elitist. Moreover, a new and growing generation of academic researchers has found it increasingly difficult to integrate in academia. Systems and patterns of behaviour breeding cultural narcissism, intended as a value and cultural system characterised by an investment in false self-projections backed by Machiavellian attainment, exist and appear to thrive in academic institutions. This organizational adaptation for survival is now embedded in higher education and interlinked with mobbing, workplace bullying and academic misconduct. The problematics we are witnessing today in many academic settings (high rates of mental health issues, widespread research misconduct scandals and loss of credibility of academic research) are a by-product of an organizational narcissistic culture. Amidst economic shifts, it might seem reasonable to adopt measures aimed at increasing assets, invest in highly entrepreneurial academics who attract financial resources to universities and use any means to salvage the reputations of educational institutions. Yet these strategies might be promoting and perpetuating value systems that are undermining academic integrity, and therefore contributing to the scientific credibility crisis and failure of these institutions.

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Vargo, E.J. Organizational Narcissism as an Adaptive Strategy in Contemporary Academia. J Acad Ethics 21, 293–302 (2023).

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