The average person, when asked to help out, is likely to offer a hand. However, there are those who simply refuse to aid those in need no matter how small the favor.
Perhaps you’ve invited some neighbors over for a casual get-together. Most of those in the group hop up to clear their dirty dishes as soon as they need to be put into the sink. However, there’s one person who steadfastly refuses to leave their place, giving the impression that they’re at a restaurant and not at someone’s home, where the “someone” (i.e. you) has to do all the work.
This one occasion may be only a sample of the individual’s pattern of what one might consider “queen bee” syndrome. You’d rather not even have this person at your house, but this could create strain with the other neighbors. So are you forced to suffer in silence each time this happens?
Entitlement and the Narcissism Network
According to a new study by the University of Novi Sad’s Bojana M. Dinić and colleagues (2022), this tendency to see others as there to serve one’s own needs can be viewed as a component of narcissism. Known as “entitlement,” people who are high in this factor don’t think it’s a problem to have others scuttle around doing everything for them.
The Serbian researchers believe that prior research, in attempting to establish entitlement’s relationship to narcissism, failed to consider sufficiently the need to measure narcissism from a multifaceted perspective. By peering into the “network” of narcissism, namely its interrelated features, Dinić et al. sought to find the “centrality of narcissism features,” or those qualities that lie at its core. The empirical question becomes whether entitlement makes its way into this inner part of narcissism’s structure.
Testing the Narcissism Network
Recognizing the need to use multiple measures of narcissism, the Serbian research team collected self-report data from an adult sample (average age = 32) of 423 participants on the 26-item Narcissism Personality Inventory, the 35-item Grandiose Narcissism Scale (measuring qualities like superiority, as well as entitlement), the 52-item Pathological Narcissism Inventory, and the 60-item Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory tapping grandiose narcissism. All measures were translated into Serbian. Altogether, these measures totaled up to 32 subscales.
The statistical test of the narcissism network was based on two component analyses: “nodes” (subscales of narcissism) and “edges” (degree of connection among scales). At the research team’s disposal were several powerful analytical tools, making it possible for Dinić et al. to construct the network based on specific algorithms. If entitlement were at narcissism’s core, it should therefore appear within some central position inside the network.
The findings indeed bore out this prediction. As the authors concluded, “entitlement was characterized as the ‘socially toxic’ aspect of narcissism” (p. 7996), and what’s more, “entitlement features could be seen as the core element… along with two grandiosity features” (p. 7999). Those two grandiosity features included a maladaptive component reflecting grandiose exhibitionism and an adaptive component that allows people high in this quality to serve as effective leaders. However, that “toxic” piece of narcissism related most strongly to the personality trait of antagonism, accounting for what makes individuals high in entitlement so unpleasant.
The second important finding relates to vulnerable narcissism, what you might consider the “flip side” of grandiosity. People high in entitlement may behave in ways that appear grandiose to the outside world—but is this because they are fighting off feelings of inadequacy? As the authors discovered, entitlement and its associated quality of exploitativeness “brings together maladaptive grandiose and vulnerable aspects of narcissism” (p. 8000). In other words, entitlement can account for both types of narcissism.
Turning Entitlement into Helpfulness
Armed with the knowledge from the Dinić et al. study, you can now see how that very unhelpful person in your group is behaving in ways consistent with a larger set of narcissistic personality tendencies. They take on the behavior of the queen bee because they honestly believe they are that queen bee. What, then, can you do to make situations with them more bearable?
Your first approach may be to consider whether the entitlement is limited to these specific circumstances of failing to help or whether you also see some of those socially toxic behaviors in your interactions with them. Do they seem to enjoy grabbing the spotlight away from everyone else? Do they become angry when people don’t indulge their every need? Have they never reciprocated an invitation by offering to host an event at their home?
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If the answer to all of these questions is “yes,” then you have a decision to make. To avoid being irritated in the future, you could just stop inviting them over. However, you may then look like the offending person to your other neighbors.
If you’d rather not create a stir, then the next option is to make it clear to this person that their help is expected. Their high levels of exploitativeness may have made it pretty easy for them to get away with slacking off and having others do the work for them. You don’t have to give in to them.
Hand them the plates you want them to clear, or cheerfully suggest that the next event should be at their home, and then watch what happens. You might be surprised to see them rise to the occasion, perhaps drawing on some of those adaptive grandiose qualities that can be associated with leadership.
To sum up, people high in entitlement can create the type of socially toxic environment that you would rather avoid. If you’ve got no choice, the Serbian study provides insights into how to neutralize some of that toxicity.