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How to identify narcissistic tendencies within your tutoring team

Narcissism is characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others.  It can be toxic in the workplace and a brand killer in the world of tutoring but it may also be possible to detect and even coach if one is committed enough. 

How to recognize narcissistic tendencies on the team

Everyone displays narcissistic tendencies from time-to-time but most of us recognize and adjust when we come off as self-important or uncaring.   We do this because we reflect and have a level of self awareness that pushes us in the right direction.  This is an example of emotional intelligence and for some folks it comes naturally, for others, it must be learned. 

But I digress.  In the world of professional tutoring, narcissistic issues is often surface in two areas:  

  1. tutor scheduling
  2. tutor behavior issues.  

These include:

  • a high degree cancellations or late arrivals
  • a premature request for a raise
  • an early parent concern about the "fit" of the tutor
  • the much maligned "session no-show."  

Those situations also occur legitimately so it is best to take note and provide small course correction as soon as a problem surfaces.  But if you have an instructor who displays more than one of those "issues" within a 30 day period of time, they deserve a closer look and probably require some specific coaching which I will cover in a bit.

In the meantime, the easiest way to avoid having to deal narcissism is to prevent it from entering the company.

Here are some tips to help identify narcissistic traits:

  1. Look for red flags in the resume: A tendency towards job hopping, exaggerating job titles, and a lack of detail about past accomplishments may indicate narcissistic tendencies.

  2. Conduct thorough interviews: During the interview, look for individuals who talk excessively about themselves and their accomplishments, but show little interest in your company or the job.

  3. Assess their behavior: Observe their body language and communication style. Narcissists often interrupt others, make inappropriate jokes, or dominate conversations.

  4. Ask situational questions: By asking situational questions, you can gain insight into how a candidate interacts with others and handles challenges, which can be indicators of their level of empathy and team orientation.

    a. Here are some example situational interview questions to get you started:
    • Can you describe a situation in which you had a conflict with a coworker or manager? How did you handle it?
    • Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team to complete a project. How did you contribute to the team's success?
    • Can you describe a difficult decision you had to make in the workplace? How did you approach the situation?
    • Can you give an example of a situation where you had to put the needs of the team before your own?
  5. Reference checks: Speaking to previous colleagues and managers can provide valuable insight into a candidate's past behavior and their ability to work effectively with others.

  6. Consider personality assessments:  Utilizing tools like personality assessments can provide a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate's tendencies and tendencies. Some common examples of personality assessments used in human resources include:

    • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): This assessment measures individual differences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

    • The Big Five Personality Traits: This assessment measures five broad dimensions of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN).

    • The DISC Assessment: This assessment measures individual differences in behavior and communication styles, including dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness.

    • The Emotional Intelligence Assessment: This assessment measures a person's ability to recognize and understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.

    By using personality assessments, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a candidate's tendencies, including their level of empathy, ability to work with others, and their approach to handling challenges. However, it's important to remember that personality assessments should not be used as the sole criteria for hiring decisions and should be used in conjunction with other recruitment strategies.


You may already have tutors on your team who display narcissistic tendencies so what do you do with them?  The answer? Mentor and nurture self-awareness in the tutor. Coaching a tutor who displays narcissistic tendencies can be challenging, but with the right approach, it's possible to help them improve their teaching style and better serve their students.

Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Deliver small-course-correction feedback regularly, in a non-threatening way, and in an overall cultural context of "growth mindset."  
  2. Provide feedback in a constructive manner: Start by highlighting specific positive behaviors or actions that are impacting the tutor's effectiveness in the right way.  Then move on to a discussion on how to improve that impact. 

  3. Emphasize the importance of empathy: Encourage the tutor to think about how their actions and words may impact their students, and help them develop strategies to be more attentive and responsive to student needs.

  4. Foster collaboration and teamwork: Encourage the tutor to work with others, including other tutors, to help them see the value in team dynamics and understand how they can contribute to a positive learning environment.

  5. Encourage self-reflection: Help the tutor understand the impact of their actions and behaviors, and encourage them to reflect on their own tendencies and tendencies.

  6. Provide opportunities for growth and development: Offer opportunities for professional development, such as training workshops, to help the tutor expand their skills and knowledge, and improve their teaching style.

While trying to avoid hiring folks who display narcissistic tendencies is an important human resource strategy, it is unlikely to be 100% effective.  Therefore,  creating a coaching environment based on the cultural underpinnings of growth mindset is a helpful and virtuous complement. 

Coaching tutors who display narcissistic tendencies is complex. But by taking a supportive and constructive approach, you can help a tutor who displays narcissistic tendencies to become a more effective instructor and better serve their students. It's important to be patient and persistent in your coaching efforts, as it may take time for the tutor to fully understand and adopt new behaviors.


Pincus, A. L., Ansell, E. B., Pimentel, C. A., Cain, N. M., Wright, A. G. C., & Levy, K. N. (2009). Initial construction and validation of the pathological narcissism inventory. Psychological Assessment, 21(3), 365–379.

Rhodes, J., Dunlop, W. L., & Stoneman, Z. (2010). Coaching the narcissistic personality. Industrial and Commercial Training, 42(2), 80–86.

Dweck, Carol.(2016). What Having a Growth Mindset Actually Means. Harvard Business Review.




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