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Think Your Boss Is a Narcissist? Check the Signature

Update Date: Feb 08, 2013 03:04 PM EST

If you want proof that your boss is a narcissist or effective, check his signature.

That would seem to be the conclusion from a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina. The study found that, among CEOs, bigger signatures correlated with a high level of narcissism. Larger signatures also were linked to job performances that were more ineffective, though oddly the signatures were also connected to higher pay.

Narcissism is considered to be a personality trait associated with a high level of conceit and low regard for others. While they think very highly of themselves, they tend to belittle and ignore the abilities of others. Those traits can make for an ineffective leader, particularly in business.

The researchers obtained 605 signatures from reports and such filed by Standard and Poor's 500 companies before or during July 2011. These signatures were uploaded onto a computer software program that measured the area of the signature, which they divided by the number of letters in the CEO's name. They found that CEOs with large signatures were more likely to over-invest in the acquisition of assets and in research and development, while their companies did not perform as well as competitors.

However, the CEOs with large signatures also tended to be better-paid than their competitors, which may seem to be contradictory to other findings. The researchers say that might be because narcissistic personalities may be better at convincing, or intimidating, the board.

Not everyone is convinced by the study though. According to ABC News, Appalachian State University narcissism experts said that signature size could be related to other factors, like high self-esteem and an outgoing personality. Those traits, they say, could be assets to an executive and to his company.

Study authors Charles Ham, Nicholas Seybert and Sean Wang agree that could be true, and they acknowledge that their findings do not hold a one-to-one ratio. However, that did not change their overall average finding. For example, Dell performed better than Hewlett-Packard last year, while Dell's CEO Michael Dell has a smaller signature than that of HP's CEO Carly Fiorina.

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