The Sin of Pride: Ning Anhar of TBI

For many years anyone who has dealt with TBI Head Office has quickly worked out that something is very wrong there. Maybe the newcomer noticed their lack of responsibility. Merchandise is out of stock every time you try and order it, and no one ever apologizes for the problem. Or sometimes people learned about the endless politicking and back-stabbing, for example when Ning Anhar, the former Director, got her enemy Mariam demoted in June 2011 as part of their infamous turf war. Or maybe people got sick of the phoney people who spent all their time toadying up to the TBI Director. For me, the moment I saw through them was when Ning Anhar walked into the room at a TBI manager’s meeting in mid 2009.

Ning Anhar was the Director of TBI, but like an bad CEO, she was noticeable by her absence. In 2 and a half years managing a TBI school she never once called me and spoke to me. Not a single word. This was also true of the manager of TBI Kuningan, who was managing their biggest school. Both Ning and Mariam had zero practical involvement with the people who were actually running their schools. They just claimed massive management fees for doing nothing while turning up at “high prestige” events where they could meet franchise owners or schmooze with other ‘important’ people.

Anyway, the first time I actually saw Ning Anhar, the ugly spectacle of her entrance was enough to tell me that TBI was a highly hierarchical and even authoritarian company, in which toadying had been elevated to an artform. Anhar turned up at the TBI managers conference for a whole 5 minutes of the 2 days, but what a telling five minutes it was! The septuagenarian waltzed into the room and all the Indonesians immediately sprung to their feet and stood in deferential silence. It was as if royalty had entered the room. None one dared to move or say a word and she walked on, exulting in the royal treatment– she clearly was used to it and expected it. There was also a strange tension in the room. Everyone else clearly understood that they weren’t do anything except behave with the utmost deference to her.

She then made a two or three minute speech entirely in Indonesian, and then left again. There was no real interest in anything going on in TBI, or the people (unlike herself) who were trying to make it grow. All she was there for was for the ego hit of having people kowtow to her.To say she was giving herself royal airs was an understatement. I have never seen anything quite like it in Indonesia or anywhere else. I realized at once that TBI’s inner “Indonesian core” was incredibly Javanese, with Ning Anhar behaving like a high-ranking aristocrat, even though she was apparently married to a former rice farmer! Her behavior went far beyond the normal respect for elders and authority you find in Indonesia. It had reached pathological proportions. Here was a clear case of grandiosity, the hallmark of the narcissist. She was expecting to be treated to like royalty and everyone within the “pathological zone”- TBI Head Office- knew better than to upset her grandiose expectations.

Mariam later admitted as much to several people. At functions she warned people to stand up if Ning came anywhere within your vicinity. Ning expected people to leap to their feet in deference if she came near you. She said that Ning was known to fly into a fury if people did not recognize her and pay her the respect she felt she deserved. When she turned up at TBI Kuningan in 2010 and none of the office girls recognized her, she flew into a fury and it became a major incident. It was made known to everyone that Ning Anhar was furious that people didn’t know who she was. This bizarre performance was a classic case of delusions of grandeur and is highly symptomatic of pathological narcissism. 

According to the Dictionary of Psychology, “delusion of grandeur is the fixed, false belief that one possesses superior qualities such as genius, fame, omnipotence, or wealth.” This clearly applies. Ning thought that such was her importance that everyone should know who she is, even though she is an absolute nobody outside the hothouse of pathology that is TBI Head Office. She believed she was famous- a somebody. Being well-connected enough to get the TBI Director role enabled her to live out her delusional fantasies of fame and renown. The Indonesian managers knew enough to “play along” with her delusions. It was part of Mariam’s job to inform them to bow and scrape before Bu Anhar.

The dictionary goes on, “People suffering from these delusions are often said to be sufferers of “megalomania,” but is more accurately referred to as “narcissistic personality disorder” if it is a core component of a person’s personality and identity. In such disorders, the person has a greatly out-of-proportion sense of their own worth and value in the world.” This woman’s gross narcissism- a trait her successor, Ibu Mariam, also possessed in spades- was part of why TBI deteriorated so much over the past decade. Flattering egos became more important than running schools, and TBI started to seem odd and dysfunctional to healthy observers.




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