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Signs your boss might be a narcissist (and how to deal with it)

Many of us, unfortunately, meet a bad boss at some point in our careers. But a narcissistic boss creates their own headache.

At worst, they can shake your self-esteem by constantly goading you on your perceived flaws and consistently insulting you outright. They are always perfect; you are always wrong. Dealing with them can easily become a grueling chore.

It’s important to note that narcissism exists on a spectrum. Just because you think your boss is egotistical one day, doesn’t mean he’s narcissistic.

“A a good dose of narcissism means that someone has good self-esteem or self-esteem. It’s normal, it’s not pathological, ”said Marie-Line Germain, professor of human resources and leadership at Western Carolina University and author of“ Narcissism at Work: Personality Disorders of Corporate Leaders ”. “On the other hand, people with extreme narcissistic traits must remain the center of the world at all times, and therefore in the workplace these people are damaging their organization, the culture of the organization, the morale of the people. employees. ”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder can include a sense of greatness and self-importance, fantasies of perfection and superiority, a sense of uniqueness and uniqueness, a craving for praise, and attention, a strong sense of entitlement and a tendency to exploit others.

Of course, it’s up to trained healthcare professionals to make a formal diagnosis, but in the workplace it can be helpful to know how this kind of bad boss works.

Here are some ways that narcissistic traits and attitudes can be exhibited in the workplace and how to deal with them:

1. They believe you are either with them or against them.

Narcissistic bosses think in absolute terms that you are either an ally or an enemy, there is no intermediary.

“You are either an ally and if you betray them … you move to the enemy camp,” Germain said. “The day you enter the enemy camp, they will do anything to eliminate you from their surroundings. They will fire you, they will demote you.

2. They may charm you at first, but will trap you later if you challenge them.

Germain said that often at the start of a working relationship, narcissistic bosses can attract employees with their charisma, making you feel like “you are the center of the world” through their generosity.

But their mood can quickly deteriorate if they perceive that you are challenging their worldview or blaming them for their bad behavior. At worst, they can sometimes isolate you or make you dependent on them for a job or a work visa, Germain said.

“Manipulation is part of the way they operate to continue to have that power, that status and that public admiration,” Germain said.

3. They won’t admit they are wrong.

Narcissistic bosses deny responsibility at all costs and are emotionally incapable of accepting defeat or criticism. “Because they are perfect, admission of error is impossible. It would break their self-esteem. What they have very little besides, declared Germain.

You can see this as a boss blaming employees for the boss’s mistake while denying that they had a role. In fact, when confronted, these bosses can turn things around and take on the role of victim, making you feel like the mistake was all your fault.

“They will call you a liar, they will say you have a mental problem, you are at fault – not them, ”Germain said. “They transfer their mistakes to others.

4. They steal your ideas.

Germain has said that narcissistic bosses are “big stealers of ideas.” Because they believe themselves to be perfect and are determined to maintain that unassailable self-image, they often feel entitled to take good ideas from employees and pass them off as their own regardless of morality. For them, this is simply what it takes to stay on top of their business.

“If they’re vice-presidents of a company, they’re expected to do an amazing job and it doesn’t matter if they have to steal someone else’s ideas. They want to keep this status of being smart, of being the best employee possible, ”said Germain.

5. They ask for favors that they will not return.

If you wait a give-and-take relationship with this boss, think again.

These bosses will ask for favors and never return them because “they feel they are entitled to it, they are the boss,” said Nina W. Brown, professor of counseling and social services at Old Dominion University and author of “Working With the Self”. -Absorbed: how to deal with narcissistic personalities at work. “

6. They exhibit a noticeable lack of empathy and can be verbally abusive.

There is no room for error with a narcissistic boss who doesn’t have the empathy to put himself in your shoes.

“You try to explain why you were late with something or made a mistake, and the answer you get is, ‘Too bad’. You just need to do better, ”Brown said. “No understanding of what could happen that would have produced this result. “

Germain noted that an overt sign of this narcissism can appear in the way these bosses verbally abuse employees by insulting their “physical appearance, or an emotional state, or even an IQ, such as,” Oh, my God, you are so. weak “. “

You need to be vigilant if you are stuck with a narcissistic boss.

Dealing with a narcissistic boss can be exhausting work, but it is possible to cope with it through leadership. Here are some strategies you can deploy:

Document everything. Germain advised to keep records and memos of conversations who can help you if you need to take legal action against this boss in the future.

Don’t talk to the boss alone if you can help him. Germain suggested bringing people to meetings with this boss and copying other coworkers to email. “NPD [narcissistic personality disorder] the bosses are weasels. They will get away with it, ”Germain said. “Unless you have witnesses or evidence, it will be difficult to prove that there is something wrong with this person. “

Put the boss’s criticisms into perspective and find listeners who support you. “One of the reasons they are successful is that they make you feel inadequate,” Brown said. That’s why she suggests finding a trusted confidant outside of work who will listen to you speak out without judgment.

Because narcissistic bosses can make their victims feel like it’s all their fault, Germain recommends talking to friends and family “to check with reality which behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable” and to find a therapist. .

Strengthen your other working relationships so that your boss is not your world. Because narcissistic bosses deliberately work to get you to see them as the center of everything, it can help put energy into networking outside of their orbit. “Know that you will never get everything you need for your growth and success from one individual. Develop your community of seasoned leaders as well as your network of peers, ”said executive coach Aiko Bethea. “It gives you a network of support, knowledge and growth opportunities. “

To leave. If you are reaching your limit with the way your boss treats you, quitting smoking may be the right thing to do for your mental health. “The cost of being degraded or dehumanized in a job often far exceeds the perceived risk of unemployment, ”Germain said. “But when quitting a job is not an option, the only choice for subordinates may be to really arm themselves with courage and control the damage in any way possible.”

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