Awareness of narcissism in the workplace is on the increase nowadays as more people begin to recognize the arrogant and bullying behavior of the narcissist for what it is.
It remains a huge problem because of its very nature. The narcissist typically will not seek treatment. After all, if you have a huge ego and you are getting your way at work, why would you need to change? Narcissists are never wrong, it's always someone else's fault. Therefore why would they need to change their behavior?
Narcissists use mind control techniques to get people on their side (especially the bosses), so it can be very difficult to call them out.
And narcissists are often great actors. They can be charming, confident, daring, have the ability to get people to do things and are not afraid of taking risks. This makes them great candidates for management and leadership positions because these qualities are highly valued in the corporate world. Unfortunately they are also practiced liars and will frequently use this skill to get themselves hired.
We need to consider narcissism in the workplace where the narcissist is the boss and where he or she is a colleague. There are important differences in the 2 situations.
A narcissistic boss can be successful and goal orientated with a history of being 'ruthless'. This idea of being ruthless covers a multitude, or rather hides a multitude!
Narcissists consider themselves superior, want their wishes attended to immediately and do not tolerate dissension or criticism. Therefore narcissistic bosses typically surround themselves with people who will treat them in the way they want. Oftentimes the boss actually controls and manipulates these people into treating him this way.
When things don't go his way, there are temper tantrums, heads roll and somebody has to pay. Sometimes the people closest to the boss get it in the neck, sometimes others suffer. Either way, the closest people tolerate the abuses handed out. 'It's just the way the boss is!' Or, if they are sufficiently manipulated (or narcissists themselves!), they may even deal out the punishments on behalf of the boss.
There are various things written about massaging the bosses ego, allowing him to take credit for your ideas, avoiding conflict, not expecting support and not taking things personally (I'll bet that whoever wrote that has never been on the receiving end of narcissistic rage!!).
Then it is suggested that you make sure you have emotional support from elsewhere because it is draining dealing with narcissism in the workplace and also be prepared for the worst, i.e., losing your job.
So in the end if you may lose your job after dealing with all the abuses a narcissistic bass can dole out, why would you even stay in the first place? Why would you put up with all that abuse?
One possible reason is if you are a power hungry psychopath or narcissist yourself, but if that was the case, it's unlikely you'd be reading this page!
Malignant narcissists drain their victims. Period. That means you will lose. Even if you think there are benefits in the long run, you will lose out.
If you feel you cannot leave, because you would be betraying the boss, or you think you couldn't manage without him, or for whatever reason, then you are losing out already. The boss has you under his control. He is using fear and guilt to dominate you and make your decisions for you.
A new person has arrived. They seem very friendly and confident. They ask you for help finding their way around. They ask a lot of questions and you find yourself telling them a bit more than you anticipated. A bit about the gossip and how to manage the boss and so on. But they seem nice and offer to do some of your work for you.
Later you see them chatting to the boss and the boss's boss. Smiles all around, they seem very confident, almost cocky. You think nothing of it, they seem ok, and you give him the benefit of the doubt.
Later you find out that he hasn't actually done the work he offered to do and you end up having to give some excuse to the boss.
You begin to hear different stories about this person. Some workers say he is great, witty, helpful, others complain that he is abrupt, aggressive, almost bullying them. You don't really understand that because he seems so nice to you. You decide that he must have been having an off moment and you dismiss it.
What you are witnessing are the early signs of narcissism in the workplace.
The narcissist is building relationships with those who are useful to them, and bullying or manipulating those who are a threat to him. A person can be useful because they have information, or influence, or can get things done. The narcissist makes friends with these people, especially the boss, or even the boss's boss. If the narcissist is after the boss's job, he will do whatever it takes to create a good impression with his superiors.
Other signals of narcissism in the workplace are when a person spends more time away from their desk building relationships than working. Or the person takes credit for work that is not theirs and there is no way to prove it. Or the narcissist has manipulated others into doing their work for them. The victims can be doing the work willingly, because the narcissist has befriended them first as part of the mind control techniques he is using.
When people are afraid to speak out against someone in the office who is obviously not pulling their weight or frequently causing problems, you should suspect narcissism in the workplace. The narcissist is using fear and guilt to control and dominate others, and preventing them from calling him out on his abusive narcissistic behavior.
Read more about how to spot a workplace psychopath here.
When the narcissist is exposed, or even when someone tries to expose him (or her!) the narcissist often has already put things in place to protect himself. He will use anything he can to discredit the accuser. They will play very dirty, using anything they can, including lies, to make the accuser out to be the person who is mad or bad.
They will get the bosses involved, and, of course, they already have them on their side.
They will throw temper tantrums, exhibit narcissistic rage, accuse the HR department of all sorts of things, and generally make life so unpleasant for everyone concerned that it is often easier to just forget the whole thing.
Never underestimate a narcissist.
And then they go right back to doing the same thing. If people are not familiar with narcissism in the workplace, they don't understand how someone who has been accused of doing something could continue to do it, and they dismiss the bad behavior again.
The people who continue to complain are seen as the trouble makers!
In the end, the narcissist typically leaves. They may leave suddenly, without warning, taking funds or other assets with them. They disappear, never to be heard from again.
Or they are thrown out. Either way, they leave chaos and destruction behind them.
The organization may have fired good people because of the actions of the narcissist.
Those who remain are shell-shocked. The obvious victims, those who have been bullied and wronged, are obviously upset by the months and even years of abuse they have been subjected to, especially when no-one wanted to know or even listen to them, when they were right all along.
Those who were befriended by the narcissist are also shocked at having been deceived, tricked and lied to by a swindler. They have been the unwitting providers of narcissistic supply for someone who was systematically destroying the company for their own benefit.
This does not leave the organization in a good state.
Dealing with this type of narcissism in the workplace is not easy. It's no use saying that people should complain early and frequently about domineering, manipulative and abusive people if the HR department or the bosses don't understand narcissism. The complaints go unheard until there are so many that it's so uncomfortable that the HR department takes some sort of action.
Trying to 'manage' or control a person with narcissistic personality disorder is a waste of time. By definition they are not team players. Thinking that it's worth tolerating them because they are creative or they add particular value to the company is a mistake. Often it is an excuse not to have to take unpleasant action. In the vast majority of cases, the company loses.
If you are a victim of narcissism in the workplace, take notes. Take detailed notes. If you can, collect evidence of wrongdoing. When things come to light, such notes and evidence may be invaluable.
But really, you need to think of yourself first before the company and do what you need to protect yourself. If that means leaving, then leave. It is not running away, it is self-preservation. It is rarely worth getting into a power struggle with a narcissist if you don't have the backing of your coworkers and the company itself. It will cost you dearly, in terms of time and energy as well as money.
There are more ideas here about dealing with a narcissist...
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