Last Updated on April 18, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester
If you frequently feel demeaned, undermined, over-looked or over-worked, harassed, or bullied at work you might be working for a narcissistic boss, supervisor or manager. They can be young or old, male or female.
What makes them toxic is that they have little or no empathy or concern for others. They are self-centered and self-serving. They seem to almost enjoy intimidating the workers under them. Narcissistic bosses usually reward those who “suck up” to them, those who support their distorted view of reality, and those who work hard in order to make the boss look good.
A narcissistic boss has an insatiable need for admiration and is obsessed with self-importance. In an effort to have people admire, applaud and envy him, he stops at nothing to maintain his image. They try to act like compassionate human beings but their behavior indicates otherwise; instead, they are constantly attention-seeking and overwhelming arrogant.
Having a narcissistic boss can cause your work environment to become a nightmare. A narcissist is not prone to changing themselves; therefore, learning how to cope with a narcissistic boss is the key to maintaining your sanity and your job.
Signs You Have a Narcissistic Boss
A narcissistic boss usually considers his staff simply as suppliers of praise, approval, admiration and attention. He or she readily shifts the blame to others but takes full responsibility for any positive achievements.
They may resort to demeaning and humiliating others just to preserve his own sense of superiority.
What are the signs that your boss is narcissistic? (The list below starts with “he” but it applies equally to all the “she” bosses).
- They are outwardly charming but inwardly dull – They feign caring for their group but actually feels nothing
- They are charismatic – they have energy, enthusiasm, and positivity about them that is contagious
- They believe that the rules don’t apply to them – despite the advice anyone gives them, they always follow their own advice and rules
- They are frighteningly insincere – they look you in the eye and tell you a complete, outlandish lie without blinking
- They lack any concern for others – they appear unfeeling
- They demonstrate an absolute inability to be challenged.
- They react to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
- They take advantage of other people in order to achieve their own goals
- They have excessive feelings of self-importance
- They exaggerate their own achievements and talents
- They appears to be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
- They have an unreasonable expectation that they should have favorable treatment or be treated specially
- They need constant attention and admiration
- They disregard the feelings of others and have little ability to feel empathy
- They pursue mainly selfish goals rather than the company or organization’s goals
If your boss possesses these qualities, resigning from your job is not the only answer. You can also learn how to adapt and deal with that kind of boss; it will not only make your life at work less hostile but also more productive.
How to Deal with your Narcissistic Boss?
Here are a few strategies for coping with a narcissistic boss:
- Never disagree or contradict them. You will only put yourself on bad footing with your boss and then find yourself the target for his negative comments thereafter. You cannot win an argument with a person who never backs down or owns up to his mistakes.
- Pretend to be impressed by the self- attributes that they express whether it is their professional achievements, their good looks or their success with women/men.
- Do not make any remarks which might directly or indirectly bear upon their self-image, superior judgment, skills or professional record. Your sentences should never start with: “you cannot”, “you overlooked”, “you should” or “do you know” as these are interpreted as rude implications or as restrictions on their freedom.
- Realize that a part of your job is to make them look good. If you have significantly contributed to a company achievement, include your boss in the credit, even if they had nothing to do with it. Acknowledging their support, “genius” or leadership, will satisfy their ego and make your employment go more smoothly. You might want to ask them for advice occasionally (even if you never heed it); this will boost their self-importance.
- Keep them informed on all communications you have with their boss and important clients. Though you may hate having to flatter them, look at the big picture—they will view you as invaluable to them. Plus, the more favorable they look, the better their chances of getting a promotion, which means you may not have to interact with them directly anymore.
- Listen to their self-important speeches. A narcissistic boss is always looking for ways to promote themselves so they can climb further up the corporate ladder. Rest assured that while they are rambling about themselves, something or somebody he deems more important than you will come along and steal their attention.
- Do not be at their disposal every minute of the day. Your narcissistic boss may want (and expect) to consume all your time, even when you are at home. If it becomes a problem, try having a diplomatic conversation with them, but do not indicate that your home life is more important than your job. Explain that your family and other commitments also need you. Strike a compromise with them, such as checking your email and voicemail at specific times. Stick to this plan, even if they tries to stray from it.
- If a compromise is ineffective, subtly sabotage their invasion into your private time. For example, when he calls you, try to find an area (e.g. your attic or basement) where the phone reception is apt to be poor. Narcissists are easily irritated; therefore, they are likely to become frustrated with the static and call someone else.
Benefits of Narcissism at Work
It may also help you to cope if you realize that in some organizations, and in some circumstances, narcissism can actually be beneficial. Narcissists are often highly motivated and dedicated to success, and despite their primary goal of self- glorification, they may still make valuable contributions to the organization. The down side is that this kind of boss is likely to be exploitative and unlikely to care about his or her people.
However, it may still make sense to work for a narcissistic boss in order to launch or accelerate your career (think Meryl Streep’s character in ‘Devil Wears Prada’). Even though you won’t get any empathy or support from a narcissistic boss, the benefits of what you learn from working for them may outweigh the emotional costs.
Lastly, you can create a safe yet positive workplace for yourself regardless of what type of boss you may have. Your boss is not the only person who you’re working with- you can still form friendly relationships with your co-workers and have a working environment that is conducive to both your personal growth and job output.