How to Deal With Your Narcissistic Boss?

Last Updated on August 15, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester

If you frequently feel demeaned, undermined, overlooked 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 no longer have to interact with them.
  • 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 downside 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.

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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

6 thoughts on “How to Deal With Your Narcissistic Boss?”

  1. Dear Alexander,
    While I appreciate the reality of your article, I feel I need to point out certain important, in my mind, cautionary points that might be missing.
    First, if one has underlying/unresolved trauma resulting from previous emotional/mental abuse by a narcissist – see malignant narcissistic mother in my case – then working for a narcissist boss be dangerous. I believe these exact circumstances – at an albeit overall difficult time in my life – led to my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Clinical Depression.
    Second, working for a narcissist and following your advice above, will likely cause people with a less flexible “moral compass” to feel as if they are “prostituting” themselves. This is a pretty expensive price to pay to keep a job.
    Third, if one has children, this overall emotional strain may expand to the family and that price may be much too high of a price to pay.
    Finally, while I did loose my job under a narcissistic boss, at least I spoke up when no one else would. This person voluntarily “left” the company four months after I was “let go” during a mass government-ordered head-count reduction. Einstein stated that “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Think about it.

    • I completely agree with you Maria. I am currently in a situation where I’m faced with the exact feeling that you describe – of “prostituting myself”. It turns my mind around sometimes (if you could understand what I mean) as I observe people around me doing just that and not even being bothered by it. I also have past experiences with narcissism (specifically a very destructive past relationship that took me years to recover from emotionally) and this current work situation only serves to “trigger” some of those emotions. I feel strongly that on principle I have to leave this position – it disgusts me to work for such a person. I am looking and hope I will find another opportunity soon. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thank you for posting this. knowing I am not the only one who has ever gone through this, Nor am I the only one currently going through this, is comforting. You’ve touched on the ugly part that I (a man) have been unable to articulate until now. I do feel like I am unwillingly whoring myself, or at least my intellect, my services, to my narcissist boss. It’s a cycle of gaslighting and shame heightened by the realization that the only way this ends is by leaving, and the reality that leaving is never simply a matter of drawing up plans. That train rarely arrives on schedule.

  2. Thanks Alexander for the detailed info on bosses’ narcissism that you have published in this page.

    Wish I had this info a decade ago, I would have had an earlier clue on how better to protect myself.

    My now ex boss was certainly one of the most charming person one will ever came across. He drove the latest best cars.

    His Food & Drinks business was one of the most successful in the part of the continent where I used to live.

    Many of the rich, the ruling class, the diplomats, the expatriates flocked to him for continental dishes. (It’s where I learned of shushi).

    Some even invited him to offer his services for wedding functions out of the country, which he did very well.

    Ladies adored him. They saw him as an angle as he went to great lengths to ensure that they got what they desired for their functions…well, their husbands or grooms had to foot for the bills.

    Yet, this is the person who paid most of his employees US$4 for a whole +12 hour day’s work of whom many were casuals, meaning they only get paid for days when the company has work for them.

    Some non casuals like me found ourselves working 7 days a week month after month with nor breaks.

    Most of his employees lived in slums. Others broke even by stealing from him.

    He paid zero taxes.

    He is the person who had separate sets of lawyers, one for good things and another for sordid things.

    He defrauded and even managed to successfully sue his own relatives.

    Though he had the sweetest loving expressions for those who brought money to him, he had anger, treats and daily insults for those who did not meet his expectations or seemed to cross his path. At times it was for no apparent reason.

    Working for him was nothing less than being in Hell’s Kitchen of Gordon Ramsay.

    At times I sympathized with him thinking he had bipolar because he would be very calm after flaring up and even call one his brother or friend.

    However his predetermined smooth lies (some done with the help of professionals to legally cover him up) made me think otherwise.

    My patience and endurance was tested to the limit as it wasn’t easy to get an alternative job.

    Thankfully, I got another job and am now always prepared not to accommodate mistreatment from a narcissist person.

    My experience with narcissist bosses has molded me to create other income sources so that I won’t have to stick to one if he picked on me.

    Am also learning daily and it’s today that I have came to your well written information on how we can continue protecting our selves.

    My hope is that we create sufficient information in the internet to enable people to be fully aware of the degenerative environments they may be in and be able to act wisely and fast.

    It will also be necessary to enlighten the most vulnerable people like the young ones.

    Thank you once more Alexander.

  3. I have a question. What do you do if you know someone that could be in a potentially dangerous situation with his boss? I honestly can say that after everything I have read this situation could be potentially dangerous and I have tried to google help for this but am coming up with nothing. I am dumbfounded that the the victims syndrome is not medically recognized and the NPD cannot be in trouble with the law. Any full blown NPD holds a person mentally as a hostage. It is a sneaky evil form of kidnapping of the mind spirit soul and even physical aspect of another human being. I really am concerned for victims. Does anyone have any knowledge of help or anything they can share with me?

  4. Thank you Maria. Those of us who have had NPD overwhelm us in our personal lives or childhoods, can not and must not sit quiet and endure NPD within a workplace. Never. Full stop. We are survivors and we must find new employment. I’m currently suffering from major PTSD due to my insane narc boss and I will follow no “suggestions” to keep my head down. I gather all my resilience and I will get out at whatever next job or pay scale is offered. Nothing is more important than our mental health.


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