Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss or Co-Worker

In the current series of articles (see:  How to Deal with a Narcissist and How to Deal with a Narcissist – Part-2), we’ve been taking a look at narcissistic characters and some of the good and bad advice out there about how to deal with them.  And perhaps the best protection you can have against a narcissist and the pain one of these folks can bring into a  relationship is to know the signs of this character disturbance well enough in advance to avoid getting involved with them in the first place.  But there are plenty of times when that’s much easier said than done. Many narcissists so adept at the art of impression management and can wield such charm and make such a favorable impression that you simply can’t know what kind of person your really dealing with until it’s too late.  And there are situations in which other factors are at play that make it hard for you to give the kind of heed you might otherwise give with respect to someone’s character.  This is especially true when you are in a situation where you really need a particular job and have the misfortune to work in an environment in which one or more of your co-workers or perhaps even your boss is a narcissist.

Naturally, dealing with any person who has a serious character disturbance or disorder is never easy.  And there are no foolproof methods to neutralizing the distress such a person can bring into your life.  But faithfully following some general rules can help make life with a narcissistic boss or co-worker much more manageable:

  • Know and understand the narcissist’s typical modus operandi.  You have to appreciate how deeply-rooted and resistant to change certain character traits are.  And whether it’s the rare case that the narcissist is truly dealing with deep emotional wounds for which they have unconsciously built defenses or the much more common case that they have been over-indulged, coddled, overvalued, and have a built-in predisposition for grandiose self-appraisal, their ways are set and their behavior is, as a result, quite predictable.  In Character Disturbance, I describe the narcissist’s makeup in depth.  Know it well because it will prepare you for what to expect.  And be very wary of what might appear a sudden change of heart on their part.  Narcissists are good at looking like they’ve learned a lesson when the only real lesson they’ve learned is how to better sway you.  Remember, narcissists always have their self-interest in the forefront.  Even when they appear to be valuing you or taking your needs into consideration, it’s really always about them and enhancing their stature.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for your needs.  If you don’t take proactive assertive action  on your behalf, no one else will, especially not the narcissist.  And you needn’t worry that taking good care of yourself might “threaten” the narcissist.  Such ideas come from erroneous traditional psychology notions that all narcissists are insecure, self-esteem deficient individuals underneath who need constant reassurance, validation, and adulation. While many narcissists seem to demand these things, they know how to take care of themselves and go about that task quite energetically.  So it’s in your best interest to focus intently own needs. Now how you go about doing this is very important, which leads to the next point:
  • Be practical.  You have your needs and desires, the narcissist has his or hers.  Know clearly what your needs are and stand up for them.  Respect and acknowledge the narcissist’s needs but enforce reasonable limits and boundaries (more on this in just a bit).  The narcissist will always feel entitled to encroach.  It’s up to you to respectfully draw the line.
  • Set your boundaries and limits firmly and assertively and be very matter-of-fact about it.  Narcissists are so passively disregarding of your needs that they don’t mind encroaching on your boundaries and testing all limits.  Narcissistic bosses sometimes expect you to be available at all hours and to respond to their whims at a moment’s notice.  Let your cell phone go to voicemail when that late night call comes.  Establish a protocol for responding to genuine emergencies.  And make it clear what additional contingencies might be put into place if manipulations occur.  Narcissistic co-workers don’t mind imposing on you for favors and then hogging all the credit when you’ve done all their work.  Don’t be hostile, unnecessarily combative, or forceful about it, but calmly and in a matter-of-fact way make your boundaries and limits clear.
  • Don’t take things personally and do your best to stay on top of your emotions, not letting them get the better of you.  The demanding nature of narcissists can really get under your skin.  And sometimes their attacks seem very personal.  But you have to remember that it’s never really about you anyway, it’s about them and what they want.  You’re actually not much of a consideration at all.  And while even realizing this might tend to unnerve you, it’s important that you not let your emotions cloud your judgment about the best ways to take care of yourself.
  • Know and respond quickly to tactics.  As I point out in In Sheep’s Clothing, many narcissists are also covert-aggressors (and remember, all the aggressive personalities – including covert-aggressives – are first and foremost narcissists.  So you can expect many or all of the tactics manipulation tactics I outline.  Know the tactics well and how to respond to them.  And above all, don’t let things escalate out of control.  If you give the narcissist an inch, they’ll surely take a mile. And while it may seem exhausting to stay on top of all their manipulations, keep in mind how steep the price might easily become if you don’t act.  There’s also no need to “out” the narcissist on tactics either and force the issue of self-exposure.  While it’s tempting to either cut the other person down to size or to let them know that you know what their up to, you only need to enforce your limits and boundaries.  This allows the narcissist to save face while knowing clearly how far they can go in exploiting you.
  • Cultivate as many  opportunities and options as you can.  Always have a “Plan B.”  Build alliances among non-character disturbed cohorts that will serve you well if you plan to stay.  And have an exit strategy and employment alternatives lined up in case you find your current situation becoming unbearable.  

Jan worked for Vern for almost 20 years.  He was a self-made millionaire who was never shy about sharing his story of personal greatness.  And he tended to think of Jan more as his indentured servant than his employee.  And it was never easy for Jan to work for him.  But Vern had already gone through 5 other personal assistants before Jan arrived.  And during her tenure, many more would come and go, quickly burned out by Vern’s demanding ways.  So Jan knew very well her value to Vern and his company, and whenever Vern lorded it over her that he paid her big bucks and that she was lucky to be working for him and she could always be fired, she calmly but firmly pointed out how many employees had already fled the coup, how much time and energy it took to train and re-train new hires, and how much it would be in his own best interest not only to keep her but also to continue to compensate her well and to not so overstep reasonable bounds that she would be forced to quit.  And Jan always did this kind of thing with complete confidence, calm, and tact.  She never tried to make Vern look bad, she just wouldn’t stand for being treated badly.  And when Jan did finally quit, she retired with a much bigger nest egg than her high-living, big-stakes gambling boss did. He never learned.  But she learned how to deal with him.  And in the end, it was she who profited.  True story.  Only the names have been changed.  I’m forever grateful to both “Jan” and “Vern.”  They taught me a lot.

Next week starts a new series.  And as always, Character Matters airs on UCY.TV at 7 pm Eastern (4 pm Pacific) time this Sunday.

44 thoughts on “Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss or Co-Worker

  1. Thank you, Dr. Simon, for an excellent series of articles on NP. Regarding ‘not taking it personally,’what advice do you have for anyone who has been the target of a personal attack by a NP supervisor? While it’s true that everything the NP does is about getting what he/she wants, sometimes it does become personal. what to do when the NP wants to destroy the (well-liked) reputation of the subordinate who receives attention from a third party the NP wants to possess? What to do when the only way the NP can stop the third party from caring about the subordinate is to *desperately* smear their reputation? When the NP becomes truly desperate and all the less malignant tactics fail to assure the ownership of others the NPs have no brakes, as you say, and will run right off the rails to harm anyone who stops his/her complete ownership of others’ feelings, and regard. The desperate act, in the way an allegation was made, was in fact illegal, and covered up by witnesses who bow to power. because of this the audience doesn’t know the truth. FYI, the story ends safely, but it did happen and your take or that of other readers would by good to know. Thanks always.

    1. I think one way is to speak in general terms about these matters with people you know. There’s no way to prevent every single sling and you shouldn’t actively try to control everyone’s opinion, but some inoculation beforehand is good.

      You’ve got to bring it up in a fairly rational, relaxed, curious manner. I think good seams can often open for such.

      Or perhaps something more innocent along the lines of “Isn’t it funny how people can have such good impressions of you and then suddenly some bad word, whether it’s true or not, can change it all?” or “It’s a tricky thing, you can’t automatically know whether someone being talked badly of actually is like they’re made out to be.”

    2. Point well taken, here, S. I wrote this piece about the “pure” narcissist. But as you’re well aware, character disturbed people can have lots of unsavory traits besides pure narcissism and for many vindictive, control-oriented characters, it can get seriously and brutally “personal,” as you say. I might tweak the article a bit to make this more clear.

      1. Hello Dr Simon,

        I have bought both the book you mention above which I found very useful. I have a particular question of how to cope with a small nursing team which is lead by a manager who clearly had a character disturbance and exhibits the traits of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have found that I generally manage to build ‘good relationships’ with team members and after a while it seems that they have ‘turned’ against me. I have finally managed to prove to one senior member of the wider team and some others in the team, that the manager has ways of gate keeping resources, openly gossips about others, labels not only staff but the vulnerable people we provide a service to. Most are labelled with either having a personality disorder or for being elitist. I have found myself to become the target of his gossip and the small nursing team he leads, are either appear afraid to talk to me in his presence or avoid me when he is in the building. I am in the process of looking for another job, but will have to delay until I have completed my training. He has attempted to sabotage a very valued course and several other work related actions which would develop me in my career. Please advise how I can manage a devious and power hungry man and keeping sane! BP

    1. Almost. It’s very accurate as far as it goes, but unfortunately, the author equates the term “sociopath” with the “antisocial” personality (historically, professionals have been in the forefront of confusion about this topic due to the rampant loose and inaccurate bandying of terms and some use the term antisocial and sociopath synonymously whereas others equate sociopathy and psychopathy). The article would have been incredibly accurate if it used the term “antisocial” instead of “sociopath.” I have a couple of articles posted on both this site and the counsellingresource site as well that helps sort through all the confusion.

    1. Oh, of course.

      A while back I asked this:

      “[C]ould there also be a chapter or two(Edit: or an article) for recovering from any encounters with aggressors?”

      Also: “Having read a lot about effects of emotional abuse, bullying and toxicorrosacidic relationships, especially the feeling of breaking down, disintegration, burnout, disorientation and being crushed.”

      Then I refered to Evan’s Controlling People(which I’ve mentioned way too many times on this site already). However that book does explain how a target of abuse can also get disconnected from themselves, start mistrusting their perception and judgment, have a weakened readiness to think for themselves. I don’t think that’s quite the same degree as gaslighting, but getting used to another person defining one’s reality for oneself.

      This all said, the question is: “Couldn’t there be varieties of ways handled in detail that can help in recovery?”

    2. Oh, let’s not also forget types of brainwashing from the list. I’ve read and heard emotional abuse resemble brainwashing in many ways.

      1. Thank you for this wonderful post. I’ve had many experiences with narcissist professors, which had led to my anxiety and depression on my college days three years ago. Now, I’m dealing with a coworker and a manager. I really hope you can write a post on recovery, I’m really down right now.

        1. José,

          There already are some posts on recovery. Spend some time on website, searching for blogs or looking for blogs by topic.
          Trust me, dealing with a narcissist coworker and manager is too trivial, compared to dealing with a narcissist spouse/sibling/parent. :-)

  2. I would like to know too about what to do when they still control you from a distance…as in financial abuse that keeps you locked in a prison of their making. Also the effects on children after they discard you and their children. How that lack of conscience for their own children’s welfare impacts…of all the things I’ve been experiencing this is the one part I’ll never get my head around and it wasn’t at all what I would have expected (though I didn’t know what he was at that time).

    1. I think this all could make for many articles. There are just so many ways for people to go wrong. That’s vague, but it can be understood in many ways, if you reflect on it.

    2. Tori, it’s something that impacts so much and so many more than just the victim. I have always been the dutiful daughter and towed the line of responsibility to my parents while my Sociopathic brother was a total slacker and watched as my parents enabled him to be just that. ANYhow, the point is, that I live away from where my 89 year old father is who normally i would travel to see at least twice a year. I haven’t been in any shape to travel since this whole mess was reaching the breaking point and now it’s been two years since I’ve visited. You have no idea how hard it is to not judge myself harshly for that and I can well imaging what others think that don’t understand how much this has affected me……..many things going on with all of this that are too vast and complicated to explain here. Even when I try to explain to someone, my own words make ME think I sound like a whiner but I know how depleted I feel and how much mental damage has been done (which is just exhausting in so many ways). It seems like it takes me twice as long to do just about anything…….on and on and on.
      But, it is horrendous to think of the collateral damage these people inflict on their family, their children, parents, etc……
      Yeah, Spathtardx made such a point of how much his children meant to him and blah blah BLAH……..suuuuuuuurrrrrre ……

      1. Puddle you can’t judge yourself harshly, no 1 is looking after your safety whether it be emotional or otherwise. It’s so difficult I know and easy to say. This is what I am trying to do, remove myself from a place of trauma so that I can be in a better position emotionally and mentally to be there for my child. It’s proving very difficult at present despite my attempts… he still has power over me because he’s being irresponsible and basically breaking the rules because he doesn’t care. While I am trying to do the right thing and getting stuck because of it. Funny as the advice I get from professionals is basically to do the wrong thing myself and place the ball back in his court…again so easy to say but not so easy to do if it should all backfire.
        As you point out the collateral damage is far reaching and that does make recovery very difficult. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that after months I’d still be reeling or believe there would be more abuse and power control so long after we’ve parted ways.

        1. Tori…….I KNOW! When you say, “never in my wildest dreams”, and i think you mean nightmares, I can completely relate! It’s all so disorienting in such a bizarre way…’s like trying to describe something that I don’t even have words to describe.
          I am fighting the self judgement thing because I know that not going to see my Dad for (!!two years!!) is so out of character for me. This literally has been the longest I have gone without seeing him… my LIFE! Weird! I just feel so weak and drained like all I am able to muster is short bursts of motivation and small accomplishments. My house is a disaster, “clean” but it’s upside down and I can’t face figuring out how to straighten it out. I’ve always been fiercely independent and now…….I just wish I had someone in my life to help me keep the ball rolling forward.
          You do not want to get stuck in a ‘backfire” and it’s so aggravating how difficult it ALL is on the victim and how little recourse the victim has. It disgusts me what they get away with………..disgusts and deepens the pain that he couldn’t care less about the ruin he’s wrought.
          I don’t know your whole situation so I don’t know what type of a struggle you have to deal with involving him……I just wish for you that you could have a clean break from him. {HUGS}

          1. LOL I did mean nightmares!! :) I can’t understand how they can get a way with it… as someone said to me the other day…They just do! Which to my way of thinking is just not good enough and if that’s the attitude they will continue to get away with it! We don’t let our children get away with things and yet these adults do! I’m just thinking on the Dr Simon’s army because that is what needed to really band together to get something changed!

        2. Tori… typed……” Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that after months I’d still be reeling or believe there would be more abuse and power control so long after we’ve parted ways.”
          Again, this is not a normal situation you are recovering from…….so all “normal” expectations are right out the window. I have done SO much reading about all of this and it is a constant theme…….these relationships hit you on levels that you never even knew were possible and they do take much longer to get over. So take a deep breath and just hang in there. I know it’s somewhat better for me now but it’s been a hellish road getting to where I am and I’m not “there” yet. I think accepting that it is normal has been very helpful for me, it doesn’t make it less painful but it somehow helps.

          1. Puddle I think I still do have trouble with the idea that it is not normal. I know as for years I thought I was married to a normal guy but all he did was feign loving and caring (between the aggression and violence) and now as I have awoken from the denial I see him as an evil entity. Even as I typed that it still feels unreal but that’s how I have to think of him as…because he was a lie, a walking, breathing lie. I wonder if it’s taken these months just to come to grips with that and that’s why I still have backslide moments where I think surely this can’t be true. (if that makes sense). I know that what I am experiencing is NORMAL for someone in my situation…I have been told I am NOT insane ha ha! Though I do feel peeved off that I was so gullible but then as is often said no one is immune to these characters. Pity there wasn’t a vaccine you could have…or more to the point they could take. If only it were that simple. But thanks Puddle I appreciate the support it does keep me hanging in and builds me up to face a new day and try a different approach. :)

          2. Oh Tori……your words, again, could be my own. And again, Im so sorry. It has been almost a year for me, absolutely no contact and I cried last night when I went to bed. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel sadness about the reality and I still struggle to believe it’s really true. As always, HUGS to you.

  3. Tori and Puddle, what you describe seems to differ in degree from being brainwashed to a cult.

    Here’s one very good links describing all manner of brainwashing and psychological damage. That’s not even the worst cult in existence.

    1. I’d say there is different degrees of brainwashing as you say… although in someways that seems to be subtle brainwashing in the article…or begins so then sets the target (who may already have some psychological problems to begin with) to believe something so incredibly out of the realm of possibility like levitation or invisibility.
      I think in relationships the brainwashing is subtle as well but people naturally want to bond in a loving relationship it’s essentially part of our biological makeup for survival so a skilled manipulator can easily brainwash a rational person from an emotional standpoint. As we all feel a need to be loved and accepted, it’s the driving force of our nature it’s easy to be duped and then feel so badly betrayed, traumatised and confused when the veil is lifted.

      1. Tori, and also remember that being in love and being in close proximity to someone and touch, release bonding hormones and chemicals, especially in a woman. There are those who say that love really is an addiction of sorts, but it’s a healthy addiction…….part of the glue that bonds people together…….

    2. J, it probably is different,,,,,,,it’s all different. I haven’t read the article yet though! There is so much going on on so many different levels, so many tactics involved in a romantic entanglement with one of these creatures.

    3. HA!!! Well right off the bat…..this is just ONE of the things that Spathtardx did….

      “The first way is that they freely employ a technique of deception called “mental reservation.” This form of deception involves hiding information from you while letting you believe that you have all of the information that you need. This was the form of deception employed by Bill Clinton when he said “I did not have sex with that woman.” He wasn’t “lying” (at least not according to his private unstated mental definition of “sex”) but he was still deliberately “deceiving.” As he famously said “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. TM advocates are pulling identical deceptions on you!”

  4. All of these tactics are good and all, but these people are damaged and need help.

    Also, don’t forget the impact playing these proactive games has on yourself. There is no way a person stuck in a situation with a NP will come out unscathed.

  5. I was reading another article about how to deal with narcissistic, attention seeking co-workers. It suggested either ignoring them or divinding and conquering – both of which are good advice. I work in an office with this horrendous woman who goes through so many ridiculous antics in 1 day, I could write a book. My co-workers and I have been researching her personality traits on Google, trying to “diagnose” her, because we all feel lost on how to handle her attention-whoring ways. So far we’ve come up with this: she’s an erotomanic delusional, bipolar narcissist with OCD and ADHD. There may also be hints of schizophrenia.

    She’s only worked there for 1.5 years and acts like she owns the company. While on the phone she tells people “MY company has more than 20,000 products, and I will send you MY product brochures”. Then she’ll switch from some kind of weird baby talk voice to sounding like Hitler. Any task she completes in the office creates mass chaos. Filling printers with paper, changing out the coffee pot, simply walking to the bathroom – it all turns into this huge loud production that takes 10x longer than it should. She wears ridiculous clothing that looks like 80’s Halloween costumes, then gyrates around like she’s walking down the red carpet. (Once she actually said “I understand how people must feel walking down the red carpet – I feel like that every day.” Wow. She is also obsessed with celebrities. It should come as no surprise that she also loves taking selfies. She’s got pictures of herself taped all over her wall at work. On every outing with her poor husband, she makes him take pictures of her, like it’s some sort of psychotically run photo shoot with her prancing all over creation in bizarre poses.

    For the most part we try to ignore her and remain calm – but that’s very difficult since she’s so distracting. It’s true, the more she’s ignored, the less insane she acts. However, some people other departments just don’t seem to understand that she’s bats*** crazy. They think it’s nice when she brings gigantic platters of food into the office…however they miss the point. She only does this so they will bestow thanks upon her and make a production out of who brought the food. She’s noted “I just love bringing food for all MY adoring people”, as though she’s acquired some sort of snack food fan club.

    If anyone begins a normal conversation, it quickly escalates into her babbling a bunch of incoherent adverbs, at a pitch that could break windows. Should two people be having a private conversation that in no way involves her, she does her best to butt in and take over. Sure, we’ve all joined into other people’s conversations at one time or another – however she does not bother paying any attention to what others say. She’s too lost in her own delusional world & thinking of what she’ll say next to dominate.

    Just the very way she speaks is intended to prolong her responses and cut off anyone else who may have something valuable to contribute to the conversation. You could say practically anything to her, and her only response would be “awesomeeee!!!” or “oh my god I know me toooooo!! Totallyyyyy.” Mind you, we’re talking about a 50 year old woman here. To think that she’s made it to that age without anybody sitting her down to tell her what in imbecile she makes of herself is disturbing. I’ve seen people try – but she then acts like a spoiled angry child who refuses to be corrected. She’s mentioned something about seeing a therapist, but I fear she thinks it’s everyone else who has a problem & she just uses the therapist as a sounding board to complain about others. This “therapist” she’s been seeing for 6 months has not made 1 iota of difference in her off-putting behavior.

    At any rate, wanted to share my story – it helps to vent! Apologies that this post is so long, but maybe someone out there can relate. My coworkers and I wear headphones, which even at their loudest volume, can barely drown her out. Oddly enough, she will go from flailing around the office like a maniac, to just staring at her blank computer screen in a catatonic trance for half hour periods. Thank god for those small amounts of quiet time! We divide and conquer whenever possible, or simply walk away and hide in the restroom. Two co-workers have become so stressed out over her idiocy that they’ve stepped up their drinking habits to almost nightly. Maybe her goal is to make everyone else lose their minds, so she seems sane!

    1. Samantha-
      This is exactly what I have been dealing with, only my coworker is training me to take over her position. Her behavior and condescending/grandiose behavior, has made it difficult for me to accelerate in my training. We are in a secluded area, and rarely see our boss, who relies heavily on her thoughts and opinions, as she has been with the company for many years, and only knows how to do certain things that others do not.
      I only have one week left, but I fear her negative criticism has begun affecting my boss’ opinion of me, as he was quite plesant towards me in the beginning…and now he barely acknowledges me, as if he feels he made a bad decision in hiring me.
      I am a quick learner, and take pride in my work, but do tend to rush through small things such as clicking too fast on the computer, due to intimidation of someone, literally, breathing down my neck all day. She accepts no learning curve, she has no empathy towards others, in our healthcare environment. She speaks so badly of everyone that I am confidant she does the same of me.
      I have witnessed her speaking down to a young coworker who has so much potential and incredibly respectful…and watched as she pushed daily to get him fired for minuscule errors, despite me calmly pointing out that he may be too intimidated to approach her for help.
      Just yesterday, she shoved a binder of work procedures she created, at me, told me to follow them, and if I had questions I could ask her. (Said in all too common condescending breathy, baby voice). I had a question that was not addressed in the book, and she had a fit.
      I also had three friends die the night before. She said it was a “bummer” and turned the conversation to herself. Later that day at lunch, a coworker asked about my weekend plans, to which I mentioned the deaths. The lady training me, rolled her eyes at me, whispered something to another coworker who said out loud, “You only have one week left.” Trainer then had all attention turned to her, began discussing daughters wedding, then got up and said she had to visit her friend who was admitted…big fat lie, for sympathy. And it worked.
      Only five days left with her, but fear she will try to get me fired before then…for no good reason. I already live with a narcissist boyfriend (going on 4 1/2 years) and was out of work for a few years. Verbal and emotional abuse (after a lifetime of abuse) led to zero confidence, trying to compete in a cutthroat, thriving and rapidly growing city. Now that I have landed my dream job, I have shut up and taken her abuse for fear of being out of work again.
      Anxiety kills me right now and I don’t drink. She is 58 and way old enough to know better. The stuff shared in this post, barely scratches the surface.
      Thanks for listening, as I have no other safe outlet.

      1. Intimidated,
        I am sorry to read your story, most of us are posting on the current topic. I would encourage you to post on this topic, Lies – Are they the root of all Lies.

        We have a lot of good posters here and I am sure someone will get back to you on this. Being the weekend it may be slow. I hope you will continue to read the Archives and post again. I know others will chime in and try to help. I think you may benefit enormously, posting again seeing that you are also dealing with the narcissistic BF.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. I’m in a small office of 5 and you’ve helped me identify two of my coworkers. Now that I know more fully what I’m dealing with, I can come up with some better strategies! Thanks so much for your help!

  7. I am in a situation with a co-worker that is impossible to work with. After reading these posts I feel nothing but sympathy for all of you. The amount of mental and physical stress that several of us endure in our office is more than I ever could have imagined anyone taking in. I believe we work with a NP whom changes her personality in seconds, Is never wrong, speaks loudly over your words after she has clearly finished speaking and you are now responding. She has told customers things like “we don’t have TV”. They have a TV but choose not to pay for the services. The children play videos games daily on it. She reaches out for the attention in any way possible. She tries to boss the office when our Boss is out and our deputy is in charge. She will stare you down with a horrific look and you wonder to yourself if she’s crazy. She sings and rocks at her desk and takes notes several hours out of the day. We work in a fast paced office that absolutely has no time for much rest or personal time, thus handing more work over for the rest of us. Her family is perfect in every way. She will not hesitate to tell you they do NO WRONG. Just as she does no wrong in the office. If you are working with someone of this nature seek therapy, counseling, or talk with someone you can open up to because you need to vent, you need to cry, you need to let go and get this poisoned person out of your mind and daily living. I know I need to and am working on that. There is a great book called “Stop Walking on Eggshells”. It runs about 10.00 on Amazon and I just ordered mine today. We all need to learn how to deal with these types of folks and get our workplaces back to normal. Our home lives and family deserve to have us back. Thanks for all the posts, I really needed to read these to know we are not alone but definitely terrifying realizing how often this occurs.

    1. She sounds like she’s off her rocker (rocking back and forth). Clearly is disturbed. It’s too bad though she is able to keep her job and make everyone around her miserable on a daily basis. I’m surprised the boss doesn’t find a way to be rid of her. I feel for you. At least when you’re married to one of these you get away for the day, at work, and can always find a room in the house that the jackass won’t occupy.

  8. I am dealing with an executive peer who is out of control and, whose bad behavior and ego been empowered by management. She is on the sales side. While no one argues that she is a tough cookie, intimidating, a jerk if you get in her way- and a bunch of synonyms I cannot put in print- the CEO likes her “tell it like it is” take, and thinks DEEP DOWN, she is a big teddy bear who loves kids and is misunderstood. People hate seeing her phone call coming in, or opening her emails.

    She has denied trying to take over another group or having any interest of it, but then presents to leadership a plan that outlines the whole reporting process (includes manufacturing which she has NO experience). She is extremely good at making herself look like the victim if anyone calls her on her behavior. She gives out criticism like candy at Halloween- yet shuts down if she receives it. Upon being told of her new boss in a reorganization, she said simply, “no.”. they are now tiptoeing around her.

    Just last month, when she heard that an employee (who did stand up to her) got recognized with an award- she wrote a nasty gram to the department head and cc:d the COO about how undeserving this lady is- and how the entire award should be scrapped, and, “The entire company agrees”. The COO played along and said he wasn’t keen on it, and maybe it should be rethought or eliminated. Now, mind you, one of her team members stated, “Jackie really hates Karen”- but that was ignored and Karen’s award is now in Jackie’s sights.

    She has a lot on the burner and is hiring a lot of staff, but I don’t know when her “soon to be greatness” is going to hit- she keeps adding new pipelines and not concentrating on a few things. Her opinion of herself is putting her ahead! It’s crazy.

    So far, about 9 of us out of an org of 172 are on our way out in the next 6 months.

  9. It is sad that there are so many people affected by a toxic environment created by Narcisstic self serving behaviour. I am just another one on the receiving end. I won’t bore you with my 3 years in having the pleasure of experiencing such a person and the affect upon me. It is all and well to follow some good guidelines as already pointed out by DR George. Having employed already used anti narcisstic strategies but even that only take one as far as it may.
    Sure! Get another Job. That would be an easy way out and many of us would be rid of such a person. The reality is; What Jobs?! particularly at my age of 62 years.
    The dynamics are not all the same when you join a fish bowl of a working environment with such a narcissist of a person. In my situation management are part of the problem in not being able to deal with such a person or the refusal to address it sufficiently. This is even more so when the general manager is very friendly with this narcissist and feeds his ego as well.
    My situation in being the lack of support or a resolution despite management knowing what this person is like. In desperation I needed to take a 2 week holiday. Not for a holiday but for a mental break. This was pointed out to my manager. It was only when I returned that I was accommodated to work in another Team environment. Thank God; I thought.
    What helps protect this narcissist is that it is Government employment. Who is going to do what about him? No one! A protected Koala who needs to kill someone before being held accountable. The funny thing is the window dressing Australian Government makes in pretending that Bullying (including narcisstic behaviour will not be tolerated. Lol. It is tolerated because nothing gets done about it other then the victim having to leave or to be moved on instead.
    For now? I keep ignoring this narcissist and will not allow him to change a working environment to suit only him. After all; He is inept to consider others and dictates to feed only his needs. Further more; He has NO shame in doing so…….
    Management still useless and circumventing in dealing with the REAL issue. So;The Wolf in in the Sheep remains at large.

    1. RL

      I’m sorry you have to deal with that CD in your workplace. I wish I had answers to the problem, but from what I gather there is no answer, only learning how to deal with it.
      You sound like you have a healthy attitude. You the CD won’t change. All we can do then is try to manage how we react to it.
      These people are a royal pain.

  10. As a 70 year old who is on pain medication and having to deal with a few agencies I find many of these people and your article has given me the tools to deal with them without losing my cool.
    I have had three different pharmacists try to play games with me and try to make me go into extreme pain and withdraws and one Hud Housing case worker ran me around for years because I went agains’t her wishes and bought a van so I wouldn’t sleep on the street. Although I would not do it I can understand when they get hurt or even killed because they invoke that much anger.

  11. I had this misfortune to be given responsibility for a coworker who was ADHD and total narcisist . This cowworker would play games with IT denying me access to systems would speak in differeent accents and go out of his way to get attention in order to get what he wanted. I had enough of his ways and challanged him as to why he was playing games and stopping me working. He wasted no time and made a false allegation (which HR coiuld not share with me!) and I was unable to defend myself as I did not know what I wassupposed to have done. I was then accused of swearing and shouting which was another lie The outcome was that I resigned and he is still playing all his games and can do what he wants. So this narcisist can happliy carruy on with his maniputive ways and cause more trouble for other co- workers!

  12. I would really appreciate advice. I have exhausted my friends and family on the subject. I have a coworker from hell. Before she started I absolutely loved my job. I got along with everyone so well. She came onto the job 6 months ago and has made it a living hell. She gaslights me everyday. She goes behind my back and meets with staff before the task is even assigned so she can complete it first. She has taken control of every single aspect of our TEAM and she is the youngest and LEAST experienced. But then she acts 100% innocent in front of our boss. I have brought up a few unacceptable examples with my boss and so now it is on her radar. However, now I feel like she makes me look like IM the bully because I have brought up the situation while she acts so innocent. Its awful and im so discouraged. please give me some much needed advice! I love my job and cant leave, however I dont feel like she is going to leave either.

    1. sarah,

      The best you probably can do is read more blogs here.

      Since you are dealing with her in professional setting, so it should be easier for you to limit contact and stick to cut and dry professional. Eventually what matters to any employer is that employee is doing well as per expectation, and is not creating unpleasantness. Stick to your work. Lies can only fly for short distance, so time will take care of things, just do not let her get away with her lies and stick to your guns. Sometime people let other get away with lies just out of “niceties”, “maybe this”, “maybe that”, “i am not affected, so let it go” etc.

  13. This is excellent. The detailed description of how to best respond is what I was hoping to see in the new articles on Aggressive personalities. While I understand it’s best not to deal with them if that’s an option. As most of us know, that’s not always feasible.

  14. Dr. Simon,

    How does one resign from a narcissistic boss? Should you tell them before they get an email from the new employer? If so, what does one say and how does one say it?

    1. Hi, Scared and Afraid,

      Well I’m not Dr. Simon but I hopefully can give you some guidance.

      Short answer: carefully, very carefully.

      I would look a little nervous (that’s easy) employ a lot of flattery, gratitude, apologies, and a reason for taking another job that is impossible to refute (like much higher pay, closer to home, better hours, improved impact on your kids—basically an offer that’s impossible to refuse. It helps if they approached you versus you approached the new employer.). Allowing the narc boss bragging points for others is generally helpful. But be prepared for a cold rebuff. If you’re leaving, you may be of no use to your boss. Also, if you stay on during a notice or transition period, never ever look happy or excited about the new job or that you’re leaving. Your boss may take that as a personal affront.

      What to avoid: any critical feedback, anything that may make your boss feel criticized or slighted or rejected. Anything that may negate the impression your narc boss works to maintain.

      I realize this sounds a bit demeaning but if you’re concerned about your boss making trouble for you with your new employer I’m not sure you have many other options.

      Good luck to you and please let us know how it turns out. Hopefully, your boss takes your notice gracefully. They certainly can especially if one of the reasons they’re making you miserable is so you’ll leave.

  15. Why don’t employers screen for narcissists? And I mean REALLY screen (not a 15 minute online test). I mean a panel of experts that are trained in spotting liars and those with serious mental health issues. I’m thinking the experts who interrogate hardened criminals and can spot a liar at the other end of a football field. Isn’t it irresponsible not to screen for narcissists? Do employers understand what a single narcissist in their ranks can do to their team, their culture, and eventually to their bottom line? Do employers care what their team feels like when the narcissist supervisor performs a head count every 30 minutes and questions why an employee went to the restroom? Do employers care that the narcissist is taking credit for other people’s ideas and work? Aren’t narcissists really just overpaid “con-artists”? Does anyone care what the narcissist is doing to the mental health of other employees? Should employers be held financially responsible for the mental health bills that result from the narcissist? At this point in time, why doesn’t every employer have audio and video recordings that report the narcissist? Isn’t it irresponsible to expose other employees to a narcissistic supervisor? Why do educated people continue to employ narcissists (especially extreme narcissists) even after learning all of the damage that they cause?

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