According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, the narcissistic personality disorder is a state in which a person has “an enduring pattern of grandiose beliefs and arrogant behavior together with an overwhelming need for admiration and a lack of empathy for (and even exploitation of) others”.
A person with narcissistic personality disorder will commonly have the following traits:
- Feels self-important
- Reacts to criticism with rage and humiliation
- Has unreasonable expectations from others
- Seeks the spotlight
- Refuses to give due credit
- Lacks empathy
- Takes advantage of others
- Exaggerates and boasts of his accomplishments
- Fantasizes about power, intelligence, position and ideals of love
Ring any bells? At one point or another during our life, we have all had to deal with difficult bosses. They might come down on you too hard, be stingy about giving you time off, work you to the ground and still not be satisfied even after you give your 100%. We get it.
However, every now and then comes along the kind of boss who would put the above mentioned horrible boss to shame. She reads off the charts for disrespectful behavior, criticism of her employees, anger and emotional instability among other things. This is the narcissistic boss whom this post is dedicated to warning you against. Jen Heck, filmmaker and reality show producer, talks from the entertainment angle and says, “… [Narcissists] can be good for TV, but are almost always bad for production. Their antic often threatens to derail the show… You can create a monster that way.” The similar idea applies to the work place. Following are 8 signs which mean your boss is most definitely a narcissist schmuck.
8. Loves to be in control
A narcissist boss loves being in control because that means she can “dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation” says psychologist Scott B. Kaufman while writing for Psychology Today.
“Narcissists have always emerged to inspire people and to shape the future,” writes Maccoby for Harvard Business Review, “Consider how an executive at Oracle describes his narcissistic CEO Larry Ellison: ‘The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry.’”
7. Has an inflated sense of self-importance
For a narcissist boss, self-love is the only kind of love worth living for. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and believe themselves to be above everyone else. She will not treat you as an employee, as an individual and never as an equal. You are nothing more than a clog in her well-oiled machinery of which she is the owner and the driver. While self-confidence is a great thing there is a very thin line between being confident and having an exaggerated, borderline narcissistic sense of self-importance. This boss will either assume a superior position, proclaim themselves better than everyone else or she will assume an inferior position to those in a higher position and defer to them.
6. Lacks empathy
She does not care if you are ill, have an emergency back home or if you are having problems at work. You will be met with a stern and cold ‘And…?’ instead of the slightest glimmer of emotion. Unless you are his or her favorite employee, there is a slim chance of you being on the receiving end of a respectful or thoughtful gesture. When someone lacks empathy, they are not equipped to reach out to them and address their issues on an emotional level. When someone is a narcissist, they simply do not care. Not only is this boss antipathetic, she would also go to serious lengths for causing her employees discomfort just to keep them on their toes.
Craig Malkin, Harvard Medical School psychologist says, “… [The] very fact of having a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally… [It] challenges their sense of perfect autonomy. To admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them.”
5. Hogs due credit
He or she will not stand by and let your ideas make way where they may be praised or implemented by others. She/he shoot down those ideas in front of you but if she thinks they are worth something, she will pass them off as her own and refuse to credit you. This kind of behavior is not uncommon in offices at all and if your boss is in the habit of doing so repeatedly then she is definitely a closeted narcissist.
Read more about the language a narcissist would use to manipulate her victims here.
4. Has selfish agendas
She has only one aim in life; to fulfill her aims and goals and to do so by any means possible. If that means manipulating her employees, she will. If it means she has to disregard your well-being for the sake of her self-advancement, she will do so without any remorse and guilt. A narcissist boss will use you and your skills beyond your job description like have you run personal errands, work on their projects and then take all due credit or assume some of her responsibilities without any acknowledgement whatsoever.
3. Who’s the fairest of them all?
People with this personality disorder crave attention and need to have the spotlight on them at all times. If that means they have to steal it from others, they will [related: These 5 insecurities will seriously hinder your personal growth]. They love to hear people talk about them [all good things only, obviously] and when someone isn’t, they will step in and do the job themselves. At meetings, conferences, office parties, presentations and discussions they will go on about their accomplishments and the praise they have received from others. A narcissist boss thrives on attention and needs like a life-support drug to feel self-important and superior.
2. Reacts badly to criticism
No, you’re wrong, and you’re wrong, and you’re wrong!
Criticism, even if it is justified and called for, will always be met with great resistance by the narcissist boss. Being criticized shatters their self-created belief of perfection and self-idealism and would trigger responses like denial, complete indifference, anger and rage. They would also shift the blame to their subordinates and colleagues.
1. Emotionally toxic
Just to make their employees feel insecure and to always keep them looking over their shoulder, the narcissistic boss displays emotional toxicity. Instead of maintaining an optimistic vibe at the workplace, this boss will spew negativity to satisfy their odd sense of power and dominance. She can be borderline abusive emotionally and thrives on your misery which gives her fragile ego
What to do if you have a narcissistic boss?
Working for a narcissistic boss can be draining emotionally, mentally and physically. He or she can potentially be a threat to your professional growth and career and have a demoralizing and discouraging presence in your life. If switching jobs is not an option, following are some tactics you can employ to deal with a narcissistic boss:
“One thing that’s under-appreciated is that there are generally two types of narcissist, the grandiose narcissist and vulnerable narcissist,” explains a study by Seth Spain, assistant Professor at Binghamton University. The former is manageable as they don’t react badly to criticism since they don’t believe it at all. The vulnerable narcissist has an over-inflated ego and becomes paranoid in its defense. Know the type of narcissistic boss you have and watch out for it.
Instead of reacting to how a narcissist boss treats you, respond to it firmly and effectively. Do not let her get under your skin.
Boundaries are a guideline for you; and others around you, as to what is acceptable and what doesn’t give. Let your boss know that you have clear boundaries and she cannot cross them at any cost.
Instead of challenging her authority, voice your concerns with a different approach. Avoid direct confrontations. Dr. Jody Foster, co-author of The Schmuck in my Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work talks, about constructive confrontations:
“As difficult as this may sound, it would be important to clarify for this manager that his refusal is being perceived in this manner… clarifying for the manager that the refusal makes him/her appear petty, selfish or immature could go a long way in getting the manager to consider his/her actions more thoughtfully, especially if the message is delivered with the clear intent to offer helpful feedback.”
She might believe it, but no one is perfect. “Narcissists are especially prone to errors of over-confidence,” says Lee Macenczak, assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University. Watch out for their weak spots and save yourself from the fallout.
Don’t give undeserved praise to a narcissistic boss. It is better to bite your tongue than feed their beast of admiration.
Working for a narcissistic boss can be draining and exhausting and you need someone you can vent to. “Build a broad and supportive social network within and outside the organization in case you are let go by the boss, or want to leave because you just can’t take it anymore,” says W. Keith Campbell, Professor and head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia.
Working for a narcissistic boss will never be easy. It is only natural to be frustrated and if you can’t walk away, remember to reconnect with why you are there in the first place. People come and go, bosses change and there is hope.