Have you ever worked with someone who is arrogant, takes credit for other people’s work and blames others when something goes wrong? Yes, I am talking about that asshole that we’ve all whispered about behind his or her back at work. You may also have labeled that person as the “office narcissist.” An office narcissist could be someone that reports to you, it could be someone that you work side by side with, or an office narcissist could be someone that is your superior. Whichever the scenario of your interaction may be, working with an office narcissist is counter-productive to a healthy workplace. It not only impacts productivity but also diminishes the morale of the team. While there is no cure for narcissism, there are ways that you can adopt when dealing with narcissists around the office and still be able to enjoy your job at the same time.
Generally speaking, narcissism is the sense of self-importance. While narcissism may be used loosely to describe someone who is “full of themselves.” I believe that everyone possesses some level of narcissistic trait because of the self-confidence we have within. However, a true narcissist is someone who is diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and contrary to the façade they put out; they actually lack self-esteem. And it is the very reason that because they lack self-confidence, they work even harder to put out a strong appearance to disguise the absence of emotional connection they have towards others. The difference between a normal person with good self-esteem versus a true narcissist diagnosed with NPD is the spectrum of self-importance from being “selfless” to “total arrogance.” But for the sake of this article, we will use the term “narcissists” as someone that displays narcissistic traits.
Understanding Traits of an Office Narcissist
Until this point, you may be thinking through a list of people at work and wondering if they are office narcissists. Most likely, you’ll notice that narcissists have an opinion about everything. From the direction of a business strategy to where to eat lunch, a narcissist will have a say in everything. I once worked with a guy that seems to have a vast amount of knowledge on EVERYTHING in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant in Timbuktu or a foreign country that he has never been, he always has an opinion about every subject of discussion.
Another common trait of office narcissist is taking credit for other people’s work. If your boss displays narcissistic characteristics, then you may have experienced him/her taking credit for your work. A friend of mine shared with me that her boss would criticize her idea for projects in their 1:1 meetings but then take her idea to the executive team and claim it as his own. You may be surprised to know that a narcissist whole-heartedly believes that they’re never wrong and during times where things don’t go as planned, it is because of someone else’s fault.
Office narcissists are extremely good at deflecting accountability when something goes wrong. They will be the first to point out someone else’s incompetency and project a spotlight to shift the focus of responsibility to people other than him or herself.
Depending on the severity of narcissism, an office narcissist may be incapable of feeling empathy. To project a professional image, they will mimic other people’s behaviors and reactions as their form of empathy and teaming around the workplace.
Dealing with Office Narcissists
The first rule of thumb to working with a narcissist is that you will need to learn to not take your interactions with them too seriously. You can do so by developing a thick skin towards the little jabs that he/she may point at you from time to time or let unconstructive criticism roll off your shoulder. Remember, narcissists often criticize others to hide their deficiencies (self-esteem issues, lack of empathy, etc.) So the problem is not on you, it’s them.
If you identify your boss as an office narcissist, it is important to remember to never stroke their ego. Narcissists are arrogant than most people to begin with and they are always looking to filling their “egotistic supply” with interactions around them. By caressing their ego will only amplify their narcissistic behaviors and validate their arrogant demeanors.
Instead, you want to look out for good behaviors from office narcissists and compliment good behavior. Similar to dealing with a five-year-old, praise them when they show genuine care or empathy around something or someone. Reward them with words that they did well by showing compassion. Your compliment will send a positive signal to the narcissist for them to mimic for future behaviors.
Lastly, a useful tip for dealing with office narcissists is to “embrace the cause,” or “bear-hug the blame.” If you ever find yourself in a situation where the narcissist is deflecting the blame on you and calling out your incompetence, then bear-hug (virtually, not physically) the blame by including the narcissist in your acknowledgment of blame. Say, “I am glad you brought it up, and I feel that we could look at this problem together and find a solution as a team.” By embracing the cause of the issue, you will shine a spotlight on the face of the narcissist and forces him/her to achieve a solution together with you rather than taking on the blame independently.
Dealing with a narcissist in life is hard and working with an office narcissist is even harder. If you find these tips helpful, give this article a clap below. ☺