Working for a narcissistic boss can make work life extremely difficult and a little bit soul-destroying. Given that many people spend more hours at work than they do with their friends and family, that’s not a very positive thought.
First off, it’s important to understand that your narcissistic boss has a personality disorder, which isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Their psychological state has them living in a fantasy version of reality where they believe themselves to be special, superior and entitled.
Your narcissistic boss is not going to change.
While it might be tempting to try and show your narcissistic boss evidence that their version of events or reality is not very accurate, you’d only be lining yourself up for punishment and persecution for daring to do so.
Dealing with a narcissistic boss becomes easier when you’re able to go with the flow of each situation, rather than trying to fight against it.
I’m not at all suggesting that your work life should suffer because of your narcissistic boss’s mental state, but you will need to equip yourself with some strategies moving forward to make your life easier.
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Signs of a Narcissistic Boss
Narcissists commonly land leadership roles for a few reasons.
Firstly, they feel entitled to be in a position of power due to their inflated sense of superiority and will shoulder their way up the ladder until they get it.
Secondly, their arrogance can often manifest as overconfidence in being able to perform the role (even if they suck at it!).
Here are some common signs of a narcissistic boss:
- Being admired is extremely important to them
- They feel entitled to special treatment (even if they haven’t earned it)
- They don’t have much empathy for their coworkers
- They use anger & aggression to get what they want
- They won’t admit to their mistakes
- They always paint themselves as the ‘hero’
- They believe they’re above everybody else
- They’ll take credit for other people’s work
- They’re quick to point out flaws & mistakes
- They never acknowledge positive work
- They use and exploit others for their own gain
- They don’t handle criticism or rejection very well
- They’re not approachable
- They have unrealistic expectations of others
- They’re very focused on their own success and achievements
- They put others down to elevate themselves.
If you’re still unsure if your boss is a narcissist, take the free quiz below to find out.
Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss
Keep Interactions Short
When you do need to interact with your narcissistic boss, it’s to your advantage to keep things brief and to the point. The less time you need to spend with your boss, the less chance there is of them saying something that will get under your skin.
Narcissistic bosses will easily put their coworkers on the defensive with their arrogant behaviour. They thrive on devaluing others to prop up their own image and will unflinchingly delegate their own menial duties because they think they’re above such tasks.
The best tactic is to avoid getting caught up in unnecessary conversation with your narcissistic boss.
Use the BIFF method:
By keeping things BIFF, you will find it easier to stay focused on your own tasks, while still being friendly enough to preserve an amicable working relationship. But, you do not need to go beyond that.
Avoid Your Narcissistic Boss’s Triggers
After working with your narcissistic boss for a while, you’ll start to notice certain things that are likely to set them off. This is where you’ll want to make a mental note of each thing so that you can avoid stepping on those trigger points in the future.
Common narcissistic boss triggers:
- Anything that threatens their inflated ego & fantasy version of themselves
- Being challenged or questioned
- Being told, “No”
- Being told what to do
- Not being involved in important decision-making tasks
- Losing control
Having to step around a fully grown adult’s triggers to avoid having their anger spew all over you, your coworkers and the entire workplace really does suck. I hear you. It’s completely unprofessional, nor should their dysregulated emotions be the responsibility or burden of anybody else.
However, the reality is that your narcissistic boss isn’t going to suddenly change and start being accountable for their bad behaviour. The very nature of their personality disorder has them believing that they’re so superior and flawless, that they don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with how they behave.
So, plan B is to see them for who they really are (despite their false facade) and protect yourself for your own survival and benefit. This is where the method of keeping interactions to a minimum becomes all the more important.
Always Start with Flattery
Look, I know it’s nauseating, but this is a tactic that will work almost every time with any narcissist.
Whenever you find yourself dealing with a narcissistic boss and need them to do you a favour or something that doesn’t immediately inflate their ego, always start with flattery.
Example of flattery first:
“I know how talented you are at organising numbers, so I wondered if you could share a bit of your expertise with me on this one?”
- Step 1: Feed into your narcissistic boss’s magnified self-importance by flattering them first.
- Step 2: They’ll be more likely to help with the task, believing that it will help to further enhance their superior status.
Additional Tip – randomly compliment your narcissistic boss along the way, which will keep their ego inflated and allow you to stay in their good books.
I know, it’s infuriating that you should even have to do this… I can hear your eyes rolling from all the way over here! But, just keep reminding yourself that this is for your benefit, not theirs.
Narcissistic bosses are famous for flipping the script with the click of a finger, if it will suit their agenda.
Always keep records of your work with dates and notes, just in case you need to cover your backside at any point. Hopefully you’ll never need to draw on it, but it will help you sleep easier at night knowing that you’ve got yourself covered if need be.
Examples of documentation:
- Notebook with daily tasks (dated)
- Photos or screenshots of completed tasks
- Emails (filed into relevant categories)
Do Your Own Networking… but quietly
Unfortunately, your narcissistic boss is probably not going to be a good mentor, especially if they’re worried about competition coming in and stealing their spot in the power seat. There is one exception, where the narcissist may mentor you simply to enhance their own status or position.
If you want to be able to further your career prospects, or you’re looking for people to talk to for support and self-improvement in your role, you’ll need to look beyond your boss.
It is in your best interests to keep your networking on the down low. A narcissistic boss will see it as an attack on their fantasy version of themselves as being the most superior.
In fact, as a punishment for daring to undermine them (or seek expertise elsewhere) they might even set out to sabotage your growth opportunities as a way of validating their idealised reality of superiority and power.
Networking & support beyond your narcissistic boss:
- Forming relationships with people in other teams
- Forming relationships with other company leaders
- Finding a mentor in the same industry (but who works outside of your current company)
- Building on your skills with additional training in your own time
Formulate a Plan
If you don’t want to spend the rest of your days working under your narcissistic boss, it’s time to formulate your own plan to further yourself.
You may want to move across into a different role or work towards a promotion within your existing workplace. Or, you might want to get the hell out and work somewhere completely different, either to start afresh from your narcissistic boss, or to move up the ladder.
Whatever your personal goals are, don’t let a narcissistic boss squash them. In most cases it’s best to keep your cards close to your chest and not tell the narc boss what your goals are.
They have a way of sucking the goodness out of everything, so this is for you, not them!
Figure out what your goals are and then decide on the best steps to follow for you to achieve them.
It might mean that you need to stay in this job for a certain amount of time to build up your experience or meet certain obligations. It might be a matter of saving up or paying out debt before making the jump into something different.
Your objective may be to simply stay in your current position while you’re quietly searching for jobs on the side.
Whatever your plan is, keep it at the forefront of your mind whenever you find yourself dealing with a narcissistic boss. Use it as your motivation to keep reaching for your goal.
This is not about the narcissist, it’s about you achieving your own goals despite them.
However, if your narcissistic boss is outwardly abusive, no one should have to put up with that at work. If you feel that you’ve been unfairly treated, you are fully entitled to take it further by talking to someone higher up in the company or seeking legal action (depending on your situation).
Always look out for yourself first and be sure to protect yourself when dealing with a narcissistic boss.
Arm yourself with a strategy that works for your best interests regardless of your boss’s delusional reality. Be sure to prioritise daily self-care when dealing with a narcissistic boss, for your own well-being.
▶️ VIDEO: 6 Tips for Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss
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