News flash- narcissists have jobs and if you are reading this page you may be working with one or more of them.

Narcissists can be a boss, a coworker or a fellow employee. There are many behaviors that are exhibited by someone with NPD and we suggest that you review these to help you identify the possibility that you have a narcissistic coworker.

Let’s start by saying you or I cannot diagnose anyone, fact is that most therapists cannot diagnose a narcissist or any similar personality disorder. That is because narcissists usually have a public mask and they turn on the famous narcissistic charm or pull out the victim card to win the heart of the person in charge with diagnosing them. The chance of someone being diagnosed as a narcissist would take a very skilled psychologist that understands the way that they can manipulate the conversation. Please remember, when you’re talking about a narcissist at work, they’re not going to pull out their credentials saying that they were diagnosed, so give up the idea of closure of identifying them, let’s just look at the behaviors.

Before we get deeper into narcissistic behaviors, you need to first understand the DSM’s Criteria for any narcissist.

The disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by at least five of the following to be medically diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder

An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes he/she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement
Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
Lacks empathy
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

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When your career is in jeopardy it is important to understand who you are dealing with

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DOES YOUR COWORKER HAVE ANY OF THESE BEHAVIORS?

Dealing with a narcissist at work can leave the victim feeling helpless and confused. Your career is at stake and your livelihood is in jeopardy. Narcissistic people see everyone in black-and-white or good and evil. So often the victim starts out as good, (but not always). If they saw in you, the possibility of being a good supply or having value for them, then you are good. If you are on the good list, you probably have something that they needed so they kept you around. Until the one day they stole your idea or asked you to do just one more thing and you spoke up for yourself, then suddenly the mask of friendship or helpful coworker falls, and you become evil in their eyes. Next, due to narcissistic injury, they will set out to destroy you, and your career.

All you want to do is keep your job, get promoted, do the work and live your life, but victims of narcissists at work do not have the normal career path once a narcissistic person has you in their sights. It will shock you at the lengths they will go to when they turn on you. It usually starts with a smear campaign where they are telling others untrue things about you. These lies are career breaking because of the momentum that they create by telling these lies to people that we call ‘flying monkeys’. Think of the bully back in the schoolyard, they rarely came alone to bully because deep down they are cowards. Narcissistic people are similar to that schoolyard bully. In their minds, if you get onto the bad side of a narcissist, they feel entitled to ruin you because you have now seen them without the mask. Unknowingly, you have caused narcissistic injury by going up against the narcissist. They can’t lose control over the workplace, as losing control is their biggest fear. By standing up to the narcissist, they’ve realized that you will not be controlled by them, so in order to regain control, the narcissist sets out to destroy you. In any way possible. Some victims may be considered lucky if the narcissist only costs them their job. Narcissists have no boundaries and are capable of far more than the average person can comprehend.

With all narcissistic abuse, there are three stages: idealize, devalue and discard, and in the workplace, these stages of abuse also hold true. While it seems like every narcissist follows the same rule book. their actions can certainly fall into a different order, so use this a general guideline.

STAGE ONE – IDEALIZE

In the beginning, a narcissist at work evaluates your worth to them, if it’s your boss, it can be that you are smart and will make them look better if you are on a team, often they begin by testing you to see if you will give 150%. If you do, they know they can control you. Control is what narcissistic abuse is all about. While they pretend to nurture and mentor you at your new job, they are also waiting for that great idea that they can claim as their own. If you praise them or admire them, they will simply like you for being the type of supply that fills their bottomless pit of need for admiration. To keep yourself on the good side, you may find yourself becoming a praise machine. This isn’t quite as obvious as it sounds. At work, it could be something as simple as them sharing an idea with you to get your advice, all in the attempt to get you to tell them how great the idea is.
All beginnings don’t start like this, sometimes the narcissist finds you of no great value to them. If you have strong boundaries, leave work on time, are not willing to pick up some of their work, or say no to them, they will know they don’t have a good supply. This may cause them to leave you alone, or they may begin spreading lies about you to drive you out so they can get someone else that will do their bidding.

STAGE TWO – DEVALUE

When your worth has been determined by the narcissist as not being a good supply, they often seek to destroy you by sabotaging your work, stealing your work, and smearing your name with lies about you. The goal in this stage is to make your life a living hell, so that ultimately you choose to leave. Defending yourself against false accusations is hard especially when they get others to join the game. Performance reviews are a tool in this stage, they are documenting the path of your demise.

STAGE THREE – THE DISCARD

The discard stage at work will be the process to get you fired or driven out. Framed and shamed by the lies, you lose your job and career, and you are forced to start again.

HOW DOES A NARCISSIST LOOK AT WORK?

They can be men, women, your boss, the CEO, a cubemate, or a person you consider a work friend. Sometimes the way they appear to the company is so charming and helpful, they do not need to have two heads to have two different sides to them, so please don’t be fooled just because everyone likes them.

Narcissists come in many flavors, but I want you to understand the concept of overt vs covert narcissists. An overt narcissist is outwardly thinking they are superior, they talk about their accomplishments and their own self worth in the organization. The stereotype to think of is a ladder climber who steps on others in order to raise themselves higher.

The covert type is like Clark Kent, mild-mannered, keeps to himself, helpful, professional on the outside but behind closed doors they are working the powers that be to raise themselves up and devalue everyone else. This person is hard to identify until you become their prey, most victims never saw this type of behavior coming. This cover or ‘mask’ is harder to fight because they have created this amazingly wonderful persona that no one will believe you when you bring things to the attention of an HR department.
As I said above, we cannot diagnose them. Their behaviors are what we must look at and use to guide us to understand that this person is abusive and toxic.

Every narcissist is going to play things differently, use these as a guideline:

  • They tell everyone how great they are and yet never seem to get anything done. The old saying that actions speak louder than words really do apply here. They self-inflate if they have the gang to back them up and cover for them when they don’t get work done.
  • In a meeting they often hog the conversation and rudely interrupt others. This unprofessional behavior is a call for attention. They love to be in the spotlight and even if no one is putting a light on them, they stand up and claim it. The narcissistic need for attention is displayed with this type of behavior.
  • Stealing from others is another common tactic. They do not play well with others and probably stole other kids toys when they were young. This type of behavior doesn’t happen fast, it happens slowly as they gain your trust, then when you don’t expect it, they are in a meeting telling everyone about this great idea, that was yours. When this first happens you may excuse it, but in time the bar gets lowered and they are practically stealing everything they can from you. If you dare speak up, they immediately put you on the ‘evil’ list and begin the devalue stage to destroy you. They only want people around them that admire them and that they can control.
  • Rules do not apply to them. Think of all the white-collar crimes that people commit. A narcissist is entitled to steal supplies, laptops and your work, as they have no conscious, and they feel no remorse for hurting people.
  • A narcissist is quick to judge everyone but themselves. They feed off negative emotions and try to break teams up, they bring down morale and cause damage wherever they go.
  • They can throw tantrums if someone doesn’t agree with them. If someone speaks up against them, they will publicly try to ruin that person. They are not good at taking criticism, or any type of negative feedback. When this happens, it causes that narcissistic injury and sets in motion the devalue stage. How dare you say bad things about them.
  • Passive aggressive behaviors are also common in the devalue and discard stages. The gossip and smears we spoke of above are one way they attack, but stonewalling, backstabbing, gaslighting and office sarcasm are also things to watch for. When they joke about you in front of other people, they will cover it with a stupid comment like ‘only kidding’, ‘gosh you are sensitive’. The goal is to make you look bad and feel bad, and when they say something about you in a joking way and then pull it back like that, they have planted the seed for a smear campaign later. This strategy boosts themselves up while they devalue you.

You are either good supply or you are the enemy.

At work a narcissist looks for someone with a skill that that do not have, or they look for a person in position that can benefit them. They seek an alliance with these people, if they are controllable, they friend them and begin to extract what they need. Once the target proves to not be controllable, they seek to destroy them, using threats, false allegations, constant criticism, name calling and smear campaigns, and gaslighting.

The victim of this type of attack is left to defend themselves against untrue allegations. The hopeless feeling these victims experience leaves them confused, betrayed and often, leaves them needing to update their resume because the damage is too great to repair.

WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR COWORKER SHOWS SIGNS OF THESE BEHAVIORS?

Never tell them you think they are a narcissist
This tactic never ends well. You are dealing with someone with no ability to care about you and are willing to up the game to destroy you, no matter what the cost. This is a secret you will need to keep from them. When a narcissist feels like the game is up, the mask has fallen and you are no longer going to be under their control, then the game changes and they will do everything to hurt you: the lies and the smears will reach epic proportions. Try to avoid this common mistake.

If possible contact Human Resources
Discuss the behaviors without labeling the abuser. Explain the behaviors that you have endured, sharing as many details as you can. Supply emails, messages or voicemails or threats and any proof of smear campaigns. Be very careful with whom you speak with to share your concerns as narcissists often smear your name and recruit people to people to assist them in smearing you, these people are called flying monkeys. They are more than office gossipers they are going to assist the narcissist in getting you fired.

Set better boundaries
To set a proper boundary you need to clearly define what it is that you do not want them to do anymore. Then decide a consequence if they violate it. It is so important to set something that is possible. If you tell them if they violate your boundary again that you will…. Make sure it’s enforceable. Then communicate to them the boundary, because if you don’t tell them and you keep this only in your head then it’s not a boundary, it’s a wish. They need to hear it for it to be a proper boundary. Then, if they violate it again you must be willing to enforce the consequence or they will begin the walking all over you again game.

Document everything
Time place, emails and check on your state recording laws to see if you are in a “one party consent state”, in which only one person needs to know you are recording. If it gets bad, and your state allows, record the conversations to give to HR. They may be your only defense.

Often going no contact is your only solution
Narcissists do not like to play by a new set of rules and narcissistic coworkers have been using you as a punching bag will not go down without a fight. The game you are playing now (self-healing) will piss them off and they may begin to jack up the pain and smears, in which case evaluate going completely no contact.  If you cannot go completely no contact, then learn Grey Rock techniques to manage the exposure you will have with them going forward. Only when you are free from the narcissistic coworker are you free to heal and release the drama.

Stay clear of them as much as possible.

Know they will never change except to get worse, so either find a way to coexist or start looking for another job before they have you fired.

Get yourself help! Being emotionally abused takes a toll on any victim, but when your career is in jeopardy, the risks are high, and you do not want to try to do this alone. You need to be validated that you are not crazy. You need to strategize a plan of how to deal with this or you will be off your game as you endure this battle. Learn more about coaching here.

There are many people that are exposed to toxic behaviors of a narcissist at work and survive. It will take a smart HR team, a supportive work environment and management team, that listen to you and provides you with support. You will be ok.

At work a narcissist looks for someone with a skill that that do not have, or they look for a person in position that can benefit them. Or they are like a high school bully that is jealous of you. They seek an alliance with these people, if they are controllable, they friend them and begin to extract what they need. Once the target proves to not be controllable, they seek to destroy them, using threats, false allegations, constant criticism, name calling and smear campaigns, and gaslighting.

The victim of this type of attack is left to defend themselves against untrue allegations. The hopeless feeling these victims experience leaves them confused, betrayed and often, leaves them needing to update their resume because the damage is too great to repair.

Demeaning, demanding, and bullying.
When a narcissist feels that somebody has a skill or ability that they lack, they often put that person down. They can be patronizing of the other person by bullying or threatening them when they refuses to acknowledge their “greatness,” or simply outshine. Narcissists will use gossip or confidential discussions and try to appear to be concerned about someone else’s well-being, and then blatantly belittle, lie, or otherwise harm their reputation.
Narcissists degrade others and tear them down. They use tactics such as sarcasm, constant criticism, name calling, blaming, gas-lighting, and humiliation to weaken other people and diminish their sense of self-confidence and self-worth. This enables the narcissist to feel powerful and in control of others’ lives.

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