Credit and Blame at Work

Exploring the psychological forces at play while you work.

The Narcissistic Boss

Despite many articles and books extolling the value of humility and emotional intelligence among business leaders, narcissism still abounds in the contemporary workplace. Read More

I once worked for a

I once worked for a narcissist. She was highly abusive. I hated her but never let it show. Not once.

I survived, got promoted and moved along to another job. She left the firm.

A few years later, I was phoned out of the blue by a former colleague who was visiting. He's a very gentle type. We planned to go out for lunch and he asked if I'd mind if he invited along the 'horror queen'.

I said "Please, no". In fact, I went further and said "She's a disgraceful human being and I promised myself when we parted company that I would never see her again".

He said: "Oh, I'm getting married to her!".

I didn't get invited to the wedding. Each to their own!

Please send your story to Reader's Digest.

Anon wrote:
I once worked for a narcissist. She was highly abusive. I hated her but never let it show. Not once.

I survived, got promoted and moved along to another job. She left the firm.

A few years later, I was phoned out of the blue by a former colleague who was visiting. He's a very gentle type. We planned to go out for lunch and he asked if I'd mind if he invited along the 'horror queen'.

I said "Please, no". In fact, I went further and said "She's a disgraceful human being and I promised myself when we parted company that I would never see her again".

He said: "Oh, I'm getting married to her!".

I didn't get invited to the wedding. Each to their own!

toxic boss

I had a new boss who dragged me into his office, defamed every person with whom I has ever worked in this large ( govt) organization. Told me that his colleagues were 1) jealous of him, 2) I understand you are good friends with Ms--- and I am here to tell you that she is psychologically impaired and not to be trusted 3) went on in that vein covering every person who we both knew-- colleagues, superiors of mine, etc, etc. Ended the 2 hr conversation staring into my eyes and saying that " you can open up your heart to me". i drove him home and he reached over and squeezed my upper thigh. This, after telling me that "so and so" has accused him of having affairs with colleagues of mine.
I thought hard about all of this and finally sought advice from the person who he had flamed the most ( who happened to be a psychiatrist). This guy was then handed a paper about sexual harassment - although I declined to file a complaint. My life has been hell ever since.
Management does nothing. 2 other people have curtailed because of this person. I have been warned not to approach HR and not to take it out of the office. I have been told by his supervisor that " you are in a hostile work environment" but nothing has been done. This boss continues to spread rumors about me professionally and having been unsuccessful in obtaining the outcome with that, has now made comments about my personal life to others. He has accessed my medical chart as well and made comments about that.
Pretty shameful stuff. And no end in sight he has now has his sight on yet another colleague.

toxic bosses

I thought I had a good relationship with my boss and ignored some of the office gossip I heard about her. I did notice she was nicer to some people than others but i did not think that really mattered until she posted a video on youtube about managing difficult employees. Myself and another less popular employee were identifiable in this video so I complained, she then refused to see me and I was virtually without management for four months. that might sound good but I work in a very responsible role and I need to be able to rely on my manager. eventually I was transferred to another site but I have lost a number of chances to develop my career and it has taken a personal toll. She and her friends have tried to find things to complain to my new manager about and you can always poke holes in someones work if you really try, especially if that person does not get all the emails and memos. Because she operates on favors, no one will stand up for me.DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR MANAGER. my first impulse when I saw the video was just to leave and I wish I had done it then when I could still get a good reference


I have a customer with Narcissistic Personality Disorder but only recently figured it out. At 50+ I suspect she has at least been diagnosed but does not seem to be in therapy. Her moods are extremely labile, appearing rageful with any real or perceived loss of control. She lies at all costs if there is any chance she will be identified as the one at fault. Once she lied about something very serious that I was invovled in and while it has all blown over, she did apologize to me saying she feels bad. I can't tell if that is more manipulative behavior or she is truly sorry. Before I realized her pathology I felt like a yo-yo but have since learned to put her hurtful behavior in perspective. She needs to feel special and since my nature is to be giving and supportive, I find myself being exploited. As her advisor, I've provided a number of helpful services yet she never says thank you. The entitlement is difficult to believe. Its infuriating. The most disturbing part is how she treats her employees. She is abusive, pits them against each other, talks down to them and has even resorted to name calling. One is literally physically ill from the abuse. Part of me would like to talk to my customer as a trusted colleague to help her realize the impact of her behavior in the hope that she can ilicit far less pain and dysfunction in the workplace. The other part realizes that it is really none of my business and I should stay out of it. I also find myself torn between feeling badly for her given the pain she lives with daily and the frustration of her toxic behavior. I do care and understand this is not always within her control.

Narcissistic bosses

She came in with charm and offered to help our agency out with all of our issues in the agency and the community. We all saw hope and welcomed change. This went well for awhile. Some barriers were knocked down. We started having a voice with some of the people in our community. Then, we started to see another side. The dragon began to rear it's ugly head. We all saw it and talked about it. She is taking over the entire agency. She has her hands in every dept. and is now the only voice we have to our director. We have allowed this monster to come in, welcome her, give her praise for the changes. She gained control and then when there was any challenge that her opinion is not the most effective opinion, she turned. She accepts the initial suggestion. She even praises you in the agency meetings. Behind the scenes, she has put up every barrier that can be put up for anyone that she feels threatened by. Not only has she been given the power to make changes, she has been allowed to tear down the entire agency by keeping very effective staff at level that is safe to her. She finally finds a person in the agency that can actually be her ally and this poor person is the other weak one that needs someone like this to help her get to the top. This ally is a puppet and they walk around like two peas in a pod. They see no harm in what they are doing and they are a team. If you are a person that sees this for what it is, perhaps you feel like you are going off the deep end and begin researching how to deal with this boss. You may come across Narcissistic Personality Disorder. AHA!!! How could one be so blind to not see this coming. The most trained professional can be blind-sided by this person. He/she comes on like a lamb and ends up actually being a lion. We can all be fooled. We think of people with NPD as mostly male who have history of aggression. Not so. I have also learned that Borderline Personality Disorder looks different in men than women, but that's another story. I have come to the conclusion that losing sleep over this problem is normal. I have also learned that being up at 3:00 am researching "bad" bosses, favoritism and ending up here is "normal." I am checking my reality since I have had my first "known" experience with a Narcissist.I wanted to walk out of my great job that I love for the most part because of this person. I began to look back and see that I have had encounters with this issue before and it became too stressful and I walked away. I began to resent that this would affect me so much and that this person may not ever leave the agency. I started to get on my fighting gear and go in to protect my position. I see the possiblity of great things at this workplace and this person is the barrier to this happening. Other staff see it and have agreed to support this issue. I have seen them back up before and allow me to take the hit. So, I am a little unsure about this really happening. However, I believe that she is and always will be destructive and to allow her to tear down what our very insightful and most of the time, "fair" director has been building for years is worth the fight. I see a future at our agency for huge growth and respect in our community. I am willing to give it a shot and see what happens. I may be burned however, I still believe that many people can change and become healthy contributors. I am going to bat on this one. I am hoping that this can occur but realize that it probably will not happen without some battle scars. I need some professional advice on how to defend with a Narcissit and her protege who is my supervisor. We have a union, should I get this deep into it, or just walk away? cg


I think I had the same boss.
Yes, the female's with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are super scary! Just never know what will set them off and how far off they will go. Your best bet will be to set her off in public, so all can see the show.
and be careful, everything's a personal attack to them.

narcissistic boss- suggestions?

My experience with a narcissistic female boss has taught me the lesson that you do NOT want to set them off in front of others. Remember, in their minds they are always right and you will always be wrong. And they will manipulate others to believe the same. My boss is a real charmer to most people and most people think she is wonderful, especially the big boss who is completely oblivious to her behavior to others. I've talked to HR and of course my boss has too, about me, and how she just has to be the one to try to get my performance improved, and its such a tough job but she'll try her best, etc etc. Of course, HR doesn't see how truly toxic she is either. She is expert at manipulation. She is very smart and the big boss loves her, so she isn't going anywhere. She pushes every button I have and then some I didn't know I had, as I had narcissistic parents and am hyper-sensitive to the behavior. I can't afford to quit! Any suggestions?

Re: narcissistic boss- suggestions?

Sorry to hear that you are having this negative experience with your boss.

Some of the suggestions mentioned in this video about how to deal with a toxic boss might be helpful:

Good luck!

What happened?

I am in a very similar situation. I've been in this job for less than 5 months and moved away from family and friends to take this "great opportunity." Now I am dealing with this same type of person and find myself getting defensive, which I realize doesn't work. Now I've been targeted. Very confused, which is an unusual state for me. Whatever happened to your situation?

narcissism pros v. cons

Ultimately putting someone with grandeur delusions who lacks empathy in charge of large volumes of shareholder money is a recipe for disaster.
Yeah, they sure are unpleasant to work for, particularly if their narcissism is towards the malignant or psychopathic end of the scale (and some such individuals can muster sufficient social skills to prosper in teams), but aside from all the psychological damage they do to individuals who work for them, powerful workplace NPs and psychopaths can do enormous damage to society as a whole.

Individuals such as Dennis Kozlowski, Dick Fuld, Andy Fastow, Jeff Skilling, and here in the UK Adam Applegarth or Sir Fred Goodwin have collectively destroyed billions, if not trillions of shareholder money through practices ranging from the excessively risky to the illegal, and put thousands on the dole queue.

Others, such as sir Allen Stanford or Bernard Madoff, have simply stolen investor money using elaborate schemes.

While it's true narcissistic drive can turn companies into a kind of wealth creation cult modeled on the founding father, I believe there is a tipping point beyond which having too many pathological narcissists in an organisation, or just a few very powerful ones, can be extremely dangerous and the net ballance of value tips in favour of destruction as a result of their behaviour and tendency towards delusion.

The credit crunch is giving this generation its first real insight into corporate narcissism pros v. cons.

It's easy to be seduced by an NP, and they have a place for sure, but consumerism is sowing the seeds of its own downfall by demanding such huge levels of narcissism not only within the confines of its corporate offices, but within society as a whole.........

I QUIT for my Narcissistic Boss!

They start of very sly appear to be nice but it is all just a facade. There is actually a very manipulative, hurt, scared soul behind the mask. This person I worked for was a complete control freak, micro manager, manipulative braggadocios A hole I had ever met in my entire life. I couldn't stand walking into the office every morning and having to hear his grandiose stories (which no one cared about but the people who were getting paid more money would Yes him to death sucking up to his every word).This is of course because no one else matters to a narcissist. They are the most terrible excuse for human beings. The very sad thing is these people manipulate there way to the top of corporations because they appear to be great managers when all in all they are using people until there is nothing left of them. They truly are a disgrace to humanity.

This "Man" worked at a Marketing Firm. "Owned his own company," which he bought with his trust fund from daddy. I would hear about how when he was younger he was a diver and had no money, now he's the owner of his own company, has a beautiful wife (who is controlled and manipulated by him every day) two beautiful children. This was all because he was basically born into money, didn't care what he was going to do when he graduated high school because he knew he had money coming to him and most likely already had some deposited to him monthly. But yet he was soo poor and came from nothing. Hes never truly had to work a day in his life to survive. Told lies constantly lies, lies and more LIES! It was so irritating like nails on a chalkboard every time I had to hear him speak. He would also throw temper tantrums at the slightest thing. The last day I was there, I merely suggested somthing that would make more sense than what he told me to do. He said "Nooo! We're going to do it this way! You're going to sit here, I'm going to tell you what to take off this list." I told him "Well, wouldn't it be easier if you just go down this list and cross out what you dont need then hand me the list" Just a simple suggestion that was enough criticism for him to fly off the handle. He then says, "Fine! FORGET IT!!!!" Proceeds to storm out of the office saying bye to two of the other employees, not me of course. (There were a total of 4 of us in his little dictatorship, now there is 3 without me) He stormed out slamming the door. When he comes back to the office, walks right by me, proceeds to give me the silent treatment the rest of the day like I'm a child. Hahaha, I was just like you have got to be kidding me. This is a poor excuse for a man. He would also make sexual derogatory comments which he thought were funny and completely were not. He would say "well since your the only female in the office, we'll try and control our manly ways" he was the only one that needed to shut his arrogant foul mouth.

I was to be his "assistant" when I originally went there to intern for graphic design. I ended up doing 3 things for graphic design, never learning from any designers and they used my logos which I was never compensated for at all. I ended up doing all of his work while he looked at porn all day. Ugh I hated him!!! I wanted to quit every day. The incredible thing with these types of personalities is that they have ZERO understanding of how they are treating others. They simply do not have the capability and IQ. They have a HUGE lack of empathy and decency towards others. Of course they see themselves like they are the best that they are completely fair to others. I'm so glad I'm out of that abusive hell hole!!! I would rather clean up dog poo all day then see his face!!!

Sociopaths and narcissists in power are the norm in ...

... corporations, for the simple reason that the capitalist-corporatist system is essentially an engine for selecting such creatures upwards. I mean, that's obviously largely the point. What would be the use of having a corporation run by people who valued anything other than money, or understood what 'ethics' means?

The best way to deal with them is ultimately to avoid working for corporations. That may mean, as it did for me, a period of 'apprenticeship' whereby you need to do corporate work for a period (for the sake of the CV/bank balance, etc).

But here's what you'll find: all sociopaths and narcissists working in upper management break the law (or at least break accepted informal standards, self-regulation expectations, etc). If you get close enough, keep a carefully-maintained, scrupulously honest dossier on their activities. Then just submit this to the authorities when you leave your job. I've done this with 2 previous bosses: one lost his job, the other had a short spell in prison (the second of these was a consequence of criminal activities encouraged by a company which was very much a household name: you're probably using one of their products as you're reading this). Very satisfying.

...i simply moved on.

i happily worked for four years as a project manager at a small company. in the fifth year, it was taken over by the 'mother ship', and one of their uber-narcissistic execs was placed at the helm. i lasted a year within the new regime, and thankfully found another job which fortunately also came with a significant raise.

even though i had been warned about my new boss, i was desperate to leave my old job so i gave it a try. sure enough, this person more than lived up to their reputation as a lazy, entitled, narcissistic ...person. i lasted two years there before becoming so miserable that getting out of bed in the morning became borderline-insurmountable.

thankfully i'm young enough that i decided to quit that job as well, and go back to school full-time with the goal of eventually working for myself. does that now make ME narcissistic? perhaps...? :)

i'm working part-time now with an AMAZING boss. extremely intelligent, but very humble and down-to-earth. more accomplished than my old two bosses put together, but so sweet and kind that it's a PLEASURE to work with this person and feel like an equal human being.

there are all kinds of people in the world... the narcissists are abundant, but there are also amazing gems of people out there.

i'm very fortunate to now have found a boss/mentor who wants to see me succeed, and who will do whatever they can to help.

My Team Lead has a narcissistic personality disorder

Thank you all for sharing, it has help me realize I'm not the nut case.

Recently things have come to a boil after successfully dodging my team lead for a month or two. It started during the interview process when he told me the only reason they were hiring me is because they couldn't clone him, which he said with a smile. In hind site I realize he wasn't joking, he was expressing the joy of being all that he imagines he is.

During the first few weeks he talked down during my one on ones, telling me I'm not as smart as he and never will be, so it wasn't fear for the rest of company to have high expectation of me. I waited for him to laugh but he never did, and that freaked me out. I still didn't know what it was all about but it's all a sort of group mind control thing he is successfully pulling of. I've come to find out he told others not to expect much from me as well, as if he is the authority on me - and they just believed him.

When my wife suggested he was threated by me I thought, no he seems pretty bright and maybe he just has a super high opinion of himself. It turns out he isn't so bright but does have surface knowledge about a lot of things so that he can bs others into doing what ever his fool mind thinks serves him best.

I got so angry with him that I sent an email that out of context read out like I'm a freak. He had copied the product managers and then tried to dictate to me what, how and when I was going to do something, which set me off. I now see he deliberately setting me up. Freaky that this ill person was controlling me.

My job and reputation are being destroyed by this guy so that he can protect his deep insecurity. I'm still a little angry about it but glad most of that has past with just acknowledging he is mentally ill.

I'm not one to put up with inappropriate behavior and I've experienced narcissistic personalities (hard to think there is an actual caring human behind the illness they are so cold and calculated) but didn't understand what it was then. Glad I've learned about this. My calling him on his behavior will likely cost me my job.

Mng. won't do anything as they love him. It is beyond believe that they would put a sick man in charge of others to begin with. To then leave him in a position of any sort of authority over other is likely criminal. It is certainly irresponsible to knowingly allow him to abuse other from a position of power. I guess there is a certain level of disfunction to the whole place if they let him stay and me go, so why would I want to?

I've spoken with two other guys driven near mad by this guy and then out the door. Both were much smarter then this team lead. Management just won't see the light around this mental defective as he has them convinced of what reality is. It's really freaky that he is able to control group think, even though no one likes him, which is kind of sad but not unexpected. With the poor decision making skills of mng. shown by putting such a messed up person in a position of authority, I'm not sure I'd want to work there even if I survive this guy.

This article is right-on, as

This article is right-on, as are the comments. Nice to see a community of fellow sufferers.

I've worked for a narcissistic boss for 10 years. Took me about five to figure it out--and I still think there are other factors at play, such as bi-polar disorder. I work for a smaller firm (around 50 people). This guy is maybe third in command, and everyone is scared of him. He has basically "adopted" me, since he's in his mid--forties, unmarried/no children. I'm like his little brother that he feels completely comfortable emotional and verbally abusing. So yes, I completely understand what it's like to work in this kind of situation, and I appreciate the author's point (the first time I've seen in made on this topic) about how working for a narcissist CAN have positive results. Namely, I suppose, that being if you can survive under the heavy thumb of that kind of person, you can survive anywhere.

A few points, though, that I wonder about:

1. I've learned that my boss was subjected to fairly intense emotional, verbal and sexual abuse as a child. I also think he's a very deeply closeted gay man. I wonder if any of you have found common links with your bosses/ex-bosses if you're lucky?

2. I think the tip about not getting too close to the narcissist is spot-on. There are advantages, yes--rewards both emotional (if you don't understand that its all just manipulation) and monetary, if they are successful and want you to be around them more. HOWEVER, remember that the "rewards" are designed only to bring you close enough in order to be abused over, and over, and over. Just like an abusive husband buying his wife flowers and diamonds after a particularly abusive period. Becoming the confidant holds huge problems for you--in playing this role you are, in the narcissist's view, becoming even more of a direct extension of themselves. It's likely to turn very unhealthy--trust me on this one. The emotional abuse will only become greater, even though you think that by empathizing with them they'll treat you better. It's all a facade-don't fall for it. If they try to talk to you about personal issues, get away from the conversation, even if it means dire consequences for your wallet or repuation. Trust me, 'tis better to be fired than to be subject to that kind of abuse.

3. Narcissists will not reform. Forget about it. The only solution is to get away or find a way to endure.

4. I had a fantastic childhood, have a fantastic family and a very stable home life. I believe, and other readers tell me if I'm wrong, that those factors have been essential in allowing me to survive the constant attacks. I don't draw my self-worth from work or what my boss thinks of me. I know where true self-worth comes from, and it ain't a boss's opinion.

I don't think "managing" the

I don't think "managing" the narcissistic boss is worth it. Make sure you take really good notes ... document everything. When the time is right....RUN like hell.

Too Late

I began my comment with an overview of my experiences with a narcissistic manager and my inevitable separation from the company after nearly four years of abuse. I concluded the important message was not her mental disorder, but that it was condoned.
I've read several articles about the usefulness of narcissists in the work place. I disagree. Narcissists serve no useful purpose. Their actions and behavior result in extreme emotional distress of which they don't recognize, don't care about, or consider a weakness. The narcissist manages through intimidation, humiliation, degradation, and fear. The narcissist uses employees as scapegoats for his/her own behavior, giving the employee the very personality flaws demonstrated by the narcissist to justify any complaint or error. A malaise of indifferent attitudes among employees results. The jobs grudgingly get done, but the importance is over blown by the manager; it's all about them. For companies, it's the bottom line that matters. Employees are replaceable commodities. For individuals having to bear the behavior of a narcissist in order to keep their jobs, it's a nightmare. A narcissist who over states her successes, however, does the company little good. The company gets the smiling, confident, well-dressed, well-spoken narcissist. Employees get the stone cold, heartless, ugly creature.
Narcissistic managers do not treat their employees as human beings. They show no common courtesies or basic human respect. Pets are treated better.
The federal government has agencies or commissions that protect employees from discrimination. I submit it would be easier to show a manager's narcissism as the cause for inhumane treatment than it would be to obtain a positive outcome of a federal complaint for discrimination.

Interesting read. If one is

Interesting read. If one is aware of narcissistic traits in their mentor it is possible to benefit from as opposed to be damaged by narcissism. Every experience in life brings a lesson. It's up to us to maximize potential where we can.

Bullied by your boss

Has anyone brought these thoughts to upper management? What was the outcome? Did you request a transfer to a new location? What are some realistic options to ask my regional manager about...


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Ben Dattner, Ph.D., is a workplace consultant, an industrial and organizational psychologist, and an adjunct professor at New York University.


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