“Once again I saved the day - without me they’re nothing!”
― Anonymous narcissist manager
The Mayo Clinic research group defines narcissistic personality disorder as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
At the workplace, a pathologically narcissistic manager can be insensitive and conceited at best, and exploitative or abusive at worst. Below are ten signs that your boss might be a narcissist, with excerpts from my books (click on titles) “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists” and “A Practical Guide for Narcissists to Change Towards the Higher Self”. While some supervisors might show these tendencies from time to time, especially in high-pressure and stressful situations, a pathological narcissist tends to perpetually dwell in several of the following personas.
1. Insensitive to Employees
A common sign of a narcissistic manager is casual disregard for the staff’s reasonable feelings and needs. Unless you’re one of his or her “favorites”, the narcissistic boss may often show indifference towards you as an individual. Whether you’re over-stretched with work issues, feeling ill, or just having a bad day, you’re basically treated with a: “So what!? This is not my problem – You deal with it.” attitude. A narcissistic manager may also exploit you without proper compensation or regard for your rights, such as scheduling overtime without extra pay, or expecting your vehicle for business use without reimbursing expenses.
2. Uses You as an Extension of Her Selfish Agenda
Another prevalent sign of a narcissistic boss is her or his tendency to exploit you for her selfish needs, above and beyond your job description. Examples may include running personal errands, taking on inappropriate chores, working on pet-projects, or assuming part of her responsibilities, all without appropriate compensation or acknowledgment.
3. Name and Status Dropper
Some narcissistic managers have the habit of name and status dropping. They like to remind people of the important degree they possess, prestigious school they went to, exclusive groups they’re a part of, VIPs they mingle with, high-profile projects they’re working on, and glowing praise they received from someone. They want to constantly appear important, with a blown-up and exaggerated sense of themselves. Certain narcissists’ offices are shrines of self-aggrandizement: Gold nameplate on the desk, multiple awards and trophies on the shelves, and walls plastered with credentials, certificates, recognitions, status photos, and images of “heroic” or “adventurous” achievements. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with displaying one’s accomplishments, the pathological narcissist tends to be “in your face” and over-do it. He or she wants to make sure you’re impressed.
4. Spotlight Hogger - Like to Hear Themselves Talk
Many narcissistic managers love to be the center of attention, and do so by dominating meetings, presentations, phone conferences, and email discussions. At these proceedings, they often like to remind people of their accomplishments, and why their ideas and proposals deserve special consideration. Some narcissists will also take these opportunities to be disruptive and put others down (more on this below). They like to make themselves as powerful and influential as possible.
5. Reluctant to Give You Credit
Some narcissistic bosses are extremely stingy with praise. They act as if offering recognition would diminish the narcissist’s own star power. When they do give credit, it’s usually under the context of his or her brilliant leadership, and to advance his ambitious agendas further. They may praise you only when they want something from you. No matter how hard you work, if you’re unimportant to them, they will simply use, ignore, and neglect you. If your good performance threatens the narcissist, she may do whatever it takes to take you down a notch, so your light (ability and power) will always shine less brightly than hers.
6. Steal or Take Disproportional Credit
Certain narcissistic managers are notorious for pilfering their employees’ ideas and hard work, and either claim disproportional credit, or steal the recognition outright. A complaint I hear from my private coaching clients is: “I presented an idea to my manager, and he immediately made it out to be his own.”
7. Break Rules and Ethical Norms
Some narcissists believe that they’re entitled and “special”, and thus beyond precept. They’re prone to taking short cuts and taking large or small advantages of people and the system. This can range from abusing business expenses and falsifying productivity reports, to concocting unethical marketing schemes and committing egregious white collar crimes. Many narcissists think that they are above the law, and should be exceptions to the rules.
8. Sensitive to Criticism. Blame Others for Failings
Classic to the character style, a pathological narcissist is highly adverse to criticism. Negative feedback, even when reasonable and justified, threatens the narcissist’s fragile sense of an idealized self, and risks triggering narcissistic injury. Common responses to criticism include anger, pretend indifference, and excuses. In addition, many narcissists are highly adept at blaming others for their own shortcomings. It’s always someone else’s fault.
9. Superior/Inferior Orientation
Many narcissistic managers are unable to relate to individuals as equals. They either take an inferior position and defer to those in higher positions, or a superior position and presume that they’re in some ways better than you. For them, both the superior and inferior postures are calculated to sway you to give them what they want – such is the purpose of relationships to them. They lack the empathy and humanity to treat people simply as equitable human beings.
10. Negative and Toxic Emotions
Some narcissistic bosses enjoy spreading and arousing negative emotions to gain attention, feel powerful, and keep you insecure and off-balance. They are easily upset at any real or perceived slights or inattentiveness. They may throw a tantrum if you disagree with their views, or fail to meet their expectations. Narcissists are often quick to judge, criticize, and ridicule. Some narcissists are emotionally abusive. By making you feel inferior, they boost their fragile ego, and feel better about themselves.
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.”
— Paramhansa Yogananda
If you find yourself working for a narcissistic manager, there are many strategies and skills you can utilize to help restore health, balance, and respect. In my book (click on title): “How to Successfully Handle Narcissists”, you'll learn how to maintain composure, ways to be proactive instead of reactive, seven powerful strategies to handle narcissists, eight ways to say “no” diplomatically but firmly, keys to negotiate successfully with narcissists, and seven types of power you can utilize to compel cooperation.
© 2015 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.