Dealing with narcissists in the workplace

By Md. Ziaur Rahman


On my last blog How to spot toxic individuals in your relationship, I  discussed toxic people and how they affect our daily life. Today, I am going to discuss narcissistic personalities and how to deal with them in the workplace. That hopefully will shed some light on the most toxic characteristics that were at the top of the list.

I will put some supported video links and references at the bottom to substantiate my discussion on this topic.

Without further ado, let us dive headfirst and see if we can dissect and single them out with surgical precision like an experienced brain surgeon.

What is narcissism?

A pattern of characteristics and behavioral traits that signify a grandiose sense of superiority and inflated self-esteem. A brutal pursuit of pleasure from pride or selfish love of one’s glorified self-image that excludes others.

Narcissists lack empathy and incapable of loving different people.

Following are few among many characteristics:

  • They tend to exaggerate achievements, capabilities, skills to the point of lying, demand to be accepted as superior without corresponding accomplishments.
  • Seek excessive praise, flattery, attention, and acceptance from other people.
  • Narcissists are envious, attempt to hurt or destroy anybody who causes them frustration.

Types of narcissists

There are two types of narcissists, overt and covert. In a way, both are two sides of the same coin. The overt narcissists externalize their behavior while the covert ones internalize it.

Causes and treatment

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is an incurable mental disorder and the least understood field of psychology.  No amount of psychotherapy can cure a narcissist.

The causes of this mental disorder are still unknown. Most people agree that under or overindulgence, during a child’s adulthood by the parents, is largely responsible for this ailment.

However, we must not confuse NPD with the fact that all of us have some narcissistic traits to a certain degree but that does not make us narcissistic. As long as our characteristics fall along the normal end of the mental health spectrum, we are okay.

Narcissism in the workplace

Narcissism in the workplace is a major concern and may have a significant damaging impact on an entire company or organization. These toxic personalities in the workplace are more likely to engage in counterproductive work habit, particularly when their self-efficacy is challenged.

According to the psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg, narcissism thrives in organizations where company culture gratifies aggressiveness, competitiveness, where the value is determined by profit. Businesses that reward hire and fire capabilities, create a backbiting or backstabbing ladder to success. That explains why there are so many narcissists in higher level management positions.

The narcissists at the top of the corporate hierarchy employ managers, supervisors to do all the dirty jobs on their behalf. They take the back seats and run the show from behind the scene.

These toxic individuals are extremely manipulative. The narcissistic bosses have unhealthy expectations and boundaries. Instead of treating employees with respect and fairness, they literally use the staff as puppets. Create an atmosphere of panic and inspire unhealthy competition to fulfill their selfish agenda.

They often disregard the rights of the employees.  Show utter indifference towards employee benefits and neglect their priorities and wellbeing. Fail to consider others as equitable human beings.

Signs that your boss or manager is a narcissist

  • Insensitive to employees, casual disregard for the staffs’ reasonable feelings and needs. Scheduling overtime without extra pay.  Exploit you for his or her selfish needs above and beyond your job description.  Assigning you on pet projects, assuming it is a part of your responsibility without proper compensation.
  • Extremely stingy with recognition, they praise only when they want something from you.  If your good work threatens the narcissist, he or she will take you down to the point where you will spark less brightly than the narcissist does.
  • The narcissistic managers or supervisors blame others for their own shortcomings.
  • Sometimes, he or she will make you feel superior or inferior depending on circumstances. Either you are a golden child or a black sheep fallen from the grace. The idea is to get you to sway between the superiority or the inferiority postures, in a calculative move to get what the narcissistic boss wants from you.
  • Invariably downplays your achievements, gaslights you in an attempt to confuse you and shatter your confidence. Always focuses on your weakness, not on your strength.
  • Steals your ideas and passing them off as his’s or her’s.  Using those ideas, to fulfill selfish needs, without giving you proper credits.

Coping strategies for dealing with workplace narcissists

  • Evaluate the relationship realistically
  • Keep your professionalism
  • Flatter the narcissistic supervisor
  • Confront the difficulty tenderly and tactfully
  • Document your achievements
  • Be willing to accept criticism
  • Maintain a strong network
  • Adopt emotionally void speaking patterns
  • Stop meddling with any one’s personal life
  • Do not involve in gossip or news intended to draw attention
  • Have an exit plan and keep your options open


I would like to end the conversation with a joke.

Four men were walking in the forest. The first was a gnana yogi, the

second was a bhakti yogi, the third was a karma yogi, and the fourth was a kriya yogi.

Usually, these four people can never be together. The gnana yogi has total disdain for every
other type of yoga. His is the yoga of the intellect, and typically, an intellectual has complete
disdain for everybody else, particularly these devotional types who look upward and chant
God’s name all the time. They look like a bunch of idiots to him.
But a bhakti yogi, a devotee, thinks all this gnana, karma, and kriya yoga is a waste of time.
He pities the others who don’t see that all you need to do is know that God exists, hold his
hand, and walk in trust. All this mind-splitting philosophy, this bone-bending yoga is absurd to him.
Then there is the karma yogi, the man of action. He thinks all the other types are just plain
lazy. Their lives are pure self-indulgence.

But the kriya yogi is the most disdainful of all. He laughs at everyone. Don’t they know that
existence is just energy? If you don’t transform your energy, whether you long for God or
for anything else, nothing is going to happen! There can be no transformation.
These four people customarily cannot get along. But today they happened to be walking
together in the forest. Suddenly, a storm broke out. It grew fierce. The rain started pouring
down relentlessly. Drenched to the skin, the four yogis started running, looking desperately
for shelter.

The bhakti yogi, the devotion man, said, “There’s an ancient temple in this direction. Let’s
go there.” (As a devotee, he was particularly familiar with the geography of temples.)
They ran in that direction. They came to an ancient temple; all the walls had crumbled long
ago; just the roof and four columns remained. They rushed into the temple—not out of any
love for God, but just to escape the rain.

There was a deity in the center. They ran toward it. The rain started lashing from every
direction. There was no other place to go, so they moved closer and closer. Finally, there was
no alternative. They just sat down and embraced the idol.
The moment these four people hugged the idol, suddenly God appeared.
In all their minds the same question arose: why now? They wondered, “We expounded so
many subtle and arcane philosophies, worshipped at every possible sacred shrine, great and
small, selflessly served so many people, did so much body-breaking penance, but you never
showed up. Now when we’re just escaping the rain, you turn up. Why?”

God said, “At last you four idiots got together.”

–By Sadhguru, an Indian mystic

Inclusiveness is divine, the expression of love, a nonphysical dimension that is larger than life.

Reference list

–Malignant Self Love Narcissism Revisited by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

–Inner Engineering by Sadhguru

–Narcissism in the workplace

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