Have you ever had a boss that was a narcissist? A boss that left you feeling like they don’t give a sh*t about you. One minute, they are talking to you in a demeaning way and the next minute, they are charming with a client. To some extent, we’ve all experienced working for toxic people like this with false sense of superiority and steep sense of entitlement.
They can be abusive, negative, and hurtful to those around them, and for the organization. Yet they seem appealing and socially desirable. These individuals dominate conversations and use their charm as a means to influence others. Because they are self-centered, lack empathy, and have difficulty accepting feedback, they nitpick everything, make undue demands, use overt and covert threats, do all they can to dodge accountability, and scapegoat you in any way possible. Besides that, they have traits that lead to higher incidents of bullying and counterproductive work behaviors (turnover, sabotage, etc.).
It may sound odd to use the word “narcissist” around the workplace, but this personality trait could very well apply to your coworker or even your boss. Individuals exhibiting these traits are typically high achievers and initially come across as positive, charming and conscientious people. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Presidents of certain countries…ahem…are associated with similar traits. Psychological drives, like needing to boost one’s sense of self-esteem or desire of being liked, can be the forces behind their abuse of power, and derogatory and dominant behavior.
So what can we do about these assholes within companies?
Narcissistic people like these are toxic for the workplace and especially toxic to a team culture. It’s sickening how organizations can overlook the ramifications of the negative behaviors by the virtue of their high performing nature. What’s more sad is most companies won’t even notice how much stress narcissists can infuse into its workforce. This. Needs. To. Stop. And you have choices.
You could sit around and stroke a narcissist’s ego, then go home and eat your stress and unhappiness away. Or, you could stand up to the school yard bully (or, ask your boss or executive to :-)).
Start with recognizing the traits of narcissists. Be professional yet assertive with your boundaries. It’s also a good idea to avoid gossip and do any venting away from the office. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Go for a 10 to 15 minute walk (helps to stay calm and diplomatic).
Then, speak up! You have a voice. The sooner you do, the lesser the damage, and sooner you can help put an end to these kinds of behaviors. Most importantly, don’t be part of the watch-party and allow them to continue with no repercussions. Or you’ll be sure to see fractured team morale, and a broken company culture and bottom line.