Do you have a co-worker who is always talking about themselves? Are they taking credit for your ideas and monopolising the spotlight? If so, you may be working with a narcissist.

While it’s normal to feel some degree of self-importance and pride in your work – encouraged, even – narcissism is an actual disorder characterised by an inflated sense of self-importance, an insatiable need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic co-workers can be difficult to deal with because they’re often charming and manipulative, but also operate in an extremely toxic, counterproductive fashion.

In this article, CareerFiX explores some common traits belonging to, and ways of managing a narcissist in the workplace.

How to Identify Workplace Narcissism?

If you’re struggling with managing a narcissist in the workplace, here are nine traits to look out for:

1. Dominates Conversations

Narcissistic co-workers love to hear themselves talk and are usually not very interested in what other people have to say. Whether it is discussing their recent projects, success, or even just their personal life, they will interrupt others and draw the topic back to themselves, showing very little empathy to others. This can make meetings and group projects very difficult, as they often derail conversations and don’t contribute much to the discussion.

2. Dropping Names & Status

To inflate their sense of authority or status, a narcissist will frequently indulge in some name-dropping around the office, or not so subtly bragging about their most recent accomplishments. They want everyone to know how important and successful they are and thrive off their ability to ‘one-up’ others. Listen out for talk of prestigious degrees and qualifications, partnerships with leaders in the industry, or exaggeration around performance metrics that are hard to quantify.

3. Loves the Spotlight

Narcissistic co-workers are always seeking attention. When there isn’t an opportunity to demonstrate their ability or connections, you will likely find them trying to capitalise on the spotlight during meetings, presentations, or collaborative events. They need to be seen and heard discussing the key talking points, often making smaller subjects appear more important than they really are, and even putting others down to seem like the authoritative source on the matter (at the expense of their colleagues).

Workplace narcissism

4. Steals Credit

This craving for attention will also bleed into the actual delivery of work, with a narcissist often trying to take credit for other people’s efforts in the workplace. They might claim ownership of ideas that weren’t theirs, or they might take credit for team achievements when asked by their boss. This might be a direct lie, or they can pretend to have adopted a role of ‘managing’ those around them, as if their influence was the secret ingredient to success. Again, this can be very frustrating for those who have actually done the work, as it can feel like their efforts are being ignored or devalued, disrupting team cohesion.

5. Don’t Follow Through on Promises

Ironically, despite a love for praise, a narcissist will often make promises that they don’t keep. They might say they’ll do something to help you out and win your favour through a display of charm and charisma, but then never follow through as it disrupts their own ambitions. When compiled together, this long list of unmet deadlines and broken promises can lead to a range of disappointing results in the workplace, as well as a severe lack of trust in one of their colleagues.

6. Fails to Follow Rules & Social Norms

Be on the lookout for those that flout known rules and social norms. This is especially common with a narcissist boss in the workplace, who expects ‘more’ from their employees to meet their own performance goals, such as applying pressure to work unpaid overtime. This entitled belief that they are ‘above’ the rules can even extend to more unethical and harmful business practices.

7. No Accountability

When at fault, a narcissist will often avoid taking responsibility for their actions, and prove highly sensitive to criticism, even when justified. This threatens their carefully constructed, yet highly fragile self-image. As such, they might blame others for their mistakes, or they might refuse to accept feedback, and continue to operate how they see fit. Colleagues can become especially sensitive to this trait, given they are trying to enact improvement, and as a result, receive accusations and emotional behaviour.

8. Passive Aggressive Actions

You may find that narcissistic co-workers will communicate indirectly through passive-aggressive actions and their body language. They might give you the ‘silent treatment’, spread rumours and gossip behind your back, make hostile ‘jokes’, and conduct both professional and social forms of exclusion. The most common route is to try to obtain sympathy from others to prop themselves up in the wider workplace, and turn positive perceptions away from your side in the process.

9. Thrives in Toxic Behaviour

If it wasn’t clear from the previous eight traits discussed, a narcissist will thrive in a toxic workplace. They might enjoy instigating drama and conflict, or they might deliberately stir up trouble, purely as a means of feeling powerful, shining the spotlight back onto themselves, gaining sympathy, or making their colleagues feel insecure. They judge without hesitation, as well as ridicule and criticise, battering others’ egos to inflate their own.

Ways of Managing a Narcissist in the Workplace

If you have a narcissistic co-worker or boss, try to avoid getting involved in their drama by setting clear boundaries and don’t allow them to take advantage of you. The best thing you can do is to try and stay away from them as much as possible, as they can be extremely draining and toxic to be around, so it’s important to protect your own mental health.

If you can’t avoid a narcissist in your workplace, there are some strategies you can adopt in managing them.

Try to be as assertive as possible to let them know what you will and won’t tolerate in terms of their behaviour. It’s important to be direct and concise when communicating, as they’re often not very good at listening or understanding others. This doesn’t mean being aggressive, simply a well-structured review of their unacceptable actions and the effect it is having in the workplace.

Finally, don’t take their bait when they try to start arguments or put you down. Narcissists love nothing more than getting a rise out of others, so rise above any childish behaviour and remain calm and collected. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done, especially when it is your boss or superior.

For further assistance with managing a narcissist in your workplace, CareerFiX can assist with tailored executive coaching. Contact us today for more information.

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