Most people can relate to having a boss who is a difficult person. This is just part of working in organizations where there are different people and personalities.
But does your boss seem to be off the charts when it comes to emotional reactivity, disrespect for others, blame, criticism and the expression of anger, rage or other difficult emotions?
If so, it's possible your boss is a narcissist.
Narcissism refers to an egoistic mode of existing in the world. (And in more serious cases a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)). It is characterized by a number of behaviors — ranging from lack of self-awareness to bragging, to hypersensitivity and more. These tendencies are ultimately destructive to the narcissist and the people around them.
But these behaviors can feel particularly destructive in the context of the workplace, which can be a stressful environment to begin with. At work, and especially in the presence of our bosses, we are understandably predisposed to feeling under pressure. So having a narcissistic boss can exacerbate these already-unpleasant feelings.
The question becomes: how do I know if my boss is a narcissist?
There are a number of behaviors that can indicate your boss is a narcissist ... Here are five signs your boss may be a narcissist:
1. Your boss treats staff like they are dispensable.
A narcissistic boss will use people for his own gain and then discard them, either literally or emotionally, when he is finished.
In order to achieve his goals or desired outcomes, he will treat staff and suppliers badly and tend to be highly critical and blaming when things don't work out.
The more extreme type of narcissists can even exploit workers by bad-mouthing them or manipulating others to make themselves looks good.
What's interesting is these bosses are genuinely surprised when their staff or suppliers decide to leave on their own. This inability to step outside the realm of their experience is a classic sign of narcissism.
2. Your boss uses fear and threats to motivate people to work.
You will often feel like you're walking on eggshells if you have a narcissistic boss. Her emotions are often unstable. She might be happy and amiable one minute, and then suddenly fly into anger.
The narcissistic boss has an inflated sense of self and views her staff to be there to always meet her needs and expectations. If you let her down in any way, you're in trouble! As soon as your boss is disappointed, she will criticize and blame you as a way to confront you.
3. Your boss is obsessed with controlling all outcomes.
A narcissistic boss will be very fixated on controlling all outcomes. This will include micromanaging, taking over projects when they think they are not going well or needing to know every aspect of what their employee is doing in a project.
The narcissistic boss is terrified of losing control and will not think twice about cutting off and firing a staff member who is not agreeing with his point of view on the spot. There is no remorse, apologies or responsibility taken for his part of the problem.
These workplaces often have an undercurrent of fear because the employees have seen other staff members thrown out at a moments notice and fear the same could happen to them.
4. Your boss has little empathy for the staff.
A narcissistic boss has very little, or no ability, to feel empathy for others. Due to her inflated sense of self-importance, the feelings of others are not something that your narcissistic boss is concerned with.
Empathy is essential for building healthy relationships. Because the narcissistic boss has such a difficulty with empathy, she will constantly burn bridges and destroying relationships.
She has a high staff turnover and can't retain accomplished and creative staff. She will go through lots of contractors and suppliers because they are not willing to put up with the criticism and abuse.
The bottom line for any narcissist is they struggle to form any long-lasting relationships because they treat people badly.
5. Your boss rarely takes responsibility for his errors (and loses people along the way).
The narcissist boss protects his vulnerability and fragility with layers of defenses. He can never admit he is wrong or has made a mistake. He will almost always blame others for things going wrong.
Many narcissistic bosses have not only terminated staff members, but have also fallen out with friends and family members across many years. It's just too painful for most people to be around a narcissistic personality because of the high levels of criticism and blame, so people keep leaving them.
How do I deal with a narcissistic boss?
The best way to deal with your narcissistic boss is to use flattery. Speak their language with self-awareness, and you can make what you want out of the situation.
Narcissists will often surround themselves with people-pleasers because they love to have their ego constantly stroked and affirmed and they only want to hear positive things about themselves.
Even if you need to give negative feedback to your boss, or talk about a problem, you will be OK if you can do it in a way where your boss feels important and valued.
Have you experienced a narcissistic boss? If so, how have you dealt with this person? Leave your comments below.
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