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A Narcissistic Boss

The effects  of having a narcissistic boss

Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, can be almost as hard to deal with in the workplace as it is in personal relationships.  Not only are you forced into close contact with your boss every day, but you are also dependent on him or her for your income. This puts you in an extremely vulnerable position and your choices of how to act may be limited.

Working under a narcissistic boss who is unpredictable, self-centred, and easily upset, can be traumatic.  You may go into work each day, terrified of being insulted, shamed in front of colleagues, overlooked for opportunities, or even fired.

Below are ten signs that your boss might be a narcissist. While some managers might show these tendencies from time to time, especially in high-pressure and stressful situations, a narcissist tends to perpetually behave in these ways:

  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 “favourites”, the narcissistic boss may often show indifference towards you as an individual. Whether you’re over-stretched with work, facing particular challenges with clients, other colleagues or other issues, feeling ill, or dealing with difficult situations in your personal life , you’re basically treated with: “So what? This is not my problem. It’s what you’re paid to do.”

A narcissistic manager may also exploit you without proper compensation or regard for your rights, such as expecting you to do a lot of unpaid overtime or not allow you to take reasonable breaks during your working day.

  1. “You are there to meet my needs”

Another prevalent sign of a narcissistic boss is her or his tendency to exploit you for their selfish needs, above and beyond your job description. Examples may include running personal errands, taking on inappropriate chores, or assuming part of the boss’s own responsibilities, all without appropriate compensation or acknowledgment.

  1. 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, VIPs they mingle with, high-profile projects they’re working on, or glowing praise they received from someone. Like any narcissist, they want to constantly appear important, with a blown-up and exaggerated sense of themselves. 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.

  1. Me Me Me!

Many narcissistic managers love to be the centre of attention, and do so by dominating meetings, presentations, or conversations.  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.

  1. Never giving you credit

A narcissistic manager may act as if offering recognition would diminish their own power.  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, he or she may do whatever it takes to take you down a peg or two.

Some narcissistic managers regularly steal their employees’ ideas and hard work, and either claim disproportional credit, or steal the recognition outright.

  1. Breaking rules and ethical norms

While some of the above characteristics can be typical of many difficult bosses, at least part of the time, the narcissist believes that he or she is entitled and “special”. This means that they continually look for ways to take 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. Many narcissists think that they are above the law, and should be exceptions to the rules.

  1. Sensitive to criticism

Like all narcissists, a narcissistic boss is highly adverse to criticism. Negative feedback, even when reasonable and justified, threatens the narcissist’s fragile sense of an idealised self and so common responses to criticism include anger, indifference, and excuses. They may get extremely angry or threaten to dismiss you if you disagree with their views, or fail to meet their expectations.  In addition, many narcissists are highly adept at blaming others for their own shortcomings.

  1. Negative and toxic emotions

Narcissistic managers lack the empathy and humanity to treat people simply as equitable human beings.  Some narcissists are emotionally abusive.  They often enjoy spreading and arousing negative emotions to gain attention, to feel powerful, and keep their employees feeling insecure and off-balance. They are often quick to judge, criticise, and ridicule. By making you feel inferior, they boost their fragile ego, and feel better about themselves.

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


Book a counselling session today!

See also: What is a Narcissist? Dealing with a Narcissist