It’s Narcissist Friday!
It’s finally over. The narcissist has moved on. Whether it was the boss or a co-worker, you are probably exhausted and the business is in a mess. Key people have left, clients have been lost, and there is barely enough money left to pay the employees. A tornado would have done less damage.
Narcissists present a special set of problems in the workplace. Their ability to look good without doing well and their amazing lack of morality in business ethics make them formidable competitors and difficult bosses. They rise through the ranks on the backs of their co-workers and everyone is impressed except those who have to do their work (or redo their work). They exaggerate their accomplishments, lie to clients, complain about management behind their backs, and steal anything from your stapler to your accounts. When you first meet them you feel intimidated by their qualifications and accomplishments; then, when you have worked with them for a while, you begin to wonder if any of it was true. They seem to have connections, real connections, with people in the company and the community; but they do little with those connections other than make themselves look even better.
Those in the workforce understand the stress of trying to keep the job and rise to new levels of pay and responsibility. The competition between companies is matched only by the competition within the company. Competition both energizes and intimidates the narcissist. Since most have not focused on job skills, they have to compete in other ways, most of which will seem unfair and inappropriately aggressive. If the narcissist cannot show superior skill or accomplishment, for example, he will belittle or negate your accomplishment. He will, in fact, try to lift himself up by pushing you down. He may do that by taking credit for your work, discrediting you to the boss, or by directly attacking your self-esteem.
To summarize, you probably feel beat up. Now that the narcissist is gone, you wonder what’s left. In addition to the anger (perhaps even hatred) you feel toward the narcissist, you may feel betrayed by your management. How could they allow such a person to do what she did? If that is the kind of person who rises in the company, what future could the company have? If that is what the boss values, is there any hope for a normal person who just wants to do the job well?
Added to these feelings are the feelings of your own inadequacy. You may never have felt that before, but you did during and after the narcissist. You remember the unkind things he said about your work, especially if he was your boss. You remember how he was able to use you and overcome almost any boundary you set. These things make you question yourself and wonder if you really are good in your job or life in general. Narcissists steal your confidence and destroy your self-esteem.
But understand that this is what narcissists do. This is how they move forward in their lives—and they leave broken people behind them. This is not about you or your performance. It’s about being used or attacked by a ruthless manipulator. It happens to the best of us.
Now that the narcissist is gone, your work team will need to find ways to trust each other again and some of your co-workers will struggle with the same feelings you have. Learn what narcissists are and what they do and help others rebuild.
Nina Brown has written a helpful book called, “Working with the Self-absorbed.” In it she covers a great deal of information about narcissism and some very practical ways of dealing with the narcissist in the workplace. The last two chapters will help you investigate some of your feelings.
For those who read this blog and connect with narcissists in ways other than your job, you should be able to see much of the same behavior you have experienced in the above descriptions. You may think your narcissist is different at work, but he is still who he is.
Help me out here. What would you say to someone who is just starting to move past the narcissistic work relationship?