The End of the Narcissistic Work Relationship

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?


Filed under Narcissism

6 responses to “The End of the Narcissistic Work Relationship

  1. Pingback: Who is Your Inspiration? | Paula's Pontifications

  2. J

    I am still reeling from the narcissist. He and I met at work once upon a time. I was impressed with his “go-getter” persona. He described himself as “something of a phenomenon” when we first met. I knew that was cocky but I thought he was just confident in a bit of an immature way. But I gave him a pass. He seemed so crazy about me that I mistook intensity for genuine affection. Because our dating relationship was making work somewhat complicated, I decided to leave the job I loved. It seemed to make sense to me then that since he was a manager I should be the one to go so he could pursue his career there. Bad move. He left there only a few months later for another opportunity. Then we got married, started having a family and moving around the country. We have moved 8 times in 15 years. It took me a very long time to figure out what was wrong because he has been so good at seeming to be on the right track and explaining/justifying his actions and making himself out the be the absolute hero. His reasons for leaving jobs varied, but often he stated that “God was calling us to something else”. If I questioned that, then he told me I needed to “take it up with God”. More recently he started to lose his jobs. But someone or something else was to blame in his mind. I think his employers figured it out and couldn’t take the crazymaking any more. I’m sorry that it took me so long to wake up. So much damage was done in that time. I am an emotional wreck and we are in financial ruin. I am recovering, but it is such a tough journey. So many people don’t understand. It is hard since I struggle to validate myself and my feelings — especially when the kids are so brokenhearted too and don’t understand why we are separated. It is so confusing and horribly hard. One day at a time…

  3. “What would you say to someone who is just starting to move past the narcissistic work relationship?”
    Move quickly ha ha!! 🙂
    And… Be prepared (as much as possible) to go through a phase of ‘discovery’ after he/she leaves. Narcissists lie. They steal ideas, take credit for other peoples work and can even sabotage others if they feel their greatness is not being recognized… Some do this with boldness, but some are quiet thieves. What he/she managed to perpetrate during their time in the workplace may begin to come to the surface long after they’ve left. All that to say, don’t be shocked and don’t own the mess he/she left behind. One of the ‘things they do’ is leave a wake of destruction behind them and I wonder if they are getting Narcissistic Supply just knowing that there are people having to deal with the mess- sometimes even the thought that people are thinking about them gives them a boost… so don’t give it to them. Give them nothing. Be good to yourself:) That’s what I’d say.:)

  4. alive

    I worked in a narcissistic organization. The boss was extremely cunning, and would pretend you were his friend. He would find out your vulnerabilities then make you feel bad by using them. He had a number of cronies who would report back to him and then you would be accused of all sorts of crazy things but you couldn’t fight back because you never knew who was going after you or when.
    I had a hard time figuring out why he operated this way, but the bottom line was that he saw his underlings as people who had to make him look good at all cost. He got to determine our raises, so it behooved people in the organization to play his game.
    I was terminated because I didn’t play the game and stood up for a new employee who was getting harassed. After he was gone I became the next target. My harassed colleague was so devastated he sat shaking in his basement for a year and changed his career entirely. I had PTSD for years afterward and was afraid these people would try to ruin my next job too!

  5. Angela

    Good advice!!

  6. Lisa

    I left a workplace with a clinic director in a prestigious university hospital over 2.5 years ago and the emotional damage he did is still with me and I am having difficulty letting it go. Especially because I left a job I loved because of his tyranny and I will never have an opportunity to go back. He was finally let go a year after I resigned after damaging the lives of many employees and patients. I see he has moved on to another high level position and I fear for the people in his path. Advice? Trust your gut- it is NOT you. Your I tuition is telling you he is “off” somehow. It is dead on. Normal people don’t go around destroying other human beings

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