It’s Narcissist Friday!
The little prairie dog has carefully prepared his den. He pokes his head up from his hole and decides to get more supplies. Everything is quiet. When he feels confident, the prairie dog steps out of the entrance and runs across the small field. Suddenly a bird of prey swoops out of the sky to grasp him in its talons. Everything changes because of that swoop.
You have nearly completed your project. A lot of hard work is coming to an end. Very soon, you will present your accomplishment to your bosses. But, just as you are about to finish, the narcissist swoops in to help. You were careful not to include him in the project, but somehow he knew just when to arrive. Now he stands by your side as the bosses look over your work. He answers the questions they ask. It’s as though he shared in the work all along. But he didn’t. He will only share in the praise and attention.
Like the bird of prey, the narcissist will hover over unsuspecting victims. After the work is done, he will swoop in to take what he wants. Usually it’s the glory, or the right to say that he helped. What seems so unethical to you is just opportunism to him.
Many of those who work for narcissists have had their boss take credit for their efforts. When the hard project is done, the narcissist steps in to take over. As far as the superiors are concerned, the narcissist has done it all. If your name is remembered, it will be for helping. You will wonder where he was the whole time.
Parents will do this to their children. I once saw a father take credit for his child’s accomplishments at graduation. He even put down the child as he patted himself on the back. Moms will come at the end of a painting or cleaning project and act as though they are worn out by the work. From that time on, it was “our” work, and “we” deserve the credit. I have seen people join committees near the end of a large project and take credit for the work of the committee.
I call this the “swoop.” Out of nowhere, the narcissist swoops down to get his prize. He/she has been hovering and waiting until just the right moment. And there is almost nothing you can do about it.
You really can’t complain to the higher-ups that your boss didn’t do the work. You can’t criticize the leaders for letting the narcissist join the committee at the last moment. Nor can you tell your mother that you had the job almost done and didn’t need her help. Not if you want to be nice. Not if you want others to think of you as nice. That’s what the narcissist counts on.
The company system says that you get paid to make your boss look good. The family has always let your mother get praise for work she didn’t do. The organization is just happy to have another warm body on the committee. Nobody really cares but you.
There are some things you can do. You can watch for the hovering narcissist. You can fudge the end time for the project, saying that you will be finished on a certain day and then finish early. You can communicate with those who matter earlier in the process so they know that you are the only one(s) working. But the narcissist will still try.
The bird of prey does not always get the prairie dog. But the swoop works often enough that it is the primary pattern. Besides, there are other prairie dogs.