It’s Narcissist Friday!
You recently got a new job. You are excited to learn everything and try to do well. The first day is tough, but you expect that you will get training soon. The second day, the second week, the second month go by, and you still have not received training. You are trying hard, but anything you have learned you have discovered for yourself. All your boss does is yell at you for not doing things right.
How could anyone expect you to do well without training?
Narcissists are notoriously bad at training others. Parents seem to think that kids learn best by criticisms. Bosses expect employees to perform well from the start. Organizational leaders bring people on staff or into the organization without information. Spouses expect certain things without ever asking or explaining. Most narcissistic relationships are filled with frustration simply because the victim/supply doesn’t know what is expected.
Why does this happen?
Well, I would suggest two reasons, one intentional and the other not. The first is simple control. When a narcissist chooses someone to use as supply, he needs that person to be dependent. Dependent people are much easier to control. Narcissists routinely give out only enough information to get the subordinate moving, but not enough to do well. So the victim is forced to come back for more information. At the same time, the narcissist can criticize and complain about performance. These come together to make the victim feel shamed and devalued.
A young woman is excited about her opportunities in life. She feels confident and competent. When she meets the narcissist, he makes her feel good about herself and woos her into a relationship. Then, after a while, she begins to get the message that she isn’t doing things the right way. The narcissist is quick to correct and help, but that changes to criticism. The process is gradual, but steady. It isn’t long before the young woman feels like she truly cannot make good decisions or do well on projects. She needs the narcissist more and more.
The preacher tells his people Sunday after Sunday how sinful they are and how God is displeased with them. But he doesn’t tell them how to please God in any way they can actually accomplish. Nor does he point out progress or success. The church people need the pastor to help them make decisions because they have become convinced that they are unable to do well on their own. They believe that their hearts, which guide their decisions, are compromised. They have come to believe that they cannot understand the Scriptures or even pray correctly. So they depend on the pastor to tell them what they need to know. This he does, little piece by little piece.
Narcissism depends on control. Narcissists are fearful people who need to control the world around them. That means you. Giving the training or information you need to do well on your own may allow you to separate from them or surpass their achievements.
But there’s another reason narcissists are poor trainers. To teach someone, you actually have to see that person as a person. (Now, I know that might disqualify a lot of university professors, but the university culture expects students to find and learn information for themselves.) Narcissists don’t see others as persons. They are unable to empathize and, therefore, unable to help a “trainee” who needs more than just basic information.
Narcissists usually have little or no patience with others in any capacity. That’s because they only see their own need, not the struggles of others. Teachers/trainers need patience as people learn. Narcissists have little time or concern for the weaknesses or ignorance of others. They have a need, and they expect their employee/child/spouse to meet that need. Over time the narcissist has come to expect failure and incompetence in others, simply because others are unable to meet these needs. Rather than find ways to help others learn to meet these needs, the narcissists fall easily into their habit of criticism and disrespect.
Some narcissists see little value in training for subordinates. Not only will they not do the training themselves, but they will hinder the training provided by the system. The boss, for example, may not give the employee time to work through the training offered by the company. If the new employee wants training, the narcissist reasons, he will have to get it on his own time. Training time is not work time, according to the narcissist.
There’s actually one more reason. Narcissists in leadership have not usually come to their position by competence, but by politics. That means they may not know how to do the things they expect others to do. If they were ever trained, they chafed under the training and authority structure and learned little other than how to manipulate what their leaders thought about them. In other words, the narcissist was never good at his job, so he cannot teach you to be good in yours.
Unfortunately, you will probably not realize that your boss is a narcissist until you are long past the training time for your job. If you find that you are expected to do something that you have never been taught, you probably should use your own time to train yourself. But be aware that even then you may be set up to fail. The narcissistic leader may not respect any other way than his own and may resent that you were able to better yourself without his help.
If this is a different relationship, with a parent or spouse perhaps, then you still should not expect any help from your narcissist. If you want to understand what you are expected to do, teach yourself. The benefit of this will be that you have received both the training and the self-respect. You have enabled yourself without the narcissist’s help and are one small step closer to health and independence. Even if the narcissist fails to acknowledge your competence, others will.