Work

It’s Narcissist Friday!

When you first meet your new boss, you feel like he/she is the greatest person ever. You feel grateful for the new job, qualified to do the work, and ready to go. You notice that other employees are cool toward you and seem dissatisfied with the company. Some even seem strangely sympathetic toward you. One tells you to be careful not to agree to things like extra work.

So, you mention to the boss that the others seem unhappy. First, he wants to know which ones. Second, he says that this has been a busy time and some people aren’t willing to work hard. Then he says that’s why you were hired, because you had a good attitude and seemed competent. You walk away wondering if there was something you missed in the conversation.

That was your first clue. The second clue came when you saw how everyone worked hard to appear to be working hard whenever the boss was around. When he wasn’t around, they relaxed. You found yourself wanting to please the boss, to volunteer for extra responsibilities, but the others kept quiet. He worked extra hours and expected you to work longer also, but you couldn’t really say what he did. Yet, you wanted to give him respect.

Eventually, you understood. The boss was insatiable. If you had work, he gave you more. If you did well, it was not good enough. If you didn’t do well, he made you feel like an ungrateful loser. He micro-managed everyone with arbitrary rules and changes to projects. He made sure that everyone looked like a loser and understood that they kept their jobs only by his tolerance.

This is only a glimpse of what work under a narcissistic boss might be like. Those who have lived this will usually paint a much darker picture.

Of course, narcissists at work are not always bosses. Sometimes they are just co-workers. They want to be bosses and believe they know better than the bosses. They say nasty things about the bosses behind their backs and try to get you to do the same. But, when the boss is around, they become fawning toadies. In fact, if you did say something negative about the boss or the company, the boss will probably hear about it.

These co-workers steal your work, your clients, and things from your desk. They claim credit for work you did. They boast about their past accomplishments and blame the bosses, the other workers, and you that they are not accomplishing the same wonders now. They talk of their great plans and how they will change things when they get a chance. Of course, all the bosses are against them, and the other workers hold them back. They never seem as competent as they claim to be.

Most of the literature about narcissism focuses on marriage and family. Most people never think of the work environment when they think of narcissistic struggles. But those who have to report every day and work beside or work for a narcissist know that the struggle is not just real, but very difficult. Sometimes there is little that can be done.

But knowledge does bring a certain power. Be careful of what you say to others at work. Document the work you do so you can prove it is yours. Document interactions with the narcissistic boss. There may be a price to pay for going to HR, but when he/she steps across the line you may have to.

There is a helpful book on this subject, the only one I have found. Dr. Nina Brown is one of my favorite writers on narcissism. Her book, Working with the Self-Absorbed, is practical and specific. Filled with examples, she offers ideas on how to handle some of the workplace difficulties.

My only caution is to be careful. Just like dealing with any narcissistic relationship there may be a price to pay for standing up to them or trying to expose them. If you get to the point where you are willing to pay the price, you may be able to change some things at work.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Work

  1. Darlene

    Yes! Again you hit the nail perfectly on the head – drove that sucker all the way through the board on the first hit. The first time I wrapped my mind around this thing called narcissism was when I read Dr. Nina Brown’s book, ‘Children of the Self Absorbed’ (did not know she had one for the workplace). At that time, the most painful narcissistic relationships I had endured and was trying to heal from were with family members and in marriage; little did I know that that initial understanding would help me survive bosses in work situations as well. You are so right! Narcissism in the workplace is all too common and even though you typically make references to closer relationships in your posts, I actually have followed your blog for several years now and still gained strength from it because I was working for a N boss! I have since moved on from that position but will inevitably acquire a new N coworker, if not another boss at my new place of employment. Lol. The freaks are EVERYWHERE! Everything you write still helps with dealing with these type of people in all aspects of life. Thanks again for the reminders and the affirmations. The knowing that someone else out there understands and acknowledges that N is real is always encouraging. It never gets old. Many Blessings!

    • Darlene, you are so right about the freaks being everywhere. Yesterday, on Good Friday, I got the heartbreaking news that my granddaughter and her husband have tested positive for covid-19. They live in New York. He is beginning to mend, praise God, but my granddaughter is very sick.

      As soon as I got the text telling me they are positive, I sent a group text on my phone to my pastor’s wife and the fourteen other women who are part of our weekly Bible study, asking for prayer. About five minutes later, my phone rang. One of the women from the group, the one whom I was already beginning to suspect is a narcissist, was calling. I answered the phone and she began to shout at me for not having stronger faith!

      What planet do these people come from??!!

      • Batya Ahul

        Lady Quixote/Linda Lee I am so sorry to hear about your Grand daughter & Grand son, I will pray for them and for you and your family.

        Yep the woman from church who shouted down the phone @ you sounds like a raging narcissist. Do you think perhaps if she was in your situation, that she would be demanding sympathy/prayers/attention from Everyone and raging @ anyone who doesn’t give it?
        It sounds to me like she’s angry that the focus is on someone other than her.
        What a reprehensible attitude that in no way resembles the love of Christ.

        Pastor Dave thank you for addressing this- I don’t know about the US but here in the UK society enables narcissism in the work place.
        I am an ICU nurse (who also works in school health) and those of us who love direct patient care stay on the “front line” where we are exposed to the most risk & earn the least.
        But some nurses climb the “greasy pole” stepping on colleagues on their way up as quickly as they can to positions with less accountability/clinical risk/ minimal patient contact and much more £££, allocating blame as far away from themselves as possible & enabled by rampant cronyism.

        These are the nurses who will bask in the halo that society is giving us at the moment.

        Most nurses I have met and work with have come into the profession for the right reasons, but as a nurse I am ashamed to say the most narcissistic, unkind, manipulative people I have ever met have also been nurses.

        But regardless of what I’ve just said God knows our hearts and one day we will be accountable to Him and only Him.

        Happy Easter everyone, for He is Risen!

      • I used to be a nurse, before I was disabled by PTSD. A number of the nurses that I worked with referred to themselves as “Sisters of No Mercy.” They said this with pride, too. Most of the nurses I knew were genuinely caring, but not the No Mercy clique. In those days, I knew nothing about narcissism, but in retrospect, it certainly fits. I am sure that working with the No Mercy group, had much to do with my PTSD becoming so bad. They were too much like my abusive narcissistic parents.

        Thank you for your kind comment, Batya. Yes, the woman who berated me for my “lack of faith” has, in the recent past, become very angry when she didn’t receive enough attention for an injury she supposedly had. She came into the women’s Bible study at church one evening, late, walking with a slight limp. Then, because everyone didn’t immediately stop talking and ask her what was wrong, she took offense.

        Until recently, I had always gone out of my way to be extra welcoming and kind to this younger woman, because I thought she was a hurting soul. Now, I realize that I had merely fallen for her “poor me, I need all the attention” narcissistic act. No more!

        God bless you, Batya. I lived in England for a time in the 1970s. I loved the country. I will say a prayer now for your safety and health, and for healing and peace for the UK. Happy Resurrection Day. He is Risen, indeed!

  2. Susan

    Thank you for this article Pastor Dave. I used to work for a narcissist boss but at that time I did not know this term “narcissist” and how destructive it could be.

    On the first day of work, I already know something was amiss. Staff were whispering amongst themselves and people basically walked on tiptoes so as not to agitate the narcissist boss. The boss did not like staff talking amongst themselves and controlled everyone’s movements. To top it the boss’ secretary was a spy for the boss and would carry tales of what happened in the office to the boss. This secretary, who was also a narcissist, hated me and would try her best to find something to complain about me to the boss, hoping to get me sacked I presume. The boss however liked my work and wanted me to continue working there and as I needed a job to support my family, I had no choice but to continue.

    I prayed really hard to get out of there as I was slowly becoming depressed. I dreaded going to work and wondered every day when God would rescue me. After 8 months I got a beautiful job offer elsewhere and it took me another 2 months to leave this hell hole.

    I just want to encourage ladies who are in horrible working conditions to trust God unwaveringly and ask Him to get you another job. If you are getting depressed and feel a heaviness in the workplace which never lifts in spite of many prayers, it may be time to leave. Sometimes God does allow difficult situations to teach us something, but if it gets so bad, God does provide a route to escape. I have now been working at the new place for many, many years and am happy and at peace.

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