Regardless of what industry you work in, you will undoubtedly encounter co-workers who are difficult to deal with at some point in your career. These co-workers may be annoying, boring, or even draining, but there is nothing more overwhelming than dealing with narcissistic co-workers.
Narcissistic people are marred by insecurity, unable to handle criticism. Narcissists make their personal failures the responsibility of others and hurt the self-esteem of those around them to boost theirs. Because they are quite smart and know how to manipulate others easily, narcissistic people end up in high positions. Unfortunately, narcissists often flourish in workplaces, making work-life quite difficult for the rest of us.
A workplace is the perfect breeding ground for the narcissist. If they excel, they are recognized for their work and are promoted. That feeds their narcissism in ways that cannot be through personal relationships.
TheAmerican Psychiatric Association says that narcissistic personality disorder symptoms include a sense of entitlement, a constant need for attention and praise, a feeling of being unique and special, fantasies of superiority or perfection, inflated self-importance, and the tendency to exploit other people for their own personal gain.
Of course, only a trained professional can officially diagnose an individual with a narcissistic personality disorder. However, if you suspect that someone you work with fits the bill, understanding how the narcissist operates will help you to set clear boundaries to protect yourself.
This article will outline five ways to tell if your co-worker enjoys attention and is confident or if they are just a downright narcissist and what you can do to deal with the situation.
1. NARCISSISTS ALWAYS NEED TO HAVE THAT LAST WORD.
The difference between a confident co-worker and a narcissistic one is that the confident co-worker is okay with other people being the center of attention.
A narcissist needs to steal other people’s thunder. The narcissistic co-worker is likely to talk over others or frequently interrupt them. On the other hand, confident co-workers will celebrate their colleagues’ successes without trying to insert themselves.
The narcissist will always hijack a situation or a conversation to make it all about themselves.
2. A NARCISSIST IS CHARMING AND CHARISMATIC… UNTIL THEY’RE NOT.
At the start of any relationship with a narcissist, whether a professional or a personal one, the narcissist works hard to impress and manipulate targets to become the center of attention they long to be. Once the target fails to satisfy their need to feel important or superior, it is not uncommon for the narcissist to quickly change their attitude. Sometimes, this shift can take months or even years.
When you feed the needs of a narcissist, there may not need to display their negative traits in front of you. However, the trouble starts when your relationship no longer feeds their ego and needs.
3. NARCISSISTS DISPLAY A LACK OF EMPATHY TOWARD THEIR COLLEAGUES.
Because they believe that the ends will always justify the means, a narcissist will repeatedly display a lack of empathy toward those around them. In fact, many mental health professionals say that a lack of empathy is the cornerstone of narcissistic personality disorder and a good way to distinguish a confident co-worker from a narcissistic co-worker is empathy.
Narcissists don’t care whether or not their personal success comes at the expense of others, they have no problem stealing their colleague’s ideas, and they will literally do anything to gain power and prestige. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty relating to other people’s feelings because they’re too busy on their relentless hunt for money, perfection, power, encouragement, understanding, admiration, prestige, approval, and attention.
The lack of empathy common in those with a narcissistic personality disorder may manifest itself as selfishness or lack of compassion, so don’t be surprised if a narcissistic colleague uses power to harass or belittle you. They might even display a blatant disregard for any boundaries you may set up. So, be careful.
4. A NARCISSIST CANNOT HANDLE CRITICISM.
Don’t expect your narcissistic colleague to reflect upon or even own up to their own mistakes. When they receive negative feedback, they will lash out because they can not distinguish between criticism of their work and criticism of their own self-worth.
For the narcissist, it’s all about making themselves feel large while making others feel small. When a co-worker loses their cool and responds to constructive criticism with anger, that should be a clear red flag that you are working with a narcissist.
5. NARCISSISTIC COLLEAGUES BELIEVE YOU ARE WITH THEM OR YOU ARE AGAINST THEM.
When it comes to narcissistic co-workers, they only see things in black and white. For the narcissist, it’s win or lose, good or bad, and all or nothing. They certainly don’t handle defeat well.
When you support your narcissistic colleague, you’ll remain on that co-worker’s good side. If you dare to criticize them or they perceive you as no longer supporting them, you will become their enemy.
HOW TO DEAL WITH NARCISSISTIC CO-WORKERS
Even if they don’t have direct control over you and your career, a narcissistic co-worker will have no problem wrecking your work environment or mounting a smear campaign against you if they perceive you as their enemy.
The following are some other ways you can deal with narcissistic co-workers:
Withdraw: You can set boundaries for yourself, even when the narcissist tries to tell you differently. The best way to handle a narcissist is to limit any praise or attention you give them. In fact, the best way to deal with narcissistic colleagues is to restrict any interactions with them as much as you possibly can.
Document your contributions: Since narcissistic colleagues love to throw others under the bus, you’ll want to track your workplace accomplishments, just in case you need to justify your work. If you are forced to participate in a project with a narcissistic co-worker, don’t be afraid to loop others in to increase your visibility.
Report narcissistic abuse: If a narcissistic co-worker berates or belittles you, especially if it affects your mental health, don’t be afraid to bring the issue to the attention of your human resources department.
Find a new job: It is unfortunate, but narcissistic colleagues are usually the ones who are high-performing, valued members of an organization. Should your complaints fall on deaf ears, searching for a new job may be your only solution.