It is alarming to know that one in every five CEO’s is a psychopath. Psychopaths have a close friend in the narcissist, who are much more prevalent in both society and in the workplace. They can also be as equally destructive as the psychopath.
While psychopaths have their own unique set of challenges to deal with, the narcissist is just as capable of wreaking havoc in the workplace and are actually one of the most difficult personalities to deal with. Especially since they can be so charming and off-putting.
Narcissism is defined as “extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and an insatiable need for admiration and attention.”
They are typically extremely charming people who wear masks in order to fly below the radar.
It is imperative that you spot them before they ruin the morale of your organization. It can happen quite quickly, so you must be as proactive as possible.
How can you tell if you work with a narcissist?
Only concerned about their own selfish needs
If something matters to you, then it is most likely that it does not matter to a narcissist. They usually become quite defensive when confronted about their behavior. Never expect an apology out of a narcissist. You’d be lucky if they even acknowledge they did something wrong. As soon as you spot a pattern, address it as soon as possible through the proper channels. Pay close attention to how they respond. If they show no respect for your position, consider terminating them or advocating for their termination for the good of the practice or company.
Cannot handle pressure
Narcissists are oftentimes incapable of handling pressure. They will be around for the good times with low pressure and will disappear as soon as things get dicey. If they were a friend, they’d be known as that fairweather friend. Do not expect them to be there or to support you when it is needed.
They believe they are infallible
Narcissists are masters at deflection. If they are not trying to put it back on you, then they are busy trying to pin it on someone else. They experience extreme difficulty in authentically expressing themselves, speak and be heard without judgment, or take responsibility for their actions for a mess they created. Just like dating a narcissist is unhealthy, so is working with one. They create a toxic environment.
A narcissist is able to charm their way in and out of working relationships in order to serve their own needs and wants. They are often good at convincing colleagues to go along with them. Many times, this leads to conflict and will weigh the whole team down. If they’re a smooth talker, then it is more important to not listen to what they say, but instead observe what they do. Are they good at follow through? The old adage applies: if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
Hot and Cold
Be prepared for endless mixed signals. One day you’ll be their best friend and the next day they may pretend you do not exist. That is a form of mental manipulation.
The blame game is their favorite game
Even if it is not based in reality, the narcissist will blame colleagues and subordinates as soon as something goes wrong. Another challenge is that nothing is ever good enough for the narcissist. You can try over and over again to please them, however you will probably not get anywhere. Eventually, you start censoring yourself and walking on eggshells to avoid their wrath and in hopes of gaining their approval, which you will never receive. It is easier to justify it to yourself as being easier to take another blow than finding yourself in another confrontation.
How to deal with narcissists
The most important thing is that you do not take it personally or blame yourself. It’s them, not you! If you sense that you are working with a narcissist, it is best to start emotionally detaching early so that you do not find yourself tangled in the web that they weave. Never take their unreasonable demands personally. Make sure that the chain of command knows what you are dealing with on a daily basis. If necessary, bring it up regularly so that they take action. Try to identify coworkers who have also worked with the narcissist to back your claims. Remember, they are extremely charming people and may be able to pull the wool over management’s eyes. Also be sure to document all of their negative behavior, including dates, times, actions and outcomes, so that when HR inevitably gets involved you will have a written record of their behaviors.