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Narcissism in the Workplace

Understanding the Dynamics and Managing Difficult Colleagues

Narcissism in the Workplace by Som Dutt

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by excessive self-absorption, exaggerated feelings of entitlement, and preoccupation with fantasies of success and power. 

It’s also one that can have a significant impact on workplace dynamics, especially in large organizations with high turnover rates and frequent changes in management. 

Narcissistic personalities are often drawn to positions of authority because they enjoy being admired and feared by others. However, narcissism can also lead to trouble when it comes to effective communication and interpersonal relationships. 

In this article, we’ll explore how narcissistic behavior manifests itself within organizations’ structures and how it can negatively affect team dynamics as well as individual performance. 

We’ll also provide strategies for working effectively with narcissistic colleagues — or even managing them yourself if their behavior impacts your ability to perform well at work or advance professionally within an organization

Identifying Narcissistic Traits in Colleagues

Narcissistic traits are often seen in ambitious, competitive and confident people. For example, a colleague may be very ambitious and competitive but not have the other traits associated with narcissism. However, if you observe your colleague exhibiting several of the following characteristics then it might be worth exploring further whether they are narcissistic:

  • Grandiosity — e.g., “I am smarter than anyone else here.”
  • Need for admiration or adulation — e.g., “Everyone should admire me because I am so good at my job.”
  • Preoccupation with success or authority — e.g., “I must always be seen as being successful at work.”
  • Self-centeredness — e.g., “The only person who matters is me.”

The Impact of Narcissism on Team Dynamics

The impact of narcissism on team dynamics is a complex one, in which the narcissistic person may be viewed as either a leader or a follower. In the first case, they may be charismatic and inspire others to follow them; in the second case, they may be manipulative and controlling. 

“No other being is lesser human than the one who thinks of others as such.”
― Abhijit Naskar

Either way, it’s important to understand how your organization’s culture might affect your ability to manage difficult colleagues if you’re concerned about their impact on your work environment.

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In addition to its effects on other employees’ productivity and morale (or lack thereof), narcissism can also have an adverse effect on your own work performance — or at least make things more difficult than they need to be! 

Your self-esteem will suffer if you find yourself always having to deal with conflict caused by this person’s behavior; while some people thrive under pressure, others simply don’t want anything else added to their already busy lives!

Strategies for Working with Narcissistic Colleagues

Here are a few strategies for working with narcissistic colleagues:

Identify the problem:

Narcissistic behavior is often accompanied by other emotional issues, such as anxiety and depression. If you suspect that your colleague is struggling with these issues, be empathetic and offer support in a nonjudgmental way. 

If you have an open-door policy at work (and we hope that all managers do!), invite them into your office to talk about their feelings or invite them out for coffee so they can vent to someone who understands what they’re going through. 

“Some people, in an attempt to mask their shortcomings dig lies so deep, they end up drowning in a sea of their own delusions!”
― Carlos Wallace

This will help create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their struggles without fear of judgment or ridicule from others

Setting Boundaries with Narcissistic Co-workers

When you’re dealing with a narcissistic coworker, it’s important to set boundaries. Boundaries are rules that help you define what is acceptable behavior for others and for yourself in certain situations. 

You can use them to prevent the other person from taking advantage of or hurting you, as well as protect your time and energy.

Setting boundaries may be difficult at first because it requires speaking up when someone is trying to control or manipulate you in some way — and narcissists often do just that! 

But if this person continues with their inappropriate behavior after being told how they make you feel, then there are consequences for breaking those boundaries: either they change their ways or else they lose out on something important (like getting along with coworkers).

“So many abusers survivors feel they were loved so little, as if the abuser was the most important person to receive love from. They forget that God loves them deeply and that is the only person’s love they need to validate their worth.”
― Shannon L. Alder

If setting clear expectations doesn’t work out well enough on its own then asking someone else for help might be necessary — they might know better than we do what needs saying in order for us not to feel so stressed out all day long

Handling Narcissistic Managers or Supervisors

When dealing with a narcissistic manager or supervisor, it’s important to remember that they are not the only person in the room. You have your own needs and desires and they should not be sacrificed because of someone else’s selfishness.

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It can be difficult for some people to separate themselves from their work lives, but you need to do so if you want to remain sane while working with a narcissist. 

Don’t take anything personally — it isn’t about you or even about what happened; it’s just about how the narcissist feels at any given moment in time (which may change).

Don’t get sucked into the narcissist’s world — don’t try too hard to please him/her; don’t argue over every detail; don’t let them make you feel guilty! You’ll always come out on top if you stay calm and focused on your own priorities rather than theirs!

Dealing with Narcissistic Subordinates

You can’t change a narcissistic subordinate, but you can help them manage their behavior. Here are some tips for dealing with them:

  • Understand their needs and motivations. Narcissists thrive on attention and praise, so make sure you’re giving them enough of both when they do something right. If your team member is particularly needy for this kind of recognition, make sure to point out what they did well in front of others — it’ll help boost their confidence as well as encourage colleagues around them to give feedback too!
  • Be aware of their triggers. Narcissists often get upset when they aren’t treated like royalty at all times; if something upsets one of these people, it’s important not just because it affects everyone else on the team but also because it means there could be negative consequences down the road if nothing changes soon enough (like losing clients).

Navigating Office Politics and Narcissism

You’re not alone if you have a difficult colleague or manager who seems to play by their own rules. Narcissistic people can be challenging to work with, but it’s important to remember the difference between office politics and narcissism. 

Office politics refers to the ways in which people maneuver within an organization in order to get what they want (like power or influence). 

“Someone asked me, “Who hurt you so badly?” I replied, “my own expectations.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Narcissistic behavior is often mistaken for mere office politics because it involves similar behaviors such as manipulation, lying, and taking credit for others’ accomplishments. However, there are key differences between these two concepts:

Narcissists don’t care about getting ahead at work — they care only about themselves! Their actions aren’t designed solely around gaining status; rather they’re motivated by self-promotion at all costs (even if those costs hurt other people). 

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Also unlike someone who engages in political maneuvering for personal advancement purposes only occasionally (and perhaps even unwittingly), narcissists will always behave this way toward everyone — including friends and family members outside of work settings!

Collaborating with Narcissists: Dos and Don’ts

When you are working with a narcissist, it is important to avoid personal attacks. The narcissist’s main goal is to feel better about themselves and they will do whatever they can to make sure they are in a position of power. 

If you criticize their work or ideas, it will likely spark an argument that could escalate into a full-blown fight if not handled correctly.

Avoid criticizing their time management skills as well as their communication skills because these things could be viewed as personal attacks on the person’s character rather than legitimate concerns about productivity or effectiveness at work (which should be addressed from a non-emotional standpoint). 

“So often victims end up unnecessarily prolonging their abuse because they buy into the notion that their abuser must be coming from a wounded place and that only patient love and tolerance (and lots of misguided therapy) will help them heal.”
― George K. Simon

Don’t bring up leadership style unless there is something specific happening that needs addressing — and even then it should only come from someone who has authority over them (for example: if there is no manager around). Last but not least — if your company has policies about planning ahead when starting projects then don’t forget those either!

Recognizing Narcissistic Manipulation at Work

Recognizing the signs of manipulation is the first step to avoiding it. Here are some things to look out for:

  • The narcissist will try to make you feel guilty or ashamed in order to get what they want. They might say something like, “You always do this!” or “It’s all your fault!” If this happens frequently, it could be a sign that your colleague is manipulating you.
  • If someone at work consistently makes excuses for their behavior and puts their needs above everyone else’s, they may be trying to manipulate others into doing what they want without having any regard for how their actions affect other people’s lives or careers (or even just making them feel bad). It can also mean that this person lacks empathy — the ability and desire to understand another person’s feelings — and therefore doesn’t care about how hurtful his/her words really are.

Maintaining Your Emotional Well-being

  • Avoid burnout. You may find yourself getting tired of dealing with difficult people and situations on a regular basis. In order to maintain your emotional well-being, it’s important to take some time off from work or at least change the way in which you interact with difficult colleagues.
  • Avoid feeling like a victim or hero. It’s easy for anyone who has been bullied or harassed by their colleagues to feel like they are alone in this experience and that no one else understands what they are going through — this can lead to depression and anxiety if left unchecked over time.
  • Don’t let yourself get sucked into drama that doesn’t directly affect your goals as an employee or manager.
  • Stay focused on achieving personal success within your role at work (e.g., getting promoted) rather than focusing exclusively on helping others achieve theirs.

Documenting Interactions with Narcissistic Colleagues

Documenting interactions with narcissistic colleagues is an important part of managing them. It can help you understand the dynamics of your relationship and manage the situation more effectively.

  • Why it’s important to document: When dealing with narcissistic personalities, it’s easy to get caught up in their drama or be taken advantage of by them. Documentation will help you see things clearly so that you can make better decisions about how best to handle these difficult people.
  • How to document: Documenting should be done immediately after having an interaction with a narcissist — you want the emotions fresh in your mind so that they don’t affect what was said or done during the encounter (i.e., if someone was angry at something said during an argument, then writing down their feelings later may not accurately reflect what was actually said). Use whatever format feels most comfortable; some examples include keeping notes on paper; making audio recordings; taking photos as reminders (this also helps when trying to remember specific details); and writing blog posts online through services like Medium where others might benefit from reading them later on down the road too!

Seeking Support from HR or Management

If you find yourself in a situation where your colleague’s narcissism has become a problem, it can be helpful to seek support from HR or management. 

The first step is to approach them calmly and professionally. You should be prepared with specific examples of how the problematic behavior affects you, as well as any suggestions for how they might address the issue.

“When we meet and fall into the gravitational pull of a narcissist, we are entering a significant life lesson that involves learning how to create boundaries, self-respect, and resilience. Through trial and error (and a lot of pain), our connection with narcissists teaches us the necessary lessons we need to become mature empaths.”
― Mateo Sol

For example: “I’m concerned about [name] because their behavior has become increasingly hostile towards me over the past few months.” Or: “I’ve noticed [name] makes frequent comments about my appearance and my weight which make me feel uncomfortable.” 

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Be sure not to blame others for your feelings — only describe what happened in terms of observable facts; this will help avoid any misunderstandings between yourself and management/HR professionals later on down the line.

Effective Communication with Narcissistic Peers

To communicate with narcissistic peers effectively, you need to avoid being defensive or confrontational.

Narcissists thrive on attention and praise, so it’s important that you don’t appear threatened by their behavior. You should also be assertive in your communication style; this means speaking directly and succinctly while maintaining eye contact when appropriate. 

If a narcissist makes an offensive comment or asks an inappropriate question, it’s best not to get defensive — instead try responding with something like “I don’t think that’s appropriate” before moving on with your business at hand.

Avoiding the Blame Game

Avoiding the blame game is important because it can help you keep your job, avoid being seen as a scapegoat, and prevent burnout. Narcissists often play the blame game to manipulate others into feeling guilty so that they’ll do what they want. 

However, if someone else does something wrong and you take responsibility for it — even if it wasn’t really your fault — you’re giving them an opportunity to control you through guilt-tripping or other tactics like emotional blackmail (the use of emotional manipulation).

If someone blames you for something that isn’t really your fault (or even if it is), don’t get defensive; instead, let them know that while their concern is appreciated, there was no need for them to bring up this issue at all since nothing could have been done differently anyway!

Managing Narcissistic Co-worker Conflicts

When you’re dealing with a difficult colleague, it’s important to understand the root cause of the conflict. This can help you determine your role in it and identify possible solutions.

You should also consider:

  • The impact of this person’s behavior on others. How does their behavior affect others? Do they make other people feel bad about themselves or force them into uncomfortable situations (for example, forcing employees to work late)? Do they create an unpleasant work environment for everyone involved? If so, then they may need professional help before anything else can happen — and if they don’t get that help voluntarily, then management might need to step in as well.
  • Your own role in this situation. Are there ways you could have handled things differently from your perspective; could there have been another way out besides quitting altogether; what do others think about what happened between the two parties involved?

Handling Credit Stealing and Sabotage

The first step in handling credit stealing and sabotage is understanding what is happening. Once you have a clear picture of what is going on, you can take action to deal with the problem.

If a colleague has stolen your work, there are several ways to handle this situation:

  • Document the problem by taking notes about when and how often it happens and any other evidence you have (e-mails, memos, or other documents). Keep these records in case they are needed as proof when talking with your boss or HR department.
  • Talk directly with them about their behavior; ask them why they feel it necessary to take credit for things that aren’t theirs. If they continue their behavior after being confronted by someone else then document those incidents as well so that when speaking with management all parties will be aware that there were previous attempts made before escalating matters further up through channels such as Human Resources (HR).

Staying Focused on Professional Goals

Narcissism has become a buzzword in the workplace. Some people have used it as an excuse for their own bad behavior, saying that they’re just “narcissistic” and therefore can’t help themselves. 

Others have used it to describe others in order to avoid taking responsibility for their own issues with dealing with difficult colleagues.

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But narcissism isn’t a job title; it’s a personality trait. While some people are more likely than others to display narcissistic traits (especially if they were raised by parents who projected their own needs onto them), everyone has moments when they feel entitled or self-absorbed.

In our experience working with teams across industries, we’ve found these three tips helpful when dealing with narcissistic colleagues: keep your goals in mind; remember that narcissism is a personality trait (not necessarily someone’s job title); focus on work and team objectives; set boundaries with narcissistic colleagues; take time off from work so you don’t burn out!

Developing Your Emotional Intelligence

Developing your emotional intelligence is an important step toward improving your relationship with the narcissist and reducing the stress he or she causes in your life. You can do this by learning to recognize and manage your own emotions, as well as those of others.

  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, manage, and express yourself in relation to other people (and animals) effectively. It’s also a key component of leadership skills: leaders need to be able to read situations correctly, anticipate problems before they arise, communicate clearly, and inspire others through their words and actions.

Emotional intelligence is built upon three components: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness

Building Allies and Supportive Networks

As you’re building your allies and supportive networks, it’s important to understand the importance of being able to trust them. You should be willing and able to reciprocate help from your allies when they need it. 

You also need a clear understanding of what kind of support they can provide — whether it’s emotional or professional, direct or indirect.

It may take some time before you feel comfortable reaching out for help or letting others know about problems at work; however, once people realize that they can count on each other in times of crisis, this will make everyone more likely to reach out when needed instead of keeping quiet about their difficulties until things become critical (or worse).

When to Escalate Issues with HR or Superiors

If you are having trouble getting your point across, or if the problem is deeply entrenched and not just a one-off issue, then it’s time to escalate the issue.

Talk to your manager or HR representative: 

When you have tried everything and still can’t get anywhere with someone who treats others poorly in the workplace, then it’s time to talk with someone else who has more authority over them than you do. 

This is usually done through an official channel like human resources (HR). In many companies, HR is trained specifically on how to handle these types of situations so they can help guide employees through them as best they can while protecting both parties involved from legal liability by acting as mediators between all sides involved. 

If this doesn’t work out for whatever reason then there are other options available such as contacting senior management directly via email or phone call — but only after trying all other avenues first!

Strategies for Self-Care and Stress Management

  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally.
  • Get enough sleep, eat healthy food, and exercise regularly. Set aside time for yourself by engaging in activities that are meaningful to you: reading a book, listening to music, or meditating. Ask for help when you need it — this can be as simple as asking someone on your team if they’d like to go for coffee after work one day each week so that you have someone else’s perspective on things when dealing with difficult people at work (and vice versa). Be kinder toward yourself than others tend to be; create a support network of positive people who will lift up rather than tear down your self-esteem. Seek out those who have similar values or interests as yours; they’ll make great friends!

Understanding Office Narcissistic Culture

Understanding the culture of your workplace is essential to effectively managing a narcissistic coworker. Narcissism is not a personality disorder, but rather a behavior that can be observed in all walks of life — from politics to business and even friendships. 

Narcissists are everywhere, so it’s important for you to understand how narcissism affects your workplace environment and how you can manage difficult colleagues who exhibit these traits.

Narcissism exists on a spectrum from mild (“I’m proud of my accomplishments”) all the way up to severe (“I am better than everyone else”). 

Even though some people may appear more self-centered than others, there is no clear line between healthy and unhealthy narcissism; we all fall somewhere along this spectrum at different points in our lives depending on various factors such as stress levels or the amount of sleep we get per night.

Coping with Office Gossip and Backstabbing

You’re at work and someone has just told you that your boss is having an affair with a subordinate. You want to believe it’s not true, but there are signs that make you wonder whether this person could be right. 

You might feel like gossiping about it yourself or even sharing the information with someone else in the organization who could use it against your boss if they wanted to (or felt like they had reason).

Gossip is an interesting phenomenon because it’s often considered something negative — something we shouldn’t do — but as social beings who live in groups and need one another for survival, humans have developed ways of communicating with each other through gossiping over time. 

In fact, some researchers argue that gossip serves several functions:

  • Social control: Gossipers can use information gained from others’ conversations as leverage when dealing with power imbalances within their group; for example, if someone has been spreading rumors about another member of the community who happens not only belong but also lead meetings every month then perhaps this person should no longer be allowed access certain privileges within their community (e..g., being able to host parties at home). 
  • Building relationships: If two people share similar interests then chances are high they’ll become friends after spending time together talking about those interests! This can happen either intentionally or unintentionally depending on how much effort each party puts into building these kinds of relationships between themselves.”

Handling Public Humiliation or Criticism

You may feel that you are being unfairly criticized or publicly humiliated. It is important to recognize that this is a defense mechanism and not take it personally, even if it feels like an attack on your character or abilities.

It is also important to not react to criticism with anger or retaliation. This will only exacerbate the situation and make things worse for everyone involved. 

Instead, ask for clarification if you don’t understand what has been said so you can address any misunderstandings head-on rather than letting them fester until they become bigger problems later down the line (or worse yet lead directly toward conflict). 

Finally, be respectful of the person’s feelings — while keeping in mind that their emotions do not necessarily reflect reality!

Balancing Teamwork with Narcissistic Egos

As you work with narcissists, it’s important to remember that they are not the only ones who need attention and control. In fact, they often are more interested in the team’s success than their own. 

That said, it’s also important to recognize that narcissists are unlikely to admit this — and may even go so far as to deny their own needs for attention and control when asked directly (we’ll talk more about this later).

The best way I’ve found of balancing teamwork with narcissistic egos is by making sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute equally at meetings or during brainstorming sessions. 

This doesn’t mean that all ideas should be equally weighted; rather, it means encouraging every person on the team — including yourself — to speak up so everyone gets heard regardless of how junior or senior he/she is compared with others on staff.

Empowering Yourself in a Narcissistic Workplace

In a narcissistic workplace, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who feels left out or singled out. But that’s not true! 

There are other people in the same boat as you — and if they’re not talking about how they feel, it’s because they are trying to keep their heads down and navigate the situation as best they can.

You may also find yourself surrounded by people who want to help but don’t know how. They might try giving advice or offering sympathy without realizing that these things will only be seen as condescending by someone with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). 

In order for these relationships to work well, both parties need clear communication skills and an understanding of what each person can offer each other.

Recognizing When It’s Time to Move On

The first step to moving on is recognizing when it’s time. If you are no longer learning or growing in your job, if you are no longer challenged by the work, if you find that your days are boring and uninspiring, then this may be an indication that it is time for a change.

If your boss does not value what you do for the company — or worse yet, does not recognize how valuable it is — then this can lead to an unhealthy working relationship with them and their direct reports (who often have similar issues). You may feel like there’s nowhere else for your career growth within the organization because of these dynamics; therefore, finding another place where people appreciate what they do will give them energy again!

Seeking Career Growth Beyond Narcissism

Here are some tips for dealing with narcissists:

  • Be prepared to be undervalued and underpaid. Narcissists often get promoted because they’re good at making themselves look good, but they don’t necessarily do great work. So if you want a career that’s rewarding both personally and financially, steer clear of narcissists at every opportunity.
  • If possible, don’t work for them at all! Narcissistic bosses can do irreparable damage to your confidence — and sometimes even your physical health — so it’s best not to take any chances here by working directly under one in the first place. If there isn’t another option available where you currently live or work (or if there isn’t another job opening), then make sure that when interviewing potential employers ask them about their policies regarding workplace bullying/harassment and discrimination based on gender identity/expression before accepting any offer from them


It’s important to recognize that narcissism is only one factor in workplace success. In fact, the ability to work well with others and communicate effectively are two of the most important characteristics for success in any role. 

Narcissism can be managed by setting boundaries, communicating clearly and directly with narcissistic colleagues, building alliances with other employees who have similar goals or interests, developing emotional intelligence (EI) skills such as empathy and self-awareness — which means understanding how your own emotions affect others around you — and maintaining a positive outlook on life while still striving towards professional goals.

About the Author :

Som Dutt, Top writer in Philosophy & Psychology on I make people Think, Relate, Feel & Move. Let's Embrace Inner Chaos and Appreciate Deep, Novel & Heavy Thoughts.

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