Help! My Boss is a Narcissist

How do I deal with my narcissistic boss?
“How do I deal with my narcissistic boss?” is the most common complaint I get about high-conflict people in the workplace. They are everywhere, and seem to be increasing these days – from the lowest supervisor to the self-destructive owner of the business.

Narcissists generally seek positions over others in order to help themselves feel better about themselves – because unconsciously they feel helpless and inferior. They need people below them to reassure them that they are “superior.” But it’s never enough.

Narcissistic bosses want (need?) constant reminders that they are the “best,” the “brightest,” the “richest,” or anything that feels one-up to those around them. If you have such a boss, you will naturally feel miserable. It’s the human response to being treated as an inferior. The trick is to learn how to “manage” this boss, until you can permanently get away from him or her. Here are some tips:

1.     Understand their predictable patterns of behavior. Narcissists are self-absorbed. They lack empathy for others, are arrogant, feel entitled, and manipulate relationships to serve their own interests. At the conscious level they truly believe they are superior to those around them, but at an unconscious level they are very insecure. They demand attention and admiration from those around them.  If you directly confront a narcissistic boss, he or she will do everything possible to “put you down,” to recover from the “narcissistic injury” you have caused them by temporarily destroying their fantasy of superiority.

2.     Understand their moods and behavior will swing back and forth. Narcissists can be very charming at times – usually to “win” people as friends or allies. Narcissists can be very vindictive at other times – usually as a result of a “narcissistic injury” when someone has threatened their superior self-image, either privately or publicly. Both of these moods are temporary, so it’s not hopeless when he or she is being vindictive, and it’s not over when he or she is being charming again. You can often influence these moods. You just have to be careful. I know you may resent having to watch your own behavior so much, but it’s not that hard and it will make your life so much easier.  

For an expanded discussion of dealing with narcissists in any setting, you might enjoy Bill Eddy’s: It’s All YOUR Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything here.

Educating yourself about another’s narcissism is the first step toward relieving your own stress.

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 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., is an attorney, therapist and mediator in San Diego, California. Co-founder of High Conflict Institute, he is author of several books on dealing with high-conflict personalities. For more visit http://www.highconflictinstitute.com/.