Human Resources and Workforce

How to Spot a Narcissist and Deal with Them at Work

Narcissist is a term that is used for someone who is clinically diagnosed with a personality disorder called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). In simple words, it is someone who thinks that they are better than everyone else. It is actually normal for everyone to exhibit some of the narcissistic traits, but having a few of them does not make someone a narcissist. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, if a person has 55% of the narcissistic traits, they will be diagnosed with NPD.

A little bit of narcissism can be healthy, but only in a certain amount. The real narcissist is someone whose behaviour will cause harm to others; we usually call this type of person toxic. Dealing with these types of people can cause difficulties, especially if you need to interact with them every day. Their behaviour can reduce someone’s ability to think clearly and make sound judgements.

While there are many types of narcissists, such as covert narcissists, malignant narcissists, or even just normal narcissism, some narcissistic traits are very obvious, and some are difficult to see upfront. Taking notes on the signs can help you know how to handle them later on. Some of the signs that can be seen are:

  • Excessively charming on first impressions
  • Playing victim under certain circumstances
  • Controlling
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Lack empathy towards people and situations
  • Avoiding accountability for their mistakes
  • Gossiping a lot
  • Manipulative
  • Passive aggressive
  • Won’t acknowledge your work performance
  • Cannot stand and is jealous of others success
  • Won’t take “No” as an answer
  • Reacting negatively to feedback

These individuals are deeply insecure about themselves, which is why they are acting in certain ways for self-protection. Frequently, they have a very rough childhood due to environmental factors, and some are just born with it. Dealing with them head-on is probably not the best way. They are masters of manipulation, easily leading people to second-guess themselves and most of the time, the victim of their manipulation never wins. This is why it will be difficult to handle when we have to work with them.

Here are some of the ways to deal with them at the workplace:

Avoid Being Reactive

Remaining calm and being professional is the best way to tackle this at the workplace. While it may be hard, try not to take everything that they say personally. Narcissistic people tend to project their insecurities on you, and while you think it is about you, it is actually mostly about them and their issues. Pay attention to what they are saying, and you will figure out the things that they want to hide.

Always Document Everything

Narcissists tend to lie and exaggerate a lot to pick on the behaviour of others due to their tendency to make a small issue into a big drama. Make sure to document everything, such as the things that you work on and their offensive behaviour. This is to avoid giving them space to create lies about you and them. The worst thing that could happen is that if they start to feel threatened by you, your job position will be at stake. It is always better to document everything since it will also be beneficial for the career.

Set Strong Boundaries

Have healthy boundaries for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Be clear and direct, even if they won’t take a “no” for an answer. Instead of saying no, you can state how you are feeling by using a lot of “I” words, such as “I need a bit of space right now. I think we can talk about this later.” If they don’t accept it and constantly want to violate your boundaries, set proper consequences, such as “If you keep doing this, I will have to limit our interactions”.

Steer Clear From Office Gossip

Talking behind others backs is never a good idea to begin with since it will create distrust. People usually believe that people who gossip a lot will do the same behind their backs. Not only will you make a good impression as a good colleague, but you will also stay away from people who have the potential to be a narcissist.

Do Not Overshare

Narcissistic people seek to learn about you by asking a lot of questions about your personal life. When they get enough information, that information can backfire and be used against someone who tries to stand up for themselves. It is recommended to stay minimal at work and maintaining a professional demeanour.

Be Cautious of Excessive Compliments

When narcissists find someone who is highly attractive and successful, they will find a way to be near them. They can be super charming on first impressions. If you take a closer look, their tone can seem overblown and phony. Excessive flattery or love bombing can be rewarding. However, they do this to get you attached, and when things don’t go their way, it will lead to rage. They could seek “forgiveness”, but once it is accepted, the behaviour will repeated over and over again. They are never genuinely sorry and tend to use forgiveness to get away from difficult situations.

Sometimes it is better to lie low to avoid major conflicts at the workplace, but if you have strong boundaries and know how to handle them, you will be safe. While it is not guaranteed that you may be a victim of a narcissist, it is better to maintain distance from them. Being a victim of a narcissist can have a major impact on your whole being. If you believe that you are one, quickly seek to have a talk with your trusted boss, HR, or go for professional help.

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