Working with a narcissist is one thing, but it is a whole new ballgame when you have a narcissistic boss. Narcissists are very skilled at exploiting opportunities, taking credit for other people’s work, conveying confidence and expertise, and all-around making themselves appear more capable than they may be.
All of this means you’ll often find them in positions of power within companies. So, chances are you may likely end up working for a narcissistic boss at some point.
Tips to Handle A Narcissistic Boss
I paired up with Houston-based psychotherapist, Kristy Hildebrand, to talk briefly about what narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are and to assist in developing a list of tips to handle a narcissistic boss and help you succeed in your job.
1. Educate Yourself
Most successful people want power, recognition, a sense of achievement, and a good image in their career field. Sometimes to achieve our goals we set aside our feelings. This can be considered a
narcissistic part or aspect of a person’s character structure. When an over-investment is made and the feelings are denied by the individual it leaves them less vibrant, compassionate and connected. Most of us have some amount of narcissism.
A boss with a narcissistic personality disorder is on the extreme with a very high investment in image and a lack of empathy, feeling, and self-awareness. They will deny their own as well as other’s feelings except to use them for manipulation. Their identity is set in the belief that they are better and more deserving than you.
Knowing the traits of a narcissistic personality, as well as developing awareness of the narcissism in all of us, will go a long way in helping you cope with a narcissistic boss.
2. Validate Your Boss and Coworkers
Narcissists need a constant flow of admiration and attention. Point out your bosses’ strengths, compliment them on their work, and give positive feedback. Do the same for others in your work
environment. Build positivity and allies.
3. Manage Your Expectations
While your boss needs plenty of validation from you, don’t expect it to be reciprocated. A narcissistic boss will often under, over, or misrepresent you and your work, depending on what is to their
Stay in touch with what you know to be true about yourself and your work. Consider other sources you trust such as peers, previous supervisors, and clients for reliable feedback and validation.
To maintain your self-esteem, confidence, and integrity, represent yourself as accurately as possible. The narcissistic aspect will seek out validation to shore up self-esteem, so avoid looking for validation from a boss that tends toward narcissism.
4. Align Your Goals
Communicate and emphasize to your boss how your goals and activities align with their goals. For your own integrity, self-confidence, and career growth, develop and maintain a clear view of how your actions align with your own goals and the goals of the company/organization as well as your bosses.
Maintain your own documentation of what you are doing at work and how it aligns with the company/organization. Don’t share it with your boss, unless necessary and you have another credible and trustworthy witness in the workplace in on the communication.
5. Minimize Conflict and Confrontation
Narcissists like drama and do their best to create it everywhere they go to draw attention to themselves. They will do whatever it takes to make themselves look good, including manipulating others and putting them down.
Avoid conflict when possible and rely on the sense of self and boundaries you are creating by affiliating yourself with others you can trust.
6. Have an Exit Strategy
Your boss is only interested in their success, and even if you’re aligned with them, they are likely to walk right over you when it serves them. Don’t expect loyalty or credit for your hard work, and don’t expect your boss to play fair. They may like you one day and be your worst enemy the next.
Find ways to manage the stress created when you have a boss that is difficult. Releasing stress and tension will help keep you focused on your work, even as you work to create more options for yourself. Even if your preference is to stay with your current job or company, it is wise to have a backup plan.
A Narcissistic Boss Can Be Frustrating
Working for a narcissist can be difficult, frustrating, and a blow to our self-esteem. Honor all your feelings and emotions and express them to safe others and/or through art, writing, or other means. Keep your options open, as you navigate the current terrain.
If you find yourself in a situation and want to talk about navigating it and planning for your future, reach out to Rachel Schneider with CareerFind for a free intro call.
For assistance with stress management, tension and trauma release or emotional, psychological, and relational aspects of your life, reach out to Kristy Hildebrand at Psychotherapy and Counseling.