5 things you should never do around a narcissistic coworker

It’s not easy working with someone who thinks they can do no wrong. And, that’s what narcissists are.

According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissists have an “inflated sense of their own importance” and a “deep need for excessive attention and admiration”. 

Sometimes it is tough to spot a narcissist, but not always. For instance, do they get impatient when they don’t receive special treatment or recognition? Or, do they consistently exaggerate their accomplishments and seem preoccupied with power and advancement.

If so, you might be working with a narcissist. 

If you work with a self-absorbed person, here are five things you should avoid doing around a narcissistic coworker:

1. Don’t call them a narcissist

Calling them a narcissist (or, name-calling in general) will unnecessarily escalate the emotional environment, which will affect you as much as it does them.

Remember that when a narcissist is called out, they will naturally fight back. Don’t invite the fight. Be above name-calling. 

2. Don’t let your boundaries down

Those with an inflated sense of self-worth are naturally quite self-absorbed, too. They might believe they are above the rules or entitled to invade your personal space.

This may not come across as openly hostile, but it is equally inappropriate. If they are not respecting your personal space (or time), speak up and set that boundary

“Say you have a co-worker who loves to park their big truck in a way that makes it hard for you to back out. Start by firmly asking them to make sure they leave you enough space.

Then, state the consequences for not respecting your wishes,” wrote Healthline. If you need to call a towing company to have their car towed, do it. Hopefully, they will learn to respect your personal space without having to enforce your boundaries a second time. 

3. Don’t get involved

Unless a situation presents itself that directly affects you, resist getting involved with a narcissist’s drama. For instance, if they are speaking their own praises in a meeting and taking credit for work they did not do, let them roll with it. Other people in the meeting will probably recognize how inappropriate it is without you having to say a word. But if you do, you might inadvertently escalate tensions, and that can negatively impact your ability to work with them. 

However, don’t hesitate to talk to your boss (or even Human Resources) if it gets bad enough (or personal). This is especially true if you’ve already had a conversation with the narcissistic person, but nothing has changed. Use your organizational support system to help remedy the problem instead of shouldering that responsibility. That’s why HR is there. 

4. Ignore, but don’t neglect

Most narcissists thrive when people focus on them. They want attention. Instead of playing into their weaknesses, avoid it by staying objective and calm. When you deserve credit, speak up and take it, but resist outward hostility toward the narcissist. For instance, don’t say, “I did the majority of the work here, not Jane/Joe”. That comes across aggressive. Even narcissistic

Instead, just take credit for the things you did. Believe it or not, your boss and coworkers will mentally put the pieces into place and realize how influential you are in the workplace without you having to spell it out for them or take a direct shot at a coworker.  

5. Don’t rule out learning from them

I believe that we can learn something from everyone around us, even if what we’re learning is what not to do. Observe their behavior.

Take note of how their actions impact coworkers and the organization as a whole. If you see some of these behaviors in yourself, make it a point to stop doing those things. After all, you don’t want people to think you’re a narcissist.