Work is hard enough without a raging narcissist leading your team.
What does a narcissist look like in the workplace? Perhaps you put in a ton of overtime one weekend to really push to perfect an important project. When the CEO asked who was responsible for reaching such a deadline and your manager immediately takes credit for their fierce leadership and management capabilities barely giving you a crum of credit? Yeah, you might be dealing with a narcissist.
If you’re feeling frustrated at work and can’t quite put a finger on what it is about a managerial style that turns you off, pay attention to these outright clues. Many narcissists are insidious and hide in plain sight but there are a few red-flags to tip you off that it’s not your work performance that is the issue at hand, it’s your boss.
I put together a comprehensive list of 7 ways to tell your team leader is a narcissist according to this brief by Preston Ni published in Psychology Today along with tips on how you can disengage to preserve your job and emotional well-being for the future.
1. Insensitive to employees
Exuding a lack of mindfulness towards employees in day to day operations is a dead giveaway you’re dealing with a narcissist. This disregard for an employee’s feelings might materialize in a way of not giving ample compensation for overtime, expecting unfair amounts of work from you when you’re feeling ill or overwhelmed, and playing “favorites” with certain employees but exhibiting indifference or outright rudeness towards you.
2. Loves to talk over everyone in meetings
Narcissists tend to have an overinflated sense of self so naturally, they love to hear themselves talk. If you find you and your employees barely able to get a word in edgewise at pitch meetings it could be because of your boss’s narcissistic tendencies. They also never let anyone in a business meeting forget about their individual accomplishments while cutting other people down in the process. This is an extremely frustrating trait because we all know the success of any team is usually due to everyone on the ground floor being involved and feeling heard.
3. Extremely sensitive to criticism
“To err is human.” This old proverb does not resonate with narcissists one bit. Due to their fragile egos and self-important nature if anyone points out an area of weakness or a mistake made they will not take it well. In fact, if you report to a narcissist and bring up something they may have missed you’ll probably become a target of ridicule and they’ll pass the buck onto you. They constantly search for scapegoats to push their own personal failings onto.
4. Loves to “name drop”
We all have our small claims to fame in the various industries we occupy. A narcissist boss will usually constantly bring up the exclusive Fortune 500 clubs he has memberships with, the lavish vacation he took with Jeff Bezos one year, and how he went to an Ivy League School. In fact, his office is most likely adorned with all his accolades and pictures with impressive people in tropical getaways the laymen will never gain access to. They are important, impressive, and the smartest person in the room and they’ll never let you forget it.
5. They steal credit for your ideas
I touched upon this briefly in the first red flag, being insensitive to employees. Narcissists love to appear to be the smartest and most accomplished person in the room so when there is praise to be won for a great idea they will usually take unearned credit for it. They believe if they don’t take credit it will diminish their own leadership capabilities.
They love to feed you the lie “Well, I hired and trained you so technically without me you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to present that great idea to the marketplace.” This is not normal behavior! Don’t allow a narcissist to take credit for the value you bring to your industry and speak up to any higher-ups if you can.
6. They exhibit negative and unchecked toxic emotions
Narcissists struggle with emotional regulation in general so it’s no surprise that a narcissistic boss will lash out in anger or throw a tantrum when you don’t go along with whatever they demand of you. They will keep you on your toes with their unchecked emotions as a weird power move to gain attention and destabilize you at work. Narcissistic leaders believe this negative reinforcement tactic works. Essentially they believe employees will be more likely to fall in line if an emotional outburst or outright ridicule is on the table if employees refuse to listen.
7. Breaks ethical norms constantly
It can be detrimental to you and your company with a narcissist at the helm. These types of bosses tend to casually engage in white-collar crimes such as money laundering, falsifying expense reports, and tax evasion. Taking advantage of people and the system comes second nature to them and they have 0 qualms about breaking the rules if it favors them in the end.
If you believe you’re dealing with a narcissist in the workplace check out Preston Ni’s book on how to negotiate with narcissists in a healthy way!