How to deal with a narcissistic boss, including whether you should consider quitting, according to 4 career coaches

  • According to experts, people who exhibit narcissistic traits may be drawn to senior management.
  • Four career coaches discuss the behavioral patterns and situations that they can bring to work.
  • They tell Insider how employees should react to them — and when they should leave.

Narcissistic people exhibit a variety of characteristics, not all of which are negative.

Some characteristics, such as being highly engaged, performing well, and intelligence, can make someone a good leader or mentor. While only a small percentage of people have the medically diagnosable narcissistic personality disorder, many more of us exhibit narcissistic traits such as manipulation, argumentation, and lack of empathy.

According to Niamh O’Keeffe, a leadership consultant and author of “Get Promoted,” someone with narcissistic characteristics may feel superior to their coworkers and “end up in very senior leadership positions because they want the spotlight.”

These narcissistic leaders can make their employees’ jobs a living nightmare.

Insider spoke with O’Keeffe and three other career coaches and psychologists about how to spot harmful narcissistic behaviors in your manager and how to deal with the difficult situations they can cause.

Does my boss have a narcissistic personality?

According to O’Keeffe, what distinguishes narcissistic bosses from other leaders is that they act on their own behalf rather than on behalf of their team or workplace.

They may be skilled at managing their own reputation among senior leaders and manipulating office politics to their advantage, but according to O’Keefe, a narcissistic leader’s boss may think they’re amazing, while their team “knows that the manager is not amazing at all.”

Sometimes senior management is aware that a boss is harmful but ignores the issue because the boss meets their targets or brings significant money into the company.

“What sometimes happens is a kind of collusion, whereby top management will enable the behavior of the narcissist because they’re delivering,” she went on to say.

Because of this, Sinéad Brady, a career psychologist and author of “Total Reset: Quit Living to Work and Start Working to Live,” believes a human-resources department may ignore someone’s complaints about the behavior.

“That’s a really big problem and a sign of something much wider and much more systemic within the organization,” she told me.

They don’t give you credit for your work

Brady defined narcissistic behaviors as unfairly blaming others for mistakes and taking credit for other people’s ideas.

In one-on-one meetings, they may be charming and “love-bomb” you with praise, according to O’Keeffe. However, they may not share their good fortune with others. This means that the junior employee receives no benefits, “whether it’s promotion, visibility, or accolades, outside of that relationship,” she explained.

They belittle you

Cassie Spencer, a career coach who hosts a podcast in which she interviews CEOs and small-business owners, “Happenstance,” narcissistic managers may never be satisfied with your work on a task they assigned to you.

According to O’Keeffe, this behavior can include direct insults such as “That’s obvious, isn’t it?” That’s not a particularly good point, is it? Why don’t you try it again?”

According to Sara Karlen Lacombe, the founder of Minding the Gap Coaching and a career coach, bosses may engage in this behavior out of fear of their reputation being jeopardized, so they don’t take responsibility for mistakes and make their employees feel like they’re the problem.

“It can make you feel very undermined, lose confidence, turn in on yourself, and end up miserable,” O’Keeffe went on to say.

According to her, good managers help their coworkers by sharing their expertise or making suggestions about who they could network with to improve.

They don’t respect boundaries

Brady stated that narcissistic managers may be highly demanding and expect long work hours from those they manage.

According to Spencer, they may text or call their employees outside of work with “no regard for the people they’re communicating with.”

How to deal with a narcissistic boss, including whether or not to quit

If you suspect your manager is narcissistic, you have several options. O’Keeffe advises you to consider whether you want to stay.

Depending on your circumstances, you could seek another manager within the company or leave the job, she advised.

Brady suggests developing a “exit strategy” if you believe narcissistic behavior is being rewarded at work. If you’re having trouble coping, Brady suggests considering whether the job is worth your health.

She advises against attempting to change the manager as a person because they are unlikely to do so and it may be detrimental to your career advancement.

Seek assistance from others in the workplace.

According to Brady, one strategy could be to seek assistance from an employee assistance program or a mentor.

If quitting isn’t an option, O’Keeffe suggests taking on additional responsibilities. If your manager promised you something in a meeting but did not follow through, you could still complete the task.

Instead of seeking permission from them, she suggests doing what you believe is best for your team or organization, and highlighting successes to someone else in your workplace, such as your manager’s boss.

“It is not your job to please or displease your boss. “Your job is to carry out the mission of the organization,” O’Keeffe explained.

Remain calm and try to diffuse tense situations.

When a manager is putting you down or acting aggressively, try to “stay very neutral” and “calm,” according to O’Keeffe.

Though it is difficult for a junior to be assertive, she suggested saying, “Perhaps we have a misunderstanding.” Perhaps we could schedule another meeting to discuss this.”

Establish your own limits

You could try telling bosses who push boundaries like this that you won’t respond to their requests outside of working hours, or you could ask them to describe situations in which they would expect you to respond.

O’Keeffe recommends setting a “personal standard” for your working hours and sticking to it. “You set your own boundaries; you stick to them,” she told me. “Continue to establish your own boundaries around the workload.”

If you take this approach, she recommends keeping a record of correspondence. Spencer advised that if you agree to certain boundaries verbally, you should put them in writing.

Be proud of your ideas in front of others.

Brady stated that in meetings with others, you could demonstrate your contribution to a project by referring back to a discussion you had with your manager and adding another idea to that.

“You straightaway show to others that you’ve already been involved in the process and this is part of your idea,” she went on to say.

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