Sometimes, achieving happiness in your job means knowing how to work with some tough people. This series of posts is for those 80% of workers who interact with at least one “toxic” co-worker, manager and subordinate day-to-day. Want to know more? Check out the introductory article to the series.
We’ve defined what a narcissistic personality looks like based on the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association. Unfortunately narcissists come across as confident and hardworking, and they can usually get things done, so its not uncommon to find them in management positions. But what does that translate into if you’re reporting to one directly? Well, it doesn’t bode well.
If you find yourself working for a narcissistic boss, then you’re going to find yourself often feeling frustrated, angry and filled with self-doubt. You might find yourself thinking that if you were just left alone to do your job, things would be so bad…but you need to accept that’s probably not going to happen. This personality demands unreasonable levels of perfection because they perceive themselves to be perfect and want you to be at their level.
Here are some other things to expect:
- They aren’t going to recognize that you have a life outside of work – they work long hours so YOU should too. But don’t ever expect to be thanked for your efforts – the purpose of their hard work is to gain recognition for themselves and they view your hard work as a piece of that puzzle.
- Never EVER expect this person to be loyal to you, no matter how long you’ve worked for them. It is simply not in their nature. They will throw you under the bus without giving it a second thought, particularly if it means protecting their own self image.
- These individuals are only interested in hearing positive things about themselves and will not be open to your feedback or critique. If you don’t have something good to say, best rule of thumb is not to say anything at all, even if you’re just venting to co-workers. The satisfaction you receive from it will be short-lived and the possible repercussions for you if they find out what you said are immense.
- You’ll often feel as though you can’t live up to his or her expectations – no idea will ever be good enough. Even if your ideas work, don’t expect to get credit for them – your boss is going to take all the glory.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in this position? Here’s how you can help protect your sanity:
Don’t take it personally. Certainly, this is easier said then done but it is critical to put their behavior in perspective – this is not about you. It’s about them. Once you really accept that, the problem can seem easier to deal with.
Understand that what they are doing has NOTHING to do with your performance. If you work for this type of person, you’re likely to feel a tremendous amount of self-doubt. Step back and look at your work objectively, or get input from other professionals in your field. They are likely to tell you a very different story.
Accept the fact that you cannot change this person. It’s like when a person gains wait – it takes a long time for them to gain weight and it can’t come off overnight. Same with these types of personalities. They’ve taken years – decades even – to get to the point they are. It is extremely hard to change these individuals because they simply are incapable of internalizing anything that does not conform to their perceptions of themselves. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it is very very rare.
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