Narcissists at work

Stress or even a burnout due to the behavior of a manager or team leader is very common. Ironically, the lack of leadership is often the cause of work stress. Your boss, or colleague for that matter, is more concerned with his own status than with the company’s interests. He prefers to spend his time improving his own position and pursuing his own ambitions. Conversations are superficial, there’s no time for actual involvement in the team and he preferably has conversations behind closed doors with people who are more interesting than you.

Although the work processes flow better as soon as he’s not involved, he thinks that the company can’t function without him. He thinks he has people skills, but isn’t able to recognize and utilize the talents of his employees. After all, he doesn’t see their competencies. He can’t formulate substantive questions and his leadership is characterized by unnecessary micro-management. He listens to and evaluates with expensive outside consultans only, or people whom he admires for their status, even if they tell him the same story as you. His management team consists of only yes-men. He is God and the rest are treated like a doormat.


A narcissistic boss does not express real expectations, but at the same time expects all kinds of things. Like a toddler who wants to get his way, he turns every conversation into a competition or power struggle. He interprets any reply as a personal attack. Anything that goes wrong is, of course, the employee’s fault, never his. If, on the other hand, an employee has a good idea, he’ll present it as his own idea whenever possible. In order to strengthen his position of power, he doesn’t hesitate to pair people up to compete against each other. In an environment of exclusion and bullying, the narcissist thrives best. Out of fear of being taken for a fool, he’s suspicious and controlling. Due to his enormous underlying low self confidence, his arrogant attitude is often not in line with what he says. His power display is like an empty shell. As soon as you ignore it or make your well-founded point of view clear, he doesn’t know how to compose himself and he will try to bypass you.


A narcissistic supervisor is able to make you feel completely numb, without even realizing how counterproductive his behavior is. Feelings of fear, anger, frustration and powerlessness can cause you a lot of personal stress. It is not easy to avoid this stress as you depend on your job for your income. ‘Getting on with it’ is often easier said than done. As soon as you turn away and don’t engage with the narcissist, he will resent you.

In order to keep your job, ignoring their toxic behavior is often the best solution. Do not close your eyes to real wrongdoings, because you take them home with you subconsciously. Try to keep a positive working relationship with the rest of your colleagues. Identify tasks clearly, keep up a neutral and businesslike attitude and formulate your boundaries clearly. If you decide to look for another job, keep it to yourself until that is secured. Your boss has no interest in your ambitions and will feel betrayed, with all the horrible consequences for the time you’re still there. Do adhere strictly to the statutory notice period and other contractual agreements and do not give him a reason to make your life more miserable. Only share the most necessary details about your plans and ask a reliable colleague as a reference for your next employer.

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