If we haven’t had to work for one, we’ve seen others who have. It’s the boss who thinks their team is working for them instead of the company. I’ve seen such high levels of narcissism where a boss has specifically told people that they didn’t care what the company policies say or what the mission statement is. The order was simple: “I’m the boss and you’ll do as I say.”
It can be very difficult to deal with a narcissistic boss. Difficult, but not impossible. Here’s how I’ve worked on coping with this situation in the past and the insights I’ve gleaned from those experiences.
#1. Take care of yourself first. I’ve found that the first thing which tends to disappear when I’m around a boss that is narcissistic is my self-esteem. Without confidence, the narcissism you see every day will wear you down and eventually conquer you. Find an outlet outside of work that can help you deal with these difficult emotions. I’ve found this can really add to my resilience so I don’t end up losing myself in the stresses of the day.
#2. Cater to the ego. Until you find a new place to work, you’ll have to deal with the narcissism on a daily basis. Sometimes I’ve found the best way to handle that is to feed the ego. You don’t necessarily need to be come a “Yes” person, but a little flattery will take you a long way. Narcissists are good at smelling out a pretender, so look for something that you authentically admire and offer that as a compliment.
#3. Take the best out of what you see. I’ve discovered that everyone has moments of perfection which hover around them – even narcissistic bosses. Observe them. See the good things that they do. Find the best and then do your best to emulate it. Communication and vision tend to be two strengths of these bosses in particular, and those attributes are something worth developing within yourself.
#4. Be careful about challenges. Criticism is something a narcissistic boss will never accept. I’ve seen this time and time again. Even a simple challenge, like offering a sandwich for lunch when the boss wants pasta, can be enough to give you a 3 week headache. Remember this: your boss cares about what is good for them. They couldn’t care less about what affects the company unless it’s something that will boost their power, money, or influence.
#5. Avoid the gossip. I’ve seen narcissistic bosses stay at the office for 12 hours every day just to make sure there isn’t anything bad being said about them. Narcissism encourages paranoia, so even if you have the appearance of gossiping about the boss, this perception will become a reality and make your professional life difficult.
Ultimately you’ll need to determine if working for this boss is the right decision for you. Sometimes you can put up with the narcissism, but sometimes it can send you home angry every day and affect every other aspect of life. If you don’t love what you do, then trust me – make a healthy choice and consider leaving. There might be uncertainty at first, but eventually you can find a job… and a boss that you love.