How to Deal with a Narcissistic Boss

Are you interested in how to deal with a narcissistic boss? Then this guide is for you!

Work is challenging enough without a narcissistic boss.

If your boss is a narcissist, your workplace will be more stressful and contain more potentially unpleasant or explosive situations.

What are some of the things you can do to protect yourself and stay productive?

1) Document everything

When it suits them, narcissists rewrite the past.

They use exaggerations and lies to win an argument, advance their interests, and defend themselves against any perceived personal attack.

For example, it may be in your boss’s interest to discredit your contributions to a project. Try to maintain a detailed record of what you’ve accomplished.

Keep these written communications if your boss previously praised you via email or wrote a glowing performance review.

Concrete proof of meaningful work and positive feedback is important.

Even if you can’t get your boss to give you credit, you can use the proof when trying to convince someone else that you’re doing well at your job.

Maybe the evidence of your accomplishments will help you get transferred to a different department or increase your chances of getting hired by another company.

Documenting your activities also helps against unfair or malicious accusations. If your boss tries to pin a mistake on you, the documents and other evidence you’ve kept may help protect you.

Keep records of your activities and the hours you’ve worked. If you volunteer to perform a new task, write up the details of your new responsibilities.

Proper documentation can also further your work goals. If your boss promises to assist you somehow, don’t count on spoken agreements.

If you need their assistance, try to obtain the promise in writing tactfully.

For example, you can follow up on a conversation by email, thanking your boss for the specific help they’ve offered.

2) Don’t speak openly at work

Being cautious about your speech is important in any workplace. You need to be even more on your guard with a narcissistic boss.

Before you complain about an assignment or make a negative comment about your boss, consider who’s listening. Some of your colleagues may act as informants.

Your boss may have encouraged them to report insults and other negativity. If a careless remark goes back to your boss, you may become an enemy, someone to hinder and take down.

When speaking to colleagues, stick to light and neutral topics. Don’t share unnecessary information about yourself.

For example, if you’re struggling with a medical issue, you don’t necessarily want your boss to find out and use that information against you.

As much as possible, refrain from making critical remarks. Don’t make your comments harsh or personal if you need to point out an error or suggest an improvement to a project.

Keep them dry and focused on the relevant facts. Try to balance your critical remarks by pointing out the good quality in work.

Avoid commenting on your boss’s attributes.

Resist pressure from colleagues to make jokes or unflattering comments about your boss’s sense of style, obnoxious voice, embarrassing personal affairs, or other loaded topics.

Similarly, don’t make harsh comments about other people in the workplace. Without forcing yourself to be cheerful or bubbly, you can project an attitude of low-key positivity.

3) Give your boss sincere positive feedback

A narcissistic boss doesn’t necessarily get everything wrong. Maybe they come up with good ideas, demonstrate competence, and give you useful advice.

Although you don’t have to flatter your boss, you can sometimes thank them sincerely or give them positive and truthful feedback.

For example, if some advice your boss gave you helped you finish an assignment more quickly, you can let them know, especially if they ask.

Narcissists typically enjoy hearing positive remarks about themselves.

You may dislike your boss and feel resistance towards saying anything nice to them. Your feelings are understandable.

You can try to focus on what’s best for you. You don’t have to give sincere positive feedback because you like your boss.

You can do it because it helps create a better work environment.

If you keep your feedback specific and truthful, you can also meet your standards for integrity. You don’t have to lie or perform an elaborate gratitude performance.

You were merely thanking your boss for something, or pointing out what helped you can be enough.

4) Show your boss that you can help them look good

Let’s say your boss asks for your opinion about one of their plans. Maybe it’s a ludicrous plan. It’s poorly developed and unrealistic.

However, you can’t be too blunt, especially when your boss is narcissistic. Narcissistic people are usually deeply defensive about criticism and take it as a personal attack.

How can you share your opinion without trigging a defensive reaction?

Along with keeping criticism dry, specific, and factual, try to give your boss the impression that you’re working with them and not against them.

You aren’t questioning their abilities or mocking them. Instead, the feedback you’re offering is for their benefit. You want them to succeed and maintain a good reputation.

Even if you don’t care about them, you can still give your boss the idea that working with you benefits them. Narcissists are concerned about how they appear.

They’re extremely sensitive to looking ridiculous or stupid.

You can tell your boss that a certain plan change will make the department look better.

Or you can tell them that making one decision instead of another will more strongly highlight their leadership abilities.

They may be more receptive to your feedback if they believe you’re trying to build them up.

Another potential problem is when your boss sees you as a competition. Narcissists don’t like it when other people outshine them.

If your achievements become too dazzling, your boss may become upset with you.

They may look for ways to take credit for your work or undermine you completely.

Giving your boss the impression that they’ll benefit from your success may help. If it seems that your excellent performance reflects well on them, they may be less likely to attack you. Instead, they may treat you as a kind of trophy.

5) Don’t call too much attention to yourself

The danger of getting too much attention from a narcissist is that you may be subject to their interference, unpleasant feelings, and arbitrary decisions.

Even if you’re generally on good terms with your boss, there’s no reason to call excessive attention to yourself.

To get along with them, you want them to perceive you as both helpful and not particularly interesting.

The best approach is to remain polite and productive. You generate good work, you’re pleasant, and you’re reliable. Don’t boast about your abilities. Don’t joke around a lot.

Also, try not to talk too much to your boss.

You sometimes need to meet with them and give and receive feedback. But try not to hang around them on other occasions.

6) Don’t do things that will injure you professionally or personally

Because narcissists push boundaries, it’s possible your boss will make demands that are unreasonable or harmful.

Maybe they’ll ask you to do something that violates company policy or even breaks the law. They may request that you look through a colleague’s desk, forge a signature, or hide certain monetary transactions.

Avoid helping your boss in any way that can harm you. Along with the hurt you’ll inflict on yourself and your conscience, you’ll also face a risk of punishment and loss of reputation.

Your boss won’t hesitate to deny involvement and leave you to absorb the damage.

Even if your boss is asking for something that seems inconsequential, consider the broader implications. Remember that criminal fraud, for example, can involve small amounts and minor deeds.

If your boss makes an unethical request, turn them down politely. Don’t aggressively accuse them of wrongdoing.

In some cases, you may need to seek legal counsel or the help of the police quietly. In other cases, it’s enough not to get involved.

You may be concerned that your boss will retaliate against you for turning down their request. Keep a record of what they asked you to do, and remain on your guard.

Check that they aren’t interfering with your workspace or attempting other methods of sabotage.

7) Discreetly look for other positions

Ask yourself how long you’re willing to work with a narcissistic boss. If it’s a short-term job that can help you advance in your career, you may be able to accept your work conditions.

You can look forward to better things soon.

If it’s a long-term position, evaluate your experience, and ask yourself what you’re willing to put up with. A workplace with a narcissistic boss often becomes toxic.

Your boss may be failing in key ways as a leader and manager. Some of your colleagues may also be engaging in terrible behavior in this environment.

Sometimes, you may need to meet with an employment lawyer before leaving your workplace. However, it’s possible that your switch to a new job will go smoothly.

Your narcissistic boss may even wind up serving as a decent reference. To feel even more secure, try to give yourself a backup.

Consider if there are other people at your workplace who can also act as references. Your boss may not be your only supervisor.

You may have received mentoring and supervision from someone else.

Regardless of where you go next, your narcissistic boss may give you feedback on your work and personal qualities.

Take what they say with a grain of salt. Some of their words may be helpful but don’t let them define you and the possibilities in your life.

Their assessment of you may be shallow, incomplete, or motivated by negative feelings. You don’t need to accept everything they say.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

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