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5 Signs You Work For a Narcissistic Boss (+6 Ways to Survive It)

asian man sitting at his desk while being stressed out from dealing with a narcissistic boss at work


No one wants to be around a narcissistic boss, but unfortunately, they are not uncommon in the workplace. Narcissism is classified as a personality disorder. To know what a person with this personality looks like, understand that they deeply focus on their self-importance. There is a sense of entitlement and need for attention.

Some narcissists end up in managerial positions. They can make a fun job more stressful, and employees may experience mental abuse as a result. Work environments can become toxic, which makes people want to quit. You can learn to work alongside their narcissistic behavior or move on. Continue reading to learn about how you can deal with a narcissistic boss.

Signs of a Narcissistic Bossnarcissistic boss

Knowing for certain if your boss is a narcissist is not always easy. Some will appear obvious, while others are better at being subtle. There are common warning signs for you to look out for. Five red flags of a narcissistic boss at work are:

  • Being insensitive to employees. Narcissists disregard employees’ needs. They often do not show much concern for others and will be indifferent to your concerns. They are too focused on meeting their own goals. 
  • Regularly dropping name and status. Narcissists like to remind those below them of their position. A narcissistic boss will let others know what schools he/she went to or what groups he/she joined. Narcissists like to make sure that others are impressed with his or her accomplishments. 
  • Blaming others for failing. If there is one thing narcissists do not like, it is criticism. When facing criticism, they will deflect by blaming others. It is always someone else’s fault if something goes wrong. 
  • Superior/inferior interactions. Narcissists may find it hard to see others as equals. They will view people as either below or above them. As a result, their treatment of colleagues will be different. 
  • Exploiting others for their needs. Like everyone, narcissists have goals to meet. However, they tend to use others to do so. They may make you take on extra responsibilities despite what your job description says.

How to Work With a Narcissistic Boss

Avoid Conflict as Much as Possible

One of the ways you can successfully work with a narcissistic boss is to minimize conflict. Like most narcissists, they are going to create issues as a way to gain attention. After all, your manager is going to want everything centered around them. The day can go as smoothly as possible by not feeding into their efforts.

four colleagues in business attire out on a lunch break in a park

Look for ways you can prevent problems from occurring. Maybe you can divert the conversation to another topic or try to exit from it. Try to stay off their radar the best you can. It may not always be easy, but it does help reduce stress. 

Do Not Criticize Them

Criticisms can be helpful when done right. They allow for people to grow and do better the next time. However, you should avoid criticizing a narcissistic manager. It may seem counterintuitive, but giving negative feedback will only cause trouble. They are not fond of accepting criticisms about their behavior.  

Instead of taking responsibility, they are likely to blame others for any failures. Conflicts can arise, which interrupts the workflow. Arguments may occur, and they may attack your flaws. Some become passive-aggressive by handing out punishments. If you can, try to frame your criticisms in a way that is good for your manager’s image. You also can give complaints to an HR department or someone who is higher up. 

Set Boundaries

It is necessary to have boundaries in all areas of life, including work. However, narcissists often ignore those boundaries. These boundaries could involve them trying to interject themselves into a conversation you are having with a coworker.  

Your manager also may give you a bunch of responsibilities that are not listed in the job description. They may even tell you to do something that is not exactly ethical. It can be hard to reject their requests since they are in a higher position. It is important to consider what you are willing to do for your job. Hold onto your boundaries and document any violations in case you need to report for misconduct. 

Avoid Showing Vulnerability

Narcissists are no stranger to using people’s weaknesses against them. Life is all about trying to meet their own goals at the expense of others. If you want to survive at work, do not let your guard down. Avoid sharing your feelings with your manager if you suspect them to be narcissistic.  

Even if you are sharing a funny story, they may try to use it to poke at your character. Try to make sure your boss is not around when talking to a trusted coworker. Your boss will make sure to remember any flaw or moments of vulnerability and use it against you later. 

Try to Stroke Their Ego

Another way to deal with a narcissistic boss is by stroking their ego. It may not be the most favorable thing to do, but it can help to avoid conflicts. Narcissists want to be admired, so any compliment you give them will benefit you. Try to make him look good in front of his manager.  

Praising your boss will keep you on their good side, which means a less stressful day. However, make sure not to do it around coworkers. It may make them feel alienated and could affect your relationship with them. It may not feel right to compliment someone that you do not like, but it will help you in the long run. 

Find a Way to De-Stress After Work

There are going to be days that end up extremely stressful as a result of dealing with a narcissistic manager. Your mental and physical health may deteriorate if it gets to be too much. It is critical to have healthy ways to manage your frustration after work. Self-care is necessary for maintaining mental health. 

Have routines that include favorite hobbies and sleep. Sometimes, a nice walk outdoors can clear the mind. It can benefit you to have people who you can vent about your grievances. It is unlikely that a narcissistic boss will change his or her behavior, so you will need to find a routine to help you cope.

In an ideal world, no one would hire a narcissist as a manager. Unfortunately, that is not the case. That is why it is important to be able to deal with this type of person at work. You are likely to meet this type of person at some point in your life, but do not let them get you down. 

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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