The signs of a narcissistic boss can be challenging to identify. The term narcissist really is a clinical description relating to a type of personality disorder. Far too often people in the workplace will label someone generally as a narcissist. However, there can be a fine line between someone that is self-confident, arrogant, and a true narcissist.
A boss or manager with a label as a narcissist may or may not truly be one. Describing someone as a self-absorbed narcissist is often in the eye of the beholder. Although the term narcissist is really a medical definition for a type of disorder, it would be hard to deny that a person given this label would likely be anything but an asshole.
Working for someone that is a narcissist can be toxic. For this reason, it is important to identify the signs of a narcissistic boss. The decision to stay with an employer that allows terrible behavior can be a difficult one. There are some ways to deal with narcissistic people in the workplace. Yet, the stress will likely take its toll over time.
It can be easy to believe a narcissistic boss will eventually leave or get fired, but this is generally not the case. The truth is some organizations encourage narcissistic behavior while others simply might just ignore the problems associated with it.
What is a narcissist?
To understand if your boss or manager is truly a narcissist it is important to recognize the true definition. According to the Mayo Clinic, a narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance. Based on this description alone it can be easy to see how several people in numerous workplaces receive a narcissist label. The Mayo Clinic definition of a narcissist goes on to say these people often have symptoms that might include:
- A sense of entitlement
- Exaggeration of achievements and talents
- These people take advantage of others to get what they want
- Behave in an arrogant manner
- Have an expectation to be recognized as superior
The symptoms I listed for narcissistic behavior are not all of them. However, with just this short list do these traits sound like they might belong to someone you work for?
Many behavior experts will say that labeling a boss simply as narcissistic because they might be just generally an asshole is not correct. However, I would have to disagree. Most people in the workplace that are assholes generally do have traits of a true narcissist.
A narcissistic boss or manager might be seen as confident or assertive. But the true definition is really in the eye of the beholder without the person clinically defined as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The problem with knowing if your boss is truly a narcissist is most of these people do not seek help due to their feeling of being superior over everyone else.
Although truly knowing if your boss or manager is indeed a narcissist is almost impossible to know, there are clues that can tell you if it is likely. Either way, if your boss or manager has a lot of the traits of a narcissist, you will want to know and likely want to break free from the toxic environment.
What are the signs your boss might just truly be narcissistic?
Must be the center of attention
A narcissist person in the workplace is one that will like to hear themselves talk. They like to be dominant in meetings and presentations. The classic steam roller mentality of pushing other people over to control the conversation. If your boss or manager tends to talk so much that you can hardly ever get a word of your own spoken, this is a significant trait of the classic narcissist in the workplace.
Thoughtless and inconsiderate of employees
Chances are you have worked for someone that could just care less about the employees they manage. This type of boss is one that never seems to listen to what other people are telling them. A narcissistic boss could care less if you don’t feel well. Their attitude is typically one of, “I could care less about your or your problems.” Not only is the narcissist with this type of behavior vile to work for, but it can also be quite stressful. The “do your job and shut up” attitude can make any workplace miserable.
Exploitation of employees
Narcissistic managers in the workplace have no problem exploiting the people they can around them. This most often includes the workers that report to them. It might also consist of just anyone they can manipulate and abuse. Co-workers and even higher reports are all fair game.
It is not uncommon for a narcissistic boss to have someone under them do parts of their job without compensating them for it. Some managers might define this as delegating authority. This sometimes might be the case. However, it often is not. A narcissist will use power and authority to their advantage. If your boss never seems to be working too hard and you are doing a lot of the things they should be, this is a problem.
Stealing ideas and not giving credit for work
The narcissistic boss will often steal ideas and take credit for another person’s work. They will have a very hard time giving credit to people that might deserve some recognition for a job well done. If you come up with an idea at work and all of a sudden your boss claims it as their own, this is a sign of a narcissist.
Rules and ethics have no boundaries
Often the foundation of a classic narcissist is someone that feels a sense of entitlement. For this reason, a narcissistic boss will not believe they have to follow the rules. Furthermore, ethical standards might not even exist. The narcissist almost always will take any shortcuts to achieve and manipulate the situation to their favor.
If your boss or manager at work doesn’t appear to pay attention to rules and ethics, it is extremely important that you pay very close attention. A true narcissist many times believes they are even above any laws. This opens the opportunity for them to commit a crime at work or be involved in a scheme of some kind. Being unethical and committing fraud would not be a stretch for a true narcissist personality.
The narcissist doesn’t take criticism well
A true narcissist will not like criticism from others. Constructive criticism can be good in the workplace. This even includes providing feedback to a direct report. If you work for someone that you are never able to criticize or speak openly with, this is a bad sign of working for a narcissist.
The narcissist will not only not take to criticism very well. But they will also often try and manipulate negative comments directed at them and turn it around on the person providing the feedback.
I am superior
The narcissistic boss will not have much care for other people other than themselves. They will come across with a mentality of everyone else is stupid and they are better than anyone in an organization. It will be challenging for this type of person to relate to anyone else at work or just generally in life. The narcissist only cares about one person and that is themselves. They are selfish and will use anything at their discretion to achieve their own goals. Any people or co-workers in the way they will try to manipulate and use to their advantage.
Why do companies employ narcissistic people?
I have often wondered why so many businesses decide to keep people in management positions that might not be good leaders or just plainly respectable people. Far too often someone truly narcissistic is mistaken for having leadership qualities. They are many times labeled as simply confident or a type “A” personality.
Narcissists like to rule
People that have traits of narcissism can be toxic to an organization. Although sometimes they are put in positions that are described as a leadership role, these managers are almost always not true leaders. They are only managers that manage and give orders. This is one reason why managers are rarely leaders.
If there is one thing a narcissistic boss can do well, it is to give orders to the people that work for them. Companies that want to control their employees and manage by fear will welcome a person with a narcissistic personality.
Performance will keep a toxic narcissist employed
A boss that is a narcissist with a record of good performance is often difficult to let go of. More often a company will even overlook problems with someone that might be a narcissist simply due to a good history of performance.
Narcissistic managers that can get their employees to perform at a high level on a continual basis are many times kept employed. This is even at the cost of creating a toxic work environment. If a company can get every ounce of work out of the people they employ, this often equals a high level of profitability. It will not almost always matter to the people in charge of a company if the profitability comes from an employee that might not be completely desirable.
For careers that are in sales, someone with a narcissistic personality that performs well is likely rarely let go. This can even come at the cost of a salesperson that might be unethical or border on the line of conducting legal business. This is a danger many organizations either fail to recognize completely or turn a blind eye until something happens.
Is your boss a narcissist and should you stay with your employer?
The truth is you never will truly probably know if your boss is an actual narcissist. This would take a clinical diagnosis by a professional. However, you will know if your boss has the traits of a narcissist. This alone is enough to make a workplace undesirable.
There are mental health experts that will outline methods to work with a person that has a narcissist personality. Yet, staying with a company and working for someone that believes they are superior in every way to anyone else in existence is probably not a healthy environment to remain in. It shouldn’t matter if a boss or manager is a true narcissist. If a person contains most of the traits of a true narcissist, they are likely at the very least just an asshole.
A person’s salary, stage of their career, or additional factors can be a barrier to making the decision to stay working for someone that has a narcissistic personality. However, the decision to leave should not be taken lightly. Working for an asshole and someone with narcissistic traits can ruin a person’s confidence. Furthermore, it can train wreck a career working for someone that enjoys manipulating other people for their own benefit.
Don’t stay in a toxic environment
Although some experts have come up with ideas to work with a narcissist person, I would argue against this in most situations. If you currently work for someone that is a terrible person with traits of narcissism, don’t delay the decision to leave. You might be waiting for your boss to leave on their own or get fired, but it might never happen. This is particularly the case with someone that performs well on the job. If your narcissistic boss has a direct impact on revenue, they might only get a promotion at some point in time making a situation much worse.
Staying employed and working under someone that might be narcissistic will drain the life out of you. The stress will only increase the longer you stay and the person might even sabotage your chances for future employment.