Look for these signs to see if your boss is a narcissist.
Most people can relate to being in a job and having a boss who is a difficult person. This is just part of working in organisations where there are different people and personalities.
But does your boss seem to be off the charts when it comes to emotional reactivity, disrespect for others, blame, criticism and the expression of anger or rage?
If so, it’s possible your boss is a narcissist.
Narcissism refers to a personality style, and in more serious cases, a personality disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It’s characterised by a number of behaviours that are ultimately destructive to the narcissist and the people around them.
How do you know if your boss is a narcissist?
There are a number of behaviours that can indicate your boss is a narcissist. These include:
1. Your boss treats employees like they are dispensable
A narcissistic boss will use people for his own gain and then discard them when he is finished.
In order to achieve his goals or desired outcomes, he will treat staff and suppliers badly and tend to be highly critical and blaming when things don’t work out.
The more extreme type of narcissists can even exploit fellow workers by bad-mouthing them or manipulating others in their climb up the corporate ladder.
What’s interesting is your boss is genuinely surprised when their staff or suppliers leave. They often have no idea why people don’t stay.
2. Your boss uses fear and threats to motivate people to work
You will often feel like you’re walking on eggshells if you have a narcissistic boss because they motivate with fear and threats.
Her emotions are often unstable. She might be happy and amiable one minute, and then suddenly fly into anger or a rage at an employee the next minute.
The narcissistic boss has an inflated sense of self and views her staff to be there to always meet her needs and expectations.
If you let her down in any way, you’re in trouble! As soon as your boss is disappointed, she will criticise, blame and confront you.
3. Your boss is obsessed with controlling all outcomes
A narcissistic boss will be fixated on controlling all outcomes. This will include micro-managing, taking over projects when they think they are not going well or needing to know every aspect of what their employee is doing in a project.
The narcissistic boss is terrified of losing control and will not think twice about cutting off and firing a staff member who is not agreeing with his point of view on the spot. There is no remorse, apologies or responsibility taken for his part of the problem.
These workplaces often have an undercurrent of fear because the employees have seen other staff members thrown out at a moment’s notice and fear the same could happen to them.
4. Your boss has little empathy for her staff
A narcissistic boss has little to no ability to feel empathy for others. Due to her inflated sense of self-importance, the feelings of others are not something that your narcissistic boss is concerned with.
Empathy is essential for building healthy relationships. Because the narcissistic boss has such a difficulty with empathy, she will be constantly burning bridges and destroying relationships.
She has a high staff turnover and can’t retain accomplished and creative staff. She will go through lots of contractors and suppliers because they are not willing to put up with the criticism and abuse.
The bottom line for any narcissist is they struggle to form any long-lasting relationships because they treat people badly.
5. Your boss rarely takes responsibility for his errors
The narcissistic boss protects his vulnerability and fragility with layers of defences. He can rarely admit he’s wrong or has made a mistake.
He will almost always blame others for things going wrong. In fact, blame and criticism of others is often the first line of defence when there are problems. Gaslighting can also be a common strategy used by your boss when they want to shift the blame to someone else.
Fall-outs with staff members can sometimes be dramatic or explosive with the narcissist engaging in attacks and recriminations against you and others, sometimes in public settings. Many narcissistic bosses have not only terminated staff members, but have also fallen out with friends and family members across many years.
It’s just too painful for most people to be around a narcissistic personality because of the high levels of criticism and blame, so people keep leaving them.
How do you deal with a narcissistic boss?
The simple solution is flattery. Narcissists will often surround themselves with ‘yes men’ and people pleasers because they love to have their ego constantly stroked and affirmed and they only want to hear positive things about themselves.
Even if you need to give negative feedback to your boss, or talk about a problem, you will be okay if you can do it in a way where your boss feels important and valued. As long as you find a way to compliment and flatter your narcissistic boss you will do well.
But beware, if you challenge your boss or become oppositional to what they think or want, watch out! When your boss moves into narcissistic rage, you will quickly become a casualty and your job will likely be terminated.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.