Perusing social media and consuming the content today’s content creators are putting out, it seems like “narcissist” is quite the buzzword these days. Everyone seems to know a narcissist, has dated a narcissist, or has come to a strong conclusion as to which celebrities or politicians are narcissists and which are not. And what about the bosses? I suspect more than a fair share of bosses are narcissists. Is your boss a narcissist?
In this short article, we’re going to take a closer look at what exactly is a narcissist, what are some of the behavioral traits that we can expect from a narcissist, and how should we best interact with them. We’ll also take a look at signs you work for a narcissistic boss and what you can do about it.
What Exactly Is a Narcissist?
As is the case with nearly all words, to get a clear understanding of what they mean we have to have a clear understanding of what the speaker’s (or writer’s) intent is. Tone and context are everything.
In Medical Parlance
In the medical community – or more precisely in the psychology community – narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder designates a chronic exaggerated sense of self-importance which manifests itself in a number of ways, not the least of which is the recurring tendency to disregard and/or put down others.
In Layman’s Terms
For the non-medical person, the term narcissist is meant as an insult to describe someone who demonstrates an overbearing preoccupation or admiration for him or herself.
A Brief History of the Word
We can trace the history of the word narcissist back to the first century AD, in a poem by Roman poet Ovid. In his tale of Narcissus and Echo, the male protagonist Narcissus rejects the advances of the nymph Echo. He is then punished by the gods who make him fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Since the reflection cannot love him back, he dies a miserable lovestruck fool.
How Does a Narcissistic Boss Behave?
Narcissism can affect people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. Therefore, it is not the primary source for determining someone’s behavior. A certain narcissist could act one way while another narcissist acts in the complete opposite way. However, given that a narcissist is defined by an exaggerated sense of self-worth and preoccupation or admiration with oneself, there are a few characteristics and behaviors that will invariably accompany such a predilection.
Rubber and Glue
The narcissist is rubber, and anyone around them is glue. No blame or culpability sticks to them. It always sticks to those who had the misfortune of being in his or her proximity.
There Are No Equals
To the narcissist, the concept of being someone’s peer is too alien for them to grasp. Instead, they see relations between people in a much more binary way – one person is always above the other. One is superior, the other is their subordinate.
Obsession With Status
The narcissist is always seeking to validate his or her worth by appealing to shallow social constructs. They will often name-drop or talk about things from a very materialistic point of view (what fancy location is what made in, what fancy placed it was purchased, and how much it cost).
How You Don’t Want to Act With a Narcissist
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Confronting someone who is acting out of line and then either correcting their behavior or putting them in their place can be quite satisfying – and it can be quite helpful too, sometimes. However, when you are dealing with a narcissist, you will never know such satisfaction from them. The narcissist will never admit he or she is wrong. They will never admit defeat. And they will never concede.
If your intent is to change the behavior or make the narcissist feel shame or remorse, you will fail in your endeavor every time.
If you work for a narcissistic boss, it’s not as if you are powerless in the situation, though. There are things to try before quitting your job such as, asking another superior to be transferred or applying for another position within the same company (but in a different department with a different boss, of course).
But any attempt to confront him or her or challenge them in any way will likely escalate quickly and to exaggerated heights. The narcissist always seems to be a magnet for drama. And they never make any attempts to de-escalate a dramatic situation.
Tell-Tale Signs Your Boss Is a Narcissist
One good thing a narcissistic boss brings to the workplace (and even saying there is one good thing they bring to the workplace might be a bit of a stretch) is that they can provide workers with the opportunity to place Narcissistic Boss Bingo! Use the following to make up your team’s narcissistic boss bingo cards:
- Laughs at their own joke
- Puts someone down and tries to play it off as a joke
- Interrupts or talks over someone at a meeting
- Mentions how much money they spent on something
- Criticizes someone else’s appearance
- Exhibits an unexpected burst of anger or frustration
- Takes something very personally that clearly has nothing or little to do with them
- Criticizes someone in front of others for show
- Reminds someone of a past great achievement (even when it has nothing to do with the current conversation)
The Bottom Line
If you feel your boss is a narcissist then that means that your boss is a narcissist. the definition of the term is too wide to call into question someone’s feelings about someone else. If your boss is actively trying to make you feel bad so that he or she can be exalted, you are unlikely to find a pleasant, enriching, and rewarding experience at your current job.