A Google search of “narcisstic boss” will turn up more than 3,000 entries. From the first page of links, we might quickly conclude that the world, or at least the corporate world, is filled with people with significant personality disorders. In a transcribed broadcast, Dr. Jeffrey Young, psychologist and author of “Reinventing your Life”, explains that most of us display a level of “healthy” narcissism. As he describes it, having a basic sense of self; for example, being proud of accomplishments, not letting others cut in front of you. Unhealthy narcissism moves from a sense of self to a sense of entitlement, a belief in being special, immunity to self-doubt, and most distinguishing a complete lack of empathy. The narcissist believes that he or she should have whatever is wanted, regardless of the feelings of others.
What then makes discussion about narcissism in the workplace such a popular topic? The narcissist presents to the world a facade of charm, ego and confidence. When combined with some level of capability, these personalities succeed by having (forcing?) others into service in support of their dream.
Regardless of the source you read, the strategies for dealing with a narcisstic boss are few; namely cooperate and comply. Any attempt to challenge, suggest that “you should” or “you don’t know”, will cause the boss to retaliate – the issue will prove to be your fault or responsibility. Find ways to support or acknowledge the areas that most matter to him or her. Never forget that the narcissistic is skilled actor and will use charm to bring you in; don’t be fooled. Any attempt on your part to create intimacy will be ridiculed; it implies you are an equal. Finally, recognize that most organizations tolerate the narcissist. If you can’t, then spend your energy on finding another opportunity, not in fighting a losing battle.