How to Cope with a Narcissist Colleague?

When you come to your new work for the first time, everyone seems nice and friendly, well-mannered, and only after a while you realize that not everything is as shiny as it looked. Some coworkers play out their strange scenarios and you find yourself enmeshed in uncomfortable relations. So, how are you to cope with a narcissist colleague?

How to spot a narcissist co-worker?

Your supervisor, boss, or colleague displays narcissistic tendencies if they:

  • assume credit for what you completed
  • often speak to you and of you insincerely and maliciously
  • make fun of you before the whole office
  • should anything goes wrong lay the blame on you
  • find out your weakness and play on it
  • take steps to affect your demotion or dismissal
  • lie to draw attention to themselves
  • are ceaselessly competing with others for best performance
  • are not above gossiping wickedly about you but deny it when confronted
  • are not above a spot or two of pure sabotage
  • think up an unethical action and press you to do it
  • are envious of your successes and never congratulate you on your achievements

What they long for is dead clear: they must be recognized as the finest performers, to others’ detriment, so their coworkers just ask to be put down. It means you will be always at the receiving end. Consequently, you may need some sturdy protection. See how you can do it.

Write down everything important

Having received task instructions verbally, ask for a written copy in an email. If it comes to a confrontation later on, you will be better off having it all in writing with a stamped date. In bad cases, it can be crucial proof of your sticking to guidelines.

Alternatively, if your narcissist won’t issue his instructions in writing, make a note of them yourself to refer to when it is necessary. Save your correspondence with the person (or your notes, complete with dates) in a separate folder. Consider a possibility of using them in case of conflict when you may have to appeal to the management or even involve a lawyer to settle a contentious issue.

Try not to get engaged in fighting

It will give a great pleasure to a narcissist to take you down a few pegs, better still – get you demoted or even dismissed. It is advisable not to get involved with them. They are notorious for their ability to nose out weaknesses and jab at them. You can be sure they will know your sensitive spots and use their knowledge to put pressure on you.

You will know when they are out to draw blood, they will use your soft spots to have you flinching… unless you choose not to give them this pleasure. Remind yourself that it is a deliberate attack and refuse to get engaged in the evolving conflict. Move away. Again, make a record of the interaction and time it.

Select topics for conversation and stay with them

Be strategic – knowing that you will have to converse with your narcissistic boss/coworker, try to role-play the conversation in advance as carefully as you can. Set goals, know what result you expect and steer the discussion to your desired outcome.

The narcissist will certainly attempt to divert you into their own channels and probably flatter you into unexpected distractions. Be ready for it, concede to their points and reverse to your own points. Since there are going to be deviations, stay with two or three topics, no more.

Don’t think it’s a personal issue

It can happen that you will be chosen as the narcissist’s prime object. That would mean that you are likely to show better results or enjoy a good reputation at work, earn your colleagues’ respect.

If the narcissist marks out ones who perform better, he or she concentrates on these individuals. It doesn’t really matter who they are or what sort of person they are; the offender’s insecurity drives him to get the better of you. They may not look aggressive, but that is what they are striving to do, and you may make things easier if you know it isn’t aimed at you personally – rather at the position you occupy in the office.

Expect flattery and don’t trust it

The narcissist can hate you and admire you at the same time. Since flattery can make a good start, he or she will lay it out thick, creating out of you a prodigy of perfection they themselves would like to be. You may possess qualities and skills they would like to possess. So they employ flattery to enter a relationship.

Should they later discover that you fall short of their adoration because you are a mere human, they cannot hide their disappointment and start to bring you down? Therefore know that their flattery will inevitably lead to resentment.

Avoid sharing your opinions or personal data with the narcissist

It is the narcissist’s favorite ruse to ask around what people think of their coworkers. Such topics should be avoided, for the narcissist can’t keep ф secret and will use your opinions to drive a wedge between you and your colleagues.

Being a sensitive and attentive animal, the narcissist knows when people are going through a difficult phase. Worried about their frictions at home, people may let down their guard and tell about their problems – which information can be used in a different light later. Never open your heart, just smile and veer the conversation in another direction.

Practice detachment

Having a narcissist around, you will need the art of detachment honed to perfection. Having been jabbed at, you naturally want to say something back and let your emotions out – thereby letting the situation evolve on and on.

But if you let it go on, further things can be said that will leave you even worse off than before. So don’t expect to elicit apology or other emotional compensation – you are highly unlikely to get those. Moreover, if they are experts and possess devilish cunning, they can steer the situation to your having to apologize for something that was brought up unexpectedly.

The good idea is to look on them as mentally deficient individuals who play their unnatural games in a futile attempt to establish empathy or feed their egos and the need to dominate. Having achieved emotional detachment you can pull through all the interactivity without losing your cool or impairing your reputation.

Arrange for a witness

The narcissist coworker is sure to ask you for a chance to speak privately, believing that you will open up more easily this way. Minding this reason, refuse or arrange to have another person present, smothering the narcissist’s worst intentions.

The narcissist feels free to disseminate untruths about what you said later on, but with a witness present it either won’t happen or you will have somebody to disprove the narcissist’s claims about you.

Minimize contact and keep away

The narcissist casts a net around, and it’s up to you to avoid the tenets. Give these people a wide berth. If it is inconvenient – like they occupy the next working place – limit socializing to bare work information. You may even want to ask to be moved off to another working place. In order to arrange for this in the most appropriate way, lay the facts before a lawyer and ask him how to effect this best.

In most cases, your boss is concerned with maintaining decent work conditions for you and will go along with your wishes, but you should better learn about your rights in case an argument breaks out.