How to Deal With Narcissists in the Workplace

To a workplace narcissist, the spotlight is the place to be.

To a workplace narcissist, the spotlight is the place to be.

According to a Greek myth, a beautiful hunter named Narcissus met an untimely death when he became infatuated with his reflection in a river and refused to gaze away, even to eat. And so the label of "narcissist" was born. In the workplace, a narcissist’s self-obsession may not manifest itself in a preoccupation with appearance but instead in an inflated sense of value to the business. If you can picture some I-am-already-perfect worker in your head when reading this description, you likely have a workplace narcissist on your hands. While there are worse things you could have to deal with than a narcissist, if left unchecked, this person can be a cancer within your business, leading to employee discord and a drop in productivity. Instead of allowing these ills to befall your business, put little-miss-I-think-I’m-perfect in check effectively and diplomatically.

Stop worrying about who gets credit. One of the hallmarks of a workplace narcissist is that she will take credit for anything good suggests Dr. Rob Kaiser of Kaplan DeVries, Inc. You could let this annoy you, or you could just take it with a grain of salt. If the narcissist tries to take credit you deserve, the best bet is often to simply allow her to take it unless doing so will be detrimental to you and your career. In instances where a narcissist’s credit taking does threating your career standing, share your involvement in the process with the higher ups at a later date when the narcissist isn’t in audience. If you are in a position of power and worried a narcissist's credit-taking will hurt your employee’s morale, take away the opportunity for her to steal the spotlight by sending out a memo or email thanking all involved by name.

Provide regular, detailed feedback. One of the biggest challenges associated with working with a narcissist is dealing with the fact that she may see herself as having no need to improve, suggests Ben Dattner, PhD of Dattner Consulting, LLC. For your organization to thrive, everyone needs to be willing to put some effort into better themselves. To ensure that your narcissist’s delusions of grandeur don’t leave her failing to work towards self-improvement, provide job performance feedback that is fair, detailed and reflective of the fact that she is not yet perfect despite her opinion to the contrary.

Hand out feedback with care. Because the feedback you give may not jive with the narcissist’s own view of herself as perfect, you should be careful when giving it out. As Professor Keith Campbell, author of “The Narcissism Epidemic” warns, narcissists can be exceptionally reactive when receiving feedback. To avoid a headache, start your feedback process by praising the employee before moving on to growth areas. Also exercise care when talking about errors, avoiding anything that could be seen as placing the blame on the narcissist, for if she sees you as calling her at fault she will likely shut down and become unreceptive.

Document any rule-breaking behavior. While much of what a narcissist does is more annoying than against the rules, if your narcissist is engaging in activity that violates company code of conduct don’t allow your worry over her potential narcissistic fit to prevent you from documenting and dealing with the problems. Keep a running record of any such misbehaviors you witness or others report and hand out sanctions appropriately. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of alienating your other employees and making them loathe their job.

 

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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