Podcast Episode 17: The survivor’s guide to the office narcissist


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Working with a narcissist can be really challenging on your mindset and your productivity. In this episode discover: 

  • How to spot a narcissist
  • How they get triggered
  • Why they are so damaging to you and your performance
  • How to respond to the narcissist

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Mentioned on the show:
 
Lisa Romano, relationship coach who specialize in narcissism. 

Karlyn Borysenko, Zen at work book


Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

Read the Transcript
Hey All,

I am happy you are joining me today. I heard from a lot of you in this past week that last week’s podcast on how to reduce anxiety and ease into workplace re-entry after all of you have been working remotely for so long was really helpful. I even had a few people tell me that some of the tips in there could be used for re-entry after maternity and parental leave. I love it.
 
So thank you for the emails, texts and feedback on this podcast. I love hearing from you and I love even more that you’ve told me the content is helpful and you are relating to the podcast. It’s why I do it.
 
I want to help and share experiences. So we can process our own experience and learn from others who have been there. So we can manage our mindset, increase our  visibility, and up level our careers. 
 
So this brings me to day’s topic.
 
It’s rarely talked about for fear of retaliation. 
 
It’s the office narcissist. Sometimes they are a bully too, but they are not always. These personalities can be some of the hardest challenges to deal with in the workplace.
 
Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

The person whose self-belief exceeds their abilities, who thinks they are better than, or more superior to those on the team, the person belittles their colleagues, and considers themselves so special and unique, they are infuriated when others fail to recognize their talents. They think the same rules don’t apply to them. 
 
Why are narcissists so damaging? Their personality traits and communication style can be a blow to your self-esteem, lead to confidence issues because you are continually question and doubt yourself.
 
They are skilled communicators and very creative. We like them at first. They are motivating and are often found in leaderships positions because they have an ability to attract and inspire people. They often have groupies who have fear pumping through their veins.
 
They do their most significant damage to those around them, over time. You don’t see the slights or the issues at first but you are definitely confused by them. You give them the benefit of the doubt.
 
When you are in the narcissist’s good graces, you can feel special, because these narcissists create a sense of an exclusive community. I had a narcissist boss tell me “you’ve know made it to the inner club, and you’ll see how things really work here. Welcome to the team.” I had worked hard to get there so I was thrilled to be finally recognized for my contribution.
 
When I think back, I absolutely loved her, she was brilliant, truly, magnetic, smart, and I was so excited when she asked me to join her team. She was charming and we had big plans for what we were going to do together. I was excited for what was possible.
 
Within a week, I went from excited to anxious. I started to see the inside of the department. It was a total house of cards. She was petty and insecure if anyone received a compliment from the other partner. She made sure everyone knew that it was because of her that she shined.
 
At any given time she was talking about her credentials, where she went to school, why she, and only she was uniquely qualified. I knew more about her wins post-college then she knew about what I was currently working on.
She was about 60.
 
It wasn’t as charismatic and inspiring as it first seemed.
 
It took about 6 months of working closely with her and seeing her day to day to realize that something was amiss.
 
Every morning I’d come into work and see the light blinking on my phone. She would call me at 7AM to rant into my voicemail telling me she didn’t want the team to think. That they should just do exactly as she says. Later she would scream why doesn’t anyone use their brain?
 
There was always someone to blame. But it was NEVER her. I tend to find the humor in most things and I’ve come to realize that at times it was a coping mechanism. Humor helped me push down how I was really feeling about it –anxious and stressed. The outburst could come at any moment. Thankfully, she wasn’t always directing her crazy making at me but I received my fair share

Something was very wrong with the situation and I began to realize that I was working for a narcissist.
 
Studies show that anywhere from 40-90% of people have experienced narcissists or workplace bullies, or they’ve seen others go through it. The range is so wide because it’s usually not reported. Many employees wont go to HR because they fear they will be targeted by both the narcissist and HR.
 
A Narcissist tends to get triggered when you stop admiring them, you ask questions, and or you stop feeding their ego. They now believe you are a threat, and they will write you off quickly or they will kill you softly by destroying your professional reputation.
 
Narcissist has a masters degree in gaslighting. They are super passive aggressive, they will say a veiled remark and you’ll wonder where that came from? Because you thought you guys were ok. You’ll wonder what you did to offend.
 
They are unreliable and will not deliver even if they promise too.
  
Everything is about controlling people. You are just a pawn in their world.
 
The Narcissist loves to see you sweat. They will never be clear, rarely put the direction in writing. I worked with a narcissist who was responsible for writing and designing our business development collateral. Then he wouldn’t share the document with you. He’d promise you the documents and they’d never be delivered. Then the day before your meeting he’d cut and paste a paragraph into email and say he didn’t have time. Days later you’d be in a meeting where he was leading and he’d have this gorgeously designed presentation. 
 
They are charming and magnetic at first. They will butter you so that you get on their team.
Narcissists use and discard people. They will win you over by showering you
with compliments and opportunities for you so that they can gain your loyalty. Be
friendly but resist becoming friends with them and avoid telling them anything
that would make you vulnerable. You’ll see their true personality when they are
under stress. 
  
They talk big. A big game.
They will tell you about how they leapt tall buildings in a single bound, how
they broke records, had the most amazing experiences, They won’t ask you
questions about yourself and if you attempt to engage and share your
experiences, they will ignore what you’ve shared or they will get ampt up, and
take it as a threat. You can not shine when they are around. If you do, you
will be met with displeasure or they’ll tell everyone it’s because of what THEY
did that got you the acknowledgement. They are the reference point for all good
things that happen. 
 
They will never give anyone else credit. They may let a small compliment slip out but
it’s only to keep you on their leash. Don’t challenge them as they are on a
roll. While you may want puke a little, just let it go or you’ll find yourself
the target of their ayre. I remember a senior leader sitting down once and tell
me that my boss’s shadow is so big I will never see the sun. That I should get
rotated now or I will wilt on the vine and then be discarded. 
 
They will never talk about a failure. Ok, you say, who wants to talk about a failure. But mistakes and failures happen and they are not a big deal. Some of my biggest failures are quite funny now.
 
They will tell you have they the best connections and they will drop names. It’s to show they are influential and it’s also a threat.

They want to be the center of attention and If they find out you too have
connections you become a threat. 
  
They turn up the expertise offensive when their peers, or executive leadership is
nearby. Very often they are in the higher ranks of the company. They may also
be leaders because so often when someone is at that level there are less peers
and checks and balances so the behavior often continues. 
 
So what do you do about it? Most clients tell me they won’t go to HR. What tends to happen is that HR doesn’t know how to manage it. The Narcissist is smart. They couldn’t get away with this behavior unless they were very talented. Leadership and HR struggle with what to do, because it’s hard to put your finger on the behavior unless there’s a big infraction. Keep records. Document everything. Save screen shots and text messages. If possible forward any egregious emails to your personal account so you have them for protection.
 
But here are some tips for dealing with it until you figure out what’s best for you.

1) As stressful or as scary as it is, you have to stand up to it and respond with the facts. Only the facts. Separate story from fact and respond to the facts. Not the tone, or the perception and don’t pile on or go global on how many times this has happened. Just respond to the facts of the exchange.

So when an exchange happens that is threatening you can decide what to do. You can excuse yourself and suggest you finish this up later when you are both in a better headspace.

You can follow up to the crazy-making behavior with an email that states the facts and not the drama.

·       Diffuse the situation. You know the first rule of fight club? Never talk about Fight Club. Same applies here. Don’t call them a narcissist. Don’t seek an apology because you wont get one. Find the way to do your work but to stay clear so that you wont be the source of the outburst. I know this may be hard to swallow but is there a way you can lay low until you figure out your next steps? Do not wrestle with them, it’s not worth it. Try to be as boring as you can around them so they lose interest in you. Lisa Romano a relationship coach who specializes in Narcissism says these 3 sentences will diffuse the narcissist: I can accept your faulty perception of me, I’m sorry you feel that way, Your anger is not my responsibility.

2) Get to place in your head where you stop letting them get to you. I know it’s totally wacked and I worked for my fair share of those with narcissistic personality traits. I lost sleep, overate, over drank, and didn’t know how to manage my mind. I started to work with a coach so that I could learn how to be mind set techniques and whiles I was still triggered occasionally, mindset tools helped me until I could create an exit strategy
 
3) You can get past it with mindset, meditation, therapy, coaching, personal development. In the end you will learn how to work with someone who has a personality disorder. It’s hard but just maybe you can find some  compassion for them which may shift your feelings.
 
 
Karlyn Borysenko (BOR I SANKO )author of Zen Your Work, suggests having a mantra or a pledge for your self. The one she used in the book was “act with integrity, have compassion and empathy, even when others dont, and be of service to the people around you. 

I suggest getting a coach or a therapist to help you dead with the constant stress and anxiety. Knowing how to or how not to respond will be helpful so that you can focus and still get your work done despite the disruption.

If this sounds like your scenario you need to find a way out from working under that person. If you can find an ally elsewhere in the organization, use your connections to see if you can get transferred to another unit or make a decision if it’s time to leave.

Alright, my friends. There’s a lot here so email me with questions at hello@jillgriffincoacing.com

I will see you next time.
 
Tune into The Refresh Your Career Podcast Available on all streaming apps. https://jillgriffin.buzzsprout.com/

Follow @jillGriffinCoaching on Instagram daily inspiration.

Tune into The Refresh Your Career Podcast Available on all streaming apps. https://jillgriffin.buzzsprout.com/