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7 Signs Your Boss Or Coworker May Be A Narcissist

1431598_76841211Are you the type that plays by the rules?

Gives everyone you work with the benefit of the doubt?

Gives everyone a chance or two or three?

Is supportive of your co-workers?

Always lends a hand?

Whether you’re a recent graduate or have been working for awhile, you may be one of the many that’s finding out that not everyone is like you. And, even more frustrating, that a handful of people you encounter during your workweek may even be the complete opposite of your straight-forward style.

Seven Confounding, Confusing, & Downright Hair-Pulling Signs You May Be Working For (or With) A Narcissist

1. They flatter you (or others), often in an over-the-top way.

Narcissists like to be admired and they they are often perfectly content with over-the-top flattery. Depending on the level of narcissism, if it’s about them and it’s sounds good, they don’t need to look to deeply. They also think others are equally happy with, and more importantly, can be manipulated by, ersatz praise.

Rest assured that the praise they deal out is not usually genuine.

Except sometimes it could be genuine. Then, watch out—the narcissist cannot tolerate anyone stealing his limelight. Except if they get to bask in your limelight as they claw their way to the top.

(Confounded yet?)

2. They insult you when no one’s looking, and then deny ever having done so.

This is a classic gas lighting maneuver.

It doesn’t matter if they delivered the put-down a week ago or a minute ago. You can stare them right in the eyes, you can quote back to them their words, you can even have witnesses (which is rare, if you matter at all to their success, they’ll most likely be super-polite to you in front of people) but they’ll deny it.

3. If it serves their purposes, they will put you down in front of others. And they’ll acknowledge they did. Because you “deserve” it.

Okay, now forget confounding sign number 2, above.

In the world of the narcissist, they do whatever helps them feel big. They truly do not know how you feel because they truly are unable to imagine how you feel. Or, they truly do know how you feel and they enjoy your suffering.

4. They make promises and then deny ever having done so. 

Narcissistic bosses might promise you a raise, a partnership, even offer you a position—and then completely deny having done so. Why? They’ll have used the promise to manipulate you, sometime to get you to do what they want, or sometimes for no other reason then to get that narcissistic buzz from manipulating you and keeping you off-balance and confused.

This is one form of gas lighting.

Except sometimes they might make a promise and break it and admit it. After all, who cares how you feel about anything?

5. They’ll take credit for your work—and you’ll never know what hit you.

You might notice your name accidentally-on-purpose omitted on a report. Or, your role downplayed or project title morphed. Or, you’ll overhear the guy in accounting tell someone what an incredible job your narcissist has done on the X Project.

Don’t hold your breath—you’ll never get the credit, and if you try to speak up, you’ll find documents you wrote recreated with the narcissist’s name on it and you’ll look seriously bad for trying to take credit for something that someone else did

6. They’ll fire you (or get you fired or demoted) as soon as your use to them is over.

Did you teach them how to do their job? Did you coach them on how to give a presentation? Did you do most of the work and give them half or more of the credit? Did you help them look good? This all gets you a big fat zero in the world of your narcissistic colleague or boss.

They might pretend you never existed. You seriously don’t matter.

7. You think you’ve imagined everything.

You feel drained, exhausted, confounded, angry, impotent, hopeless, and frustrated after spending the work-week being manipulated and conned by your coworker or boss narcissist.

Then, the next time you work together, he or she is as charming as can be. Really nice! He oozes warmth. He takes you to lunch. He talks about your career for a change. You are totally stymied.

You ask yourself: Have I been judging him unfairly? Am I guilty of not giving him the benefit of the doubt? After all, you’re the fair-minded type.

As he picks up the check with a flourish at the end of your lunch, he casually says, as if it’s no big deal, “Oh I have to go away on business for a few days, to meet some new clients. Do you think you can get that proposal together while I’m gone, you know, the one we discussed, the one we’re going to give to Mr. Big Shot? Just email it to me, no need to use the company’s cloud. I’d like to keep this between us.

And that old sinking “I’ve been conned” feeling comes back.

More soon.


7 Signs Your Boss Or Coworker May Be A Narcissist

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2014). 7 Signs Your Boss Or Coworker May Be A Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Dec 2014
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