Dealing With Narcissists at Work

John Krautzel
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Narcissists tend to be highly focused on themselves — a trait that can be challenging to deal with in a professional setting. Since it's usually impossible to change another person's actions, your best bet is to find ways to minimize the narcissist's effect. By learning to effectively deal with a narcissistic colleague, you can keep the peace and preserve your own sanity.

Steer Clear

Narcissists love to talk about themselves, often at length. They may also rant about people they feel have wronged them. If you're not in the mood to listen to these speeches, your best bet is to steer clear. Removing yourself from the situation prevents negative feelings from building up, which makes it easier to work with your narcissistic colleague in the future. When you can't avoid these discussions, try not to get drawn in to the drama. By refusing to engage, you can put an end to the conversation faster.

Keep Accurate Records

It's not uncommon for a narcissistic colleague to take all of the credit for your team's successes — while at the same time refusing to accept blame for mistakes. If your superiors can't see through this bad behavior, it can negatively affect your career. To make sure that your contributions are recognized, it's important to keep meticulous records. When you have a great idea or finish an important task, notify the team by email, and send a copy to your boss. Track your hours on each project. Save emails and take notes about conversations. That way, when it's time to ask for a promotion or settle a dispute, you have a paper trail to support your case.

Use Flattery to Your Advantage

When you need to engage with a narcissistic colleague, flattery can be your most useful tool. Praise puts your colleague at ease and feeds his ego, so he's more likely to be receptive. If you need your coworker to do something for you, try highlighting how his special abilities make him the best person for the job. The same goes if you're delivering criticism. Instead of directly addressing a bad behavior, try flipping the narrative. Saying "You need to be more supportive of your colleagues" is likely to put a narcissistic colleague on the defensive. A better option is to say, "I'm always so impressed with your expertise in web programming. I think your colleagues could really benefit from your knowledge. Would you mind helping them build skills like yours?"

In the end, the best way to deal with a narcissistic colleague is to accept that they are who they are — and then focus on ways that you can protect yourself and your performance. In the process, you can create a more peaceful working environment and make sure your career stays on track.

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