We all know or have known ‘The Narcissist’ at workplace. It is impossible to ignore them, they are in-your-face and are not at all trying to hide. To the contrary they want to be visible, and have it known that theirs is the only view that matter and counts.
Here are a few pointers to identify a narcissist at work:
1. They will never compliment you no matter even if the entire audience is praising you.
2. They will jump to take credit for your work and do anything to avoid mentioning your effort.
3. They will do everything in their ability to try to undermine you, even get you fired if they can.
4. They will be heavily responsible for starting a gossip to distract & reduce other colleagues.
5. Lying to get to the top and sabotaging other’s work is their top tactic to stay ahead in the race.
But, these pointers are just a tip of the iceberg, if you ask me. How do I know? I have been a narcissist and it took me a long, self-destructive and counter-productive journey to realize and make amends. While I did not do extreme things that a narcissist would, I know the things I did were also not the kindest – but I am bound to be biased. But, I have been at the both giving and receiving ends so I know better now, and would never let my narcissism rise its head again.
Singular goal of a narcissist is to stay ahead of the competition and be noticed as the best at ALL costs. Even if that cost is bringing others down, sabotaging them, back-stabbing, rumor-mongering or even bullying others to destroy their confidence and take advantage of the situation. Before you jump to the conclusion, in this case, I was the one being bullied by the narcissist and that was the first time I realized some of things I may have done at my workplace that were narcissistic – even if not as bad as when I was on the receiving end. But it sure was the much-needed wakeup call to understand the importance of cohesive, inclusive, mutually respectful work environment.
Here are few strategies that helped me handle the situation and nip-it-in-the-bud before the narcissist could crush me under their feet, on their way to the top.
1. Document, Document, Document: The first thing that I learned was the importance of documenting everything that came from the narcissist. Be it an instruction, a critique or even an insult. If it is an instruction, as them give it to you in writing – email, text or chat – it must be in writing. If they are criticizing you unfairly, maintain a work journal and mention all the details of what they said, why you think it was unfair and how it made you feel. Note down the date, time and location. Also, if there were any witnesses note down their names. The more information you have documented the stronger your case will be, whether it is in discussing with them how they are being unprofessional or putting your case in front of HR or relevant person in the hierarchy.
2. It is NEVER about YOU: A narcissist would love for you to take things personal and make the situation personal, so you can be seen as the emotional, melting down colleague while they are noted as calm, composed and professional. Don’t let it become personal, keep it about the facts. As a matter of fact, for a narcissist it is not at all about you or anyone else in the team. It is solely and purely about the narcissist themselves and their goal to stay ahead of the competition and be on the top. [At All Costs!]. As far as they are concerned, you or anyone else who comes in the way of their goal, is simply collateral damage on their ambition to be seen and noted as the BEST.
3. Don’t Get Too Close: One of the most used MO of a narcissist is to get to know all about you, and then use it against you. While you cannot always know everyone from the moment you meet, always be careful about what part of your personal life you share with a narcissist. They can and WILL use it against you at the first opportunity they get when they can make you look bad and can earn brownie points for themselves in the eyes of the management or decision makers.
4. Don’t Share The Space Without A Witness: Once you know the pattern and general outcome (of them using all ammunition to destroy you to get ahead themselves) the first thing you must always do is to always have a witness around you. Don’t share a space with them without a witness present. Decline any requests to be spoken to privately by them – ask to discuss with you in presence of someone or share the information in writing [Bingo! Read point 1 again.] Let’s just say a narcissist is the crime scene and you must only walk in to their domain with backup – a witness, or else it’s a no-go zone. What are the emails and texts for huh? Ask them to use them.
5. Be Legally Smart and Aware: Understand your rights, know their obligations, review the policies and watch for any action of theirs that can be considered illegal. Take an action, seek remedy and protect your rights. The more you know about your rights, the better equipped you will be to circumvent their attempts to intimidate you, bully you and overpower you, per say. Avoid any contact that cannot be recorded in some way and if you must, make sure you ask them for written instructions if they are your boss and requests, if they are your peer or subordinate. Being a good person, you are likely to give them chances to change but know when to stop and act in time. Remember, anything that makes your work environment unsafe (mentally or physically) must be documented and reported with highest priority. Don’t sit on it!
And seriously, consider speaking to a Union Representative or Employee Support Body. One big mistake we do is to not share with our family and friends – stop that. Talk to your friends, family, mentors, advisors – anyone you can trust for advice and support. Even consider seeing a therapist, and no they are not only for your personal problems and challenges but to guide you in all aspects of hurdles that can come in your personal and professional life.
Remember: Document It. Never Alone with The Narcissist. Be Legally Aware.