What to do when your boss is a narcissist

Working for a narcissistic boss can be awfully difficult. They may be self-centred, egotistic or chauvinistic (or worse, all three!), which makes any working relationship hard to navigate. But what do you do when you enjoy your job, despite having to deal with this kind of leader – Is it possible to find a solution when your boss is a narcissist? 

If you’re dealing with a narcissist in the truest sense then you will struggle to effect any meaningful change by dealing with them directly. This is not to say that narcissists never change, but just as with any of us, the will has to come from within, and it can be harder to alert a narcissist to their faults. They’re often unaware of the negative effects they’re having – even when they’re directly addressed. Here are some things to think about:

Is staying in the role too damaging?

If you’re intent on staying in your role, you must make sure that your self-esteem and well-being can cope. Make sure you’re not leaving yourself too emotionally exposed by staying in their team. Are you feeling OK about yourself? Are you able to see their words as sheer nonsense? Do you think you’ll be able to continue to rationalise it like this? If you are unsure if you can cope, or it’s making you feel anxious or very low, then I would question whether staying is the right decision. 

If you do decide to stay…

You may want to try a different tactic such as flattering their ego in front of peers, which plays into their narcissism, or simply ignore them when it’s just the two of you (which protects you). Both very valid approaches and while it may not feel as though they’re solving anything, they will be reducing the likelihood of conflict, which is a key aim when dealing with a narcissist. I’d also add a further action, which is to get out from under your boss’ shade and grow your network up, down and around the business. Showing other people that you’re great and building a really good relationship will help to shore up your position, mean that you are less reliant on your boss, and improve your network should you need to move internally or to another company. 

Make HR aware

It would be remiss of me not to mention that if your boss’ behaviour feels like bullying, then HR should be made aware of it. They may already know, especially if other colleagues have left for this very reason, but no manager should be able to get away with this behaviour and adding your voice to others will hopefully increase the chances of something being done about him. 


Here are three resources to help: 

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