This is the second article in our series on Narcissism. If you haven’t already read our first article, we recommend checking it out here. Here’s How to Deal with a Narcissist at Work.
If you think you’re dealing with a narcissist at work, you first need to determine whether or not they are, in fact, a narcissist. Unfortunately, Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. Still, there are specific indicators you can look for that will help you better understand if this person carries a level of narcissism that is too toxic for you.
Don’t Falsely Accuse
To quickly recap our previous article, How to Spot a Narcissist at Work, a Narcissist is NOT just someone with a big ego, someone who’s vain, someone who likes attention, or someone who is directive. Instead, these qualities can come from various coping mechanisms or personality types. So, accusing someone of narcissism based only on these qualities discredits the term “narcissist” for the real perpetrators.
Remember that a narcissist DOES lack empathy, lack transparency, scapegoats, and gaslights. These traits are more about how a narcissist interacts with you rather than how they present themselves. If you notice these traits in your interactions with a potential narcissist, you’ll want to learn tips on how to best deal with their behavior.
6 Tips on How to Deal with a Narcissist
The safest way to deal with a narcissist is to ultimately end the relationship and discontinue contact. However, if you are unwilling or unable to go “no-contact,” here are six tips on how to deal:
1. Grey Rock – A variation on stonewalling, “grey rocking” is a powerful tool you can use to manage your interactions with the narcissist. Practice grey rocking by limiting communication with the narcissist as much as possible. When you do communicate, remain vanilla. No emotions. No strong opinions. No strong reactions. Let them believe what they want because they’re going to anyway. Grey rocking is going to save you a lot of stress and grief.
2. Use Validation – Narcissists are fragile. When you absolutely do have to communicate with them, or worse, you have to de-escalate a narcissistic rage, here’s what you do: to the best of your ability, detach emotionally from the situation. Find a deep sense of calm. Then use phrases that validate the narcissist’s emotions like “I see how frustrating this has been for you,” or “I know you put a lot of work into this.” Then listen to the narcissist continue to rage as you continue to validate. After a while, they’ll calm down like a toddler throwing a fit (which they are), and you can go back to “normal.”
3. Set and Maintain Boundaries – Nothing drives a narcissist crazier than someone enforcing boundaries, but you have to do it to get any work done. So when you have a meeting with a narcissist, conclude with open-ended questions that have built-in accountability, like, “So, what are each of our tasks from here?” “When should we meet again to go over this?” “Can we put it in our calendars right now?” Then when it comes time to follow up, enforce the boundary. Just know that they will try to disrespect every reasonable boundary you set if it seems like it’s getting in their way, and they’ll cross every boundary if you tolerate it. So hold firm and use these other five tips.
4. Document EVERYTHING – Narcissists notoriously rewrite history according to how it will best serve their current agenda. If you have an agreement with a narcissist, they will change the terms of the agreement at the last minute to their benefit, and they will masterfully gaslight you into compliance. So you have to document every email, every phone call, and every interaction. No emotions. Just facts. Documentation is necessary to protect yourself if they rewrite history to such a degree that it becomes an HR issue. Narcissists are guaranteed to lie and are convincing, masterful liars because they genuinely believe their own delusions. So vigilantly prepare by documenting.
5. Zoom Out – Pull yourself out of the weeds regularly to get clarity. Talk to friends who are not at the office. Talk to a therapist. Talk to a coach. Don’t get sucked into the narcissist’s delusions. Instead, review your documentation occasionally and do whatever you can to remind yourself that you’re not crazy because the narcissist wins by making you feel like the crazy one.
6. Maintain Self-care – Narcissists will wear you down because they lack empathy, so they don’t really care about you or your well-being unless it serves them. They like to make sure you feel as small and helpless as possible so they can maintain power and control over you. The stress of working with a narcissist can cause fatigue, anxious feelings, and depressed moods, so you have to amp up your self-care if you are going to survive.
Listen to Your Intuition
If you still can’t find peace in your life with the narcissist after doing everything on this list, that’s completely understandable, and it’s time to evaluate whether or not you need to sever ties.
Take this quiz:
1. Are you scared to tell them how you really feel?
2. Do you often feel disoriented after talking to them?
3. Do conversations with them tend to go around in circles?
4. Do you often feel undervalued after interactions with them?
5. Are you afraid of retaliation if you tell them “no”?
6. Do you rehearse conversations you’re going to have with them in your head?
7. Do you feel panicked when they call out of the blue?
8. Do you feel panicked when they email out of the blue?
9. Are you afraid of their reaction if you make a small mistake?
10. Are they the primary source of stress in your life?
If you answer “yes” to most of the above questions, you could be dealing with someone whose narcissistic traits are at an unhealthy level for you, and it’s probably time to remove yourself (or the narcissist) from the situation.
So, take all the energy you spend trying to manage the narcissist’s reactions and instead use that energy to get them out of your life for good by going “no contact” and severing ties completely. You have one life to live. You don’t need to spend it trying to manage the reactions of someone who will never really give a shit about you.
Our neuroscience-based Conversation Algorithms™️ provide a powerful way to disarm, de-escalate, and influence narcissists while maintaining your own integrity.
If you need 1:1 help to deal with a narcissist at work, reach out to set up a time with a Hodges Coach.
Written by Sarah Hodges
Every week we send 5 minute coaching prompts to help build the tools of effective self-leaders. Let us join you on your conscious leadership evolution.