Narcissism in the Workplace (Part 1) – How to spot a narcissist

“I don’t care what you think unless it is about me.” ~ Kurt Cobain

Narcissus by Caravaggio depicts Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.

Narcissus by Caravaggio depicts Narcissus gazing at his own reflection.

Do you know how to navigate around the landmines of other people’s personalities in your workplace … and your life? Have you come across one “landmine” you could not get past without a career (maybe even a personally) threatening explosion?

The word “Narcissist” is tossed around freely when talking about bosses, co-workers and people who boost themselves up by crushing others. I recently read an article about the benefits of being narcissistic … I tried to comment. I think the writer had disabled comments. I don’t blame her. Imagine the kind of feedback she was receiving!

This is one touchy subject. Narcissists can do irreparable damage to people, and to businesses. The problem is, many people in positions of authority do have some narcissistic traits. Are they truly narcissists? If so, how do you prevent them from doing harm?

Here’s a little-known, very misunderstood fact:

Most people on the planet exhibit at least one of the 9 characteristics of a narcissist.

narcissistYes, shocking! Be careful before you label anyone. There’s a distinct difference between the urge to be considered important, want to be heard, prefer special treatment, strive to get your own way or  purposely pursue paths which will promote you to get what you want, and actual narcissism.

WiseGeek has this summary of a narcissist:

“Typically, a person with (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) NPD will believe he is better than others and may indulge in fantasies concerning amazing levels of success and far-reaching power. He may have an exaggerated view of his own attractiveness and achievements, and feel a need for continuous praise. He may set unreasonable goals and feel deeply wounded by any type of criticism.”

Do you have someone like this in your life? Few people have not been imposed upon, and left feeling used and abused by a narcissist. This muddies the waters and makes us wary of anyone claiming to have expertise and abilities. Who do you trust? How do you know someone is for real? How do you weed out a team-imploding narcissist from someone who is simply trying to promote his or her abilities to get a job, greater opportunity, a raise … not easy stuff to catch in the workplace until it is too late.

I’ve split this article into 3 parts:

  1. How to identify a narcissist,
  2. What to avoid when dealing with a narcissist, and
  3. What you can do when you MUST work with a narcissist.

Dr. Sam Vaknin in his book “Malignant Self-Love” provides the following list of nine narcissistic traits of which an individual needs to possess at least five before being diagnosed with NPD.

number-146021_150Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);


number-146022_150Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequaled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;

number-146023_150Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);


number-146024_150 Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious;



number-146025_150Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment;



number-146026_150Is interpersonally exploitative and uses others to achieve his or her own ends;



number-146027_150Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others;



number-146028_150Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions, as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly;

number-146029_150Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, “above the law”, and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy.


If you have checked off 5 or more of these traits in someone you know or work with, there is one thing you must understand – YOU cannot make this person see his/her narcissism. Do NOT take this person on as a pet project. If you are married to this person … seek professional help. You will need it. Oh, and if you know someone with 7 of these traits, get out! (I’ll tell you more in article #2)

The human mind is a powerful machine. The mind of a narcissist is powerful without the usual restrictions (conscience) that help healthy human minds channel their power toward the good of others. Even when the narcissist does good, it ultimately is for his/her own benefit. Believe me, there is always a price to pay for aligning yourself with, or trying to help, a narcissist.

Next week’s article will cover “What to avoid when dealing with a narcissist”.

Don’t miss this article! Opt in for tips and insights from GetThrival to the upper right on this page!

About Carol Carter

Carol is a team transformer. She cuts through the craziness and chaos of TODAY's workplace and helps leaders love their jobs again. Her live workshops and her online course "Transform Your Leadership" help people get "on track" and create REAL change that lasts, both professionally AND personally.
This entry was posted in Blog, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.