Narcissism in the Workplace (Part 2) – What to Avoid When Dealing With a Narcissist

Last week we looked at “How to Spot a Narcissist” . Click that link for the 9 Narcissistic Traits, as well as the difference between a self-promoter and someone you truly need to steer clear of.

This week we’ll look at what to AVOID when you think you might be dealing with a narcissist.explosion-147909_150

You’ve just stepped on a landmine. You have unleashed an unexpected “lash-out” – a personal attack from a coworker. You do what comes naturally … appease and run away, wondering “What the heck was that?”. You make a mental note:

“Don’t push (insert name here). Bad things will happen.”

Your head hurts and there are far too many more important things to focus on. Chalk it up to experience. Let it go. Move on. Maybe (insert name here) is just having a bad day/time/life.

step-98742_150The next time you are in a room together (insert name here) doesn’t apologize. He/she might even pretend that nothing happened. Afraid to cause the same reaction, you work extra hard to compliment him/her, appease, build, assure, maybe even promote. You walk away proud of yourself, thinking you have restored your working relationship. All is right in the world.


You have just been conditioned by a narcissist. He/she has taught you a lesson and has established control.

chess-56257_640You were made to feel that you had to “fix” the working relationship, with no acceptance of responsibility from the other person. You had the greatest of intentions. Maybe you believed you could keep the peace. Instead, you have rewarded bad behaviour … maybe even promoted it.

There is a cancer in your workplace and now you are part of it – a pawn in a mind-game, where the player seeks control and security to protect his/her fragile ego or self-image, without responsibility or regard for others.Narcisized

Dealing with a narcissist feels like you’re in a turf war, armed with a nerf gun.
~Authentic Carol Carterism [Click to Tweet this!]

Unless you have managed this kind of battle before, and learned what not to do, you will make mistakes. You are not alone! Be encouraged by this article! Forgive yourself. Carry on. Focus on doing the right things for the right reasons for the sake of your workplace … and your own health.

When you realize you are dealing with a narcissist, here’s what to avoid:


Doubting Yourself – A true narcissist will “truth-twist”, remember things VERY differently than you do, or out-and-out lie to preserve his/her self-image at all costs. You are not insane. You are not losing your memory. Anyone who is not working toward mutual understanding for the benefit of others, is a problem person. You are not the problem.



Arguing – A true narcissist will not EVER admit he/she is wrong. You will never win an argument with a narcissist. In fact, if you ever DID manage to change his/her mind about anything, (insert name here) will switch the argument and remember you as having the wrong opinion and him/her being on the actual correct side. Mind numbing? Yes. Remember – you have a nerf gun. You aren’t equipped for this game. Don’t bother.


Defending Yourself – Yes, this sounds and feels counter-intuitive. Just like the argument, you won’t gain by standing up to (insert name here)’s insults and false accusations, meant to tear you down to build him/her up. Any defence you offer will be twisted into “proof” of your guilt and lack. Anything you say or do can and WILL be used against you as this person sees fit. Don’t offer anything, even if you know you are right.


Trying to Please – Align yourself with a narcissist in any way, shape or form and you WILL pay. Feeling sorry for this person will not help. He/she needs far more than your kindness, care and understanding. Narcissists are constantly given undue praise, gifts and promotions. They receive special status, privilege,  information and opportunity, simply to make them “happy”. It seems to work … for a while.

Don’t kid yourself. Nothing is ever enough for a true narcissist. Give an inch, expect to lose twenty more, and then some down the road. If a narcissist promises a reward for your loyalty or sacrifice, he/she will always have an excuse to get more from you than you expect. That promised reward? It may never happen. A narcissist is so internally focused, he/she has no care about your feelings or expectations, unless you can cause him/her pain. Even then, they may never honour their promises. Ever wonder how abusive marriages happen? This is how. Don’t start. You cannot finish. Remember … nerf.


Giving In – Just because you do not argue or defend yourself, doesn’t mean you roll over and take what a narcissist dishes out. If you stop  doing what you know is right for you and others, you put this person in control. What does he/she want most? Control. While you may feel you can afford to let him/her have a little control (you have big shoulders and can take it), you do no one, including the narcissist, any favours. This is another illustration of how abusive marriages happen. To enable a narcissist is to cause you, others and this person, future harm.

What CAN you do instead?

Find out next week! (I’m not teasing you. This is already too long of an article.) Enter your name and email above to the right of the page to make sure you don’t miss the next article!

Also, click here to sign up for a FREE webinar Wednesday, July 30th on “How to Handle High-Stakes Conversations Without Getting Heated”.   I’ll share some key tips to keep your cool around ANYONE (yes, including narcissists).

Are you responsible for a team? Do you suspect you have a narcissist in your midst? Contact me for options on how to handle your tricky situation. Learn how to regain the trust and respect of your team, and take back control over your work environment.

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.
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