Written by: Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP
Try these tips if your narcissistic boss is making your work life miserable.
Many of my clients are stuck working for narcissistic bosses who appear to hate them. These bosses publicly mock them, talk over them in meetings, and ignore or devalue their suggestions.
My clients feel like quitting but are afraid that finding a new job in these uncertain times will be too difficult. So, they stay and get mistreated for the sake of a regular paycheck.
If you recognize yourself in this description, there may be a way to turn this situation around. You might even end up your boss’s favorite person. This method does involve a lot of work, and there is always the possibility it may not work for your particular boss, but it is definitely worth trying. When it works, it can make your situation strikingly better.
Here is the secret: The basic way to deal with a narcissistic boss who dislikes you is to get your boss to like you.
You may think that this idea is ridiculous. Your boss feels unapproachable and all your instincts are telling you to hide and be quiet and maybe your boss will overlook you and pick on someone else. By now you are terrified of even being noticed by your boss. The last thing you want to do is initiate a conversation with this awful person.
However, you really have very little to lose. The method I am about to teach you requires you to study your boss instead of hiding. It puts some power back in your hands and will be very useful with almost anyone—not just narcissistic bosses.
Note: In this post, I am using the terms narcissist, narcissistic, and NPD as shorthand for saying that this person qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
Step 1—Study your narcissistic boss.
Everyone has a good side. Everyone has things they like and dislike. The basic principle here is to study your boss and find out what he or she likes and dislikes and what are your boss’s strengths and weaknesses.
Pay close attention. No matter how much you despise your boss, if you look closely without bias, you will find that there are some things that your boss does very well. That is why he or she got promoted in the first place.
Here are some questions to think about while you observe your boss:
- What does your boss like and dislike about other people’s behavior?
- What are your boss’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What does your boss do better than you?
- What type of situations does your boss do well in?
- Who does your boss treat well?
- What type of behaviors does your boss reward?
- How does your boss treat his or her boss?
- What does your boss complain about?
Many people do not realize that narcissists are super sensitive, and your boss might be reacting very negatively to something that you think is normal or even part of your job. When you pay close attention, you may find out that your boss likes one of your colleagues better than you for reasons that have nothing to do with work. For example, your colleague may have great social skills and always remembers to ask to see pictures of your boss’s grandchildren or brings your boss little gifts from vacations.