The care and feeding of a narcissistic boss | Featured Columnists

The care and feeding of a narcissistic boss | Featured Columnists

Narcissism shows itself as a lack of empathy for other people and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. Those with this personality are often described as having an unrealistic sense of superiority and uniqueness.

Okay, you’ve identified some of the above characteristics in your boss. Things like they can’t stand to be made wrong. Their word is the absolute rule. They yell at you, getting angry needlessly. They must think that sheer volume indicates authority. They demean you in front of others, and the list goes on.

You’re frustrated. You don’t want to quit your job but with each passing day, you like coming to work less and less. Here are a few ideas to alleviate some of that stress and maybe change things around a bit to make the job more tolerable.

Start focusing on modifying your boss’s behavior

“But it’s all bad behavior,” you say? That’s unlikely. Let’s say the boss brings you coffee or a cinnamon roll. Make a fuss over it. Say, “Thank you so much, that’s very kind of you to bring me (whatever it was they brought). You earn some bigtime boss points today!”

If they give you praise – even minor praise and even if it’s not done smoothly, thank them. It may have been a long time since they’ve given or received any kind of praise. You could say, “Thanks for praising my work. I try hard for you. When you do this it reminds me that you also recognize that we work together as a team. I appreciate that.”

Keep your cool

If they criticize your work, stay calm and say this: ‘Please show me how you’d like it done so I can meet your standards.”

Maintain composure even under intimidation. Narcissists often like to use verbal and sometimes body language to assert their aggression. Don’t call attention to their behavior and don’t let them know that you feel intimidated. Keep a pleasant look on your face and a measured tone to your voice.

Set boundaries

In general, narcissists don’t respect boundaries but will give you your space if you insist. Even if you get resistance in the beginning, stay firm on what boundaries you want over a period of time and you’ll likely get them.

Have an exit plan

“Now wait a second Jerry, you said this was going to work. Why do I need an exit plan?” Because your narcissist may still be insufferable even after all this, and you may want out.

Here’s the thing. People stay in jobs that even make them sick, because they need the job and don’t have a plan to get another one, without risking a long time between paychecks.

Network among people who are connectors. Those are people who know lots of other people and who routinely put them together for business and social purposes. Join a couple of civic groups and get to know the movers and shakers. This will put you in a far better position and more confident if you find it’s time to leave.

You are not powerless

I remember the story of a lady who had reached the end of her patience with her boss, having tried every tactic she could imagine to turn him around. After a distasteful encounter with him she typed out her resignation, walked into his office and handed it to him. He took a deep breath and asked her to sit down. He then apologized for his behavior, while asking for her forgiveness. He then told her she had every right to leave and if she did he would pay her for a month while she looked for a new job – but he hoped she would reconsider and stay.

After a day of thinking it over, she presented him with several conditions she would need in order to continue. He agreed to them and she worked with the man for many more years.

Not every situation like this ends happily. Getting along with a narcissistic boss isn’t easy. It’s work, often tough work, but you can do it.

Jerry Roberts comments on business and the workplace daily at 7:20 a.m. on The Ray Gibson Show on The Point, 93.3 FM. He can be reached at, or email

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