Unfortunately, as it happens, you have a narcissist as your manager. Not only does this cause a lot of frustration, but it can also cause absenteeism and burnout. About one percent of all people are narcissists: someone who is only concerned with their own goals and uses all means to achieve those goals. It is not just about an unkind person with bad intentions, narcissism can be determined fairly objectively on the basis of the criteria that have been established for this (see under). It’s a condition, not something that can be cured.
So, read on and see what you can do when your boss is a narcissist and there is distrust within the team. I also know that many of you have had it with all kinds of bad managers. Maybe it is time to start for yourself and check out the end of this article.
Characteristics of narcissism
Here are some of the easily recognizable signs of narcissism:
- The belief that he or she is more important than others, and would like to show this. Narcissists are arrogant
- Constantly wanting to be admired. He or she enjoys that immensely and is addicted to attention
- A lack of empathy
- To bend the rules to his will, the rules don’t apply to him
- Being able to use people without scruples
- To be jealous
If you see one or more of these attitudes in your leader, then you should become very alert.
In the initial phase, for example, when the new narcissistic person comes for a job, it is difficult to see that you are dealing with a narcissistic manager. You are initially taken into the charisma of the narcissist, into being charmed. A narcissist is very communicative, so at the job interview he (75 percent of narcissists are men, ed.) jokes, asks good questions, and presents a great vision. He also mentions good names from his network that he could very well call on to help him.
This allows you as an employer to let go of the last doubt. There is a ripple effect: the tendency to judge a person positively, based on one positive aspect. The bad sides disappear. Only once you have experienced such a person, you will recognize the behavior. Then you have to keep asking questions. For example, you can ask about his successes with working in teams. Then when he starts talking about himself again, you have to pay attention. A good tip is to keep asking about how he connected with his team. An experienced organizational manager can deal with resistance within an organization, but the narcissist says: bullshit to you all, we will continue the way I see it.
Lots of promises and always on the go
After taking office, the narcissist always starts with a lot of promises, but little comes out of his hands and he is difficult to reach and always on the road. He is no longer in contact with the team, as managing such a team is a challenging job. He feels better when he is networking and having drinks because that’s where he gets the attention he needs. His only goal is his own gain. He gathers the people around him who believe in him, makes promises, and snaps at the people he cannot use in achieving his own goals.
There are patterns
Only after a while, you may begin to recognize the narcissist’s patterns. While he gathers followers around him and mainly focuses on himself, his team suffers. Mutual distrust and a negative atmosphere arise because most people do not receive compliments or are stimulated to make something of it. The best people leave quickly, there is a lot of absenteeism and you see the number of burnouts increasing.
The problem is that you get used to it when you’re in the middle of it; like the frog in boiling water. There is a lot of uncertainty and fear of failure because people no longer know what is the right thing to do because the manager always knows better. He wants to control every step. Creativity disappears because it offers no room for mistakes. A team in progress learns from mistakes. In a team where you are burned down, the ability to learn disappears. And because employees stand still, they go backward. The manager then says: it’s not my fault.
Not being critical
As an employee, you’re not going to change the narcissistic manager, so going on the attack isn’t the best strategy, in this case. You should really just go your own way and ignore the manager. The best strategy is: don’t be critical, keep following your own thoughts, and don’t become dependent on him.
What also helps is ensuring you look high-potential a bit and showing that you are important, because then you are showing an interest in the narcissistic manager. If you know important people, he will find you interesting. It has to suit you a bit to deal with it in such a political-strategic way, but yes: this man needs admiration. The question is how far do you go with that. You also have to keep him from feeling offended.
Can it be stopped?
How can a board of directors prevent a narcissistic manager from going too far? It all starts with knowledge, boards of directors need to know that narcissists exist. Now you see that they are guided too much by the beautiful stories, and then they may be less inclined to walk into the workplace and talk to people about this. You have to keep asking questions, if employees know that you can be trusted, then you can do something about it.
My final thoughts
I just conclude from the above that it will be next to impossible for you to turn a narcissistic manager around. Yes, some things can be done, but it would mean operating like his real underling, admiring him like an icon. I believe that not many people are capable of doing this, especially for a longer period of time. I know I couldn’t, not even for a very short time.
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Thanks for your attention and please do ask your questions through the comment section below.