The label "narcissist" is heard fairly commonly these days, but most of us don't really know what it means. Sure, we've heard that it's someone who's "full of herself" or someone who "thinks he's better than everyone else."
If you are having problems with someone at work, or you’re hearing troubling things about an employee, you may be encountering a narcissist. It’s useful to know the basic signs. If you are a manager you’ll want to pay attention so you can do your best to maintain a good work environment. If you are working with or for a narcissist, you'll want to know for certain so you have a better chance of handling yourself well. No matter what your relationship to the narcissist in your workplace, it’s useful to know the signs and to be aware that you do have options.
Here are basic signs of narcissistic behavior. The person in question:
- Seems kinda charming
- Likes to talk about himself
- Seems to relish performance mode, feels like he's always putting on a bit of a show
- Everything in his life seems as though it's bigger, better and more important
- Name drops, kisses up, wants to be associated with the movers and shakers
- Is uninterested in others except at very shallow (one question) level
- Comes across as somewhat or very superior, arrogant
- Seems to be involved in unhappy or conflict situations more than the average employee
- May use demeaning or aggressive tactics to maintain control
If those elements are present in the person you're concerned about, then you want to observe a little more closely. Here's what to look for:
- Poor listening skills due to lack of interest in what other people have to offer
- Poor question asking skills (particularly about people) due to lack of curiosity about other people
- ;Conversations that always come back to focus on the person in question, even if someone else initiated the conversation about themself.
- Lack of consideration for the points of view, ideas, and opinions offered by other people. This can range from just ignoring what someone else offers, to pointedly disagreeing, to dismissing consideration of the idea altogether.
- Use of dismissive, invalidating, demeaning or belittling words or tactics to get other people to stop offering their opinions or disagreements.
- Recurring conflicts around this person, where he never seems to think he's the source of the conflict, points the finger at others and tends to see himself as the victim of someone else's failing. Typically he will not have ideas about how to resolve conflicts. If there are not conflicts around this person, look for people who avoid this person or have learned to acquiesce easily to accommodate this person.
- Low self awareness (although this may be hard to discern in the workplace)
- Low social/emotional skills, and immunity to learning the nuances of how to handle people
- Control oriented. Could be a micro manager
- Takes credit (even if only peripherally involved)
- Avoids responsibility when things don't go well, shifts responsibility to a different source
- May lie and deceive (and may not even know it, realize it, admit it) - sees reality differently from other people
If you see these behaviors consistently in a particular person at your workplace, you probably want to take heed. Learn more about narcissism and how to handle it. Narcissists have a knack for triggering others into upset; it’s possible to learn how to avoid taking the bait. Doing so will take care of you, your career and your organization.