Tips on how to work with a narcissist

Posted on Posted in 2016 Business Opportunities For You, What's Trending Now


For better or for worse, people often possess “less than ideal” character qualities or behaviors that make working with or for them intensely challenging. We all have them: impatience, chronic tardiness, aloofness, poor listening skills, the list goes on.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Psychological Clientology: 5 Types of Clients to Avoid.” Not only did the post end up getting syndicated by multiple outlets, but it also sparked many subsequent online conversations about how to deal with difficult personalities in the workplace, particularly clients or customers who are vital to the stability of your business.

There are different types of difficult personalities in the workplace, particularly clients or customers who are vital to the stability of your business. But one standout personality type, the narcissist, is particularly difficult because he or she often lacks the ability to see things any other way than their own, needs constant attention and admiration, and generally lacks empathy.

And somehow, amidst all of it, they can make you feel like the biggest loser on the planet. It’s much like dealing with the antics of a spoiled child, which is confusing because you’re looking at this person, this grown human being, thinking “This has to be a joke, right?”

However, working with a narcissist can also be extremely rewarding and inspiring because of their nearly superhuman skills for getting things done — when they want it and how they want it.

The most important thing to know about narcissists is that their behavior and world view is grounded in deep shame and enduring low self-esteem.


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While there are most certainly genetic aspects to personality development, these individuals have typically experienced profound childhood trauma. Typically, their trauma experience has been layered, building up over time and creating their negative self-perception.

So, is it really possible to work with a narcissist?

“Working with narcissists can be very difficult, as their sense of self-worth is rooted in trauma and shame,” says Robert Weiss, the senior vice president for clinical development at Elements Behavioral Health. “As such, they typically feel unsafe in any sort of emotionally connective relationship. They seek control and power because they think it will keep them safe from being ‘exposed’ as the unworthy frauds that they believe themselves to be.”

Problems typically arise if and when those working with and around the narcissist are non-empathetic, critical, slow to praise and impatient with the narcissist’s struggle to hold onto his/her self-esteem.

But Weiss is quick to point out: “Narcissistic people can be incredibly warm, bright, engaging, thoughtful (when they are thinking about doing that) and creative, and, as such, they may offer a great deal to any work or personal situation.”

While at face value the narcissist may seem like an impossible colleague, customer or manager, a little understanding about this particular personality type will likely go a long way in a work setting. After all, no one is perfect, and we could all benefit from applying more empathy, compassion and listening skills to those with whom we spend a great majority of our time.



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