- Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and bestselling author.
- If you think your boss has narcissistic tendencies, there are certain signs to look for, Morin says.
- Narcissistic leaders may humiliate others, show little empathy, and act like they're above the rules.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
While not to be confused with narcissistic personality disorder, which is a diagnosable mental illness, narcissistic tendencies involve occasional displays of self-importance.
Someone with narcissistic behaviours won't display them all of the time or in all situations, but these traits in a manager or superior can make working for them quite difficult.
Here are seven signs that your boss has narcissistic tendencies.
1. They value admiration above all else
While many bosses are flattered by compliments and praise, most can also recognise brown-nosing when they see it.
But a boss with narcissistic tendencies will surround themselves with employees who shower them with admiration. They promote people who admire them over those who do the best work as they prefer to create a leadership team that doubles as a fan club.
2. They gaslight people
A boss with an unhealthy ego won't admit when they're wrong. They deny their mistakes — even to those who witnessed the blunder first-hand.
You might hear them say, "I never said that!" after it comes to light that a statement they made wasn't true. They may also insist they told you things they never said, such as, "I told you four times when that report was due!"
Their objective is to appear successful and intelligent at all costs, and they're not afraid to be dishonest or sabotage others in the process.
3. They show little empathy for employees
If your boss insists you should be able to handle a "little cold" when you call in sick, it might be a sign they have some narcissistic tendencies. People like this are unlikely to show empathy for things you have going on in your personal life or any struggles you experience on the job.
They may even resort to public humiliation as a way to intimidate employees who ask for something, whether it be time off or help on a project. They may also characterise anyone who expresses concerns about safety issues or unrealistic deadlines as being ungrateful.
4. They use anger as a weapon
While they may have some trouble managing their temper, they're also likely to use aggression as a manipulation tool. Raising their voice, pounding a fist on the table, or even humiliating someone in front of other coworkers might be used as weapons to keep people in line.
Just moments after berating one person, they might praise someone else. Their quick shift in mood is a clear sign that their angry outbursts are control tactics.
5. They flaunt being 'above' the rules
Not only will your boss not follow the rules, but they'll also find great joy in reminding everyone that the rules don't apply to them.
They may offer frequent reminders like, "You can only work from home on Fridays. I work from home whenever I feel like it," or "You can book conference rooms all you want. But if I decide there's a more important meeting that needs to happen, you'll get removed." Their intention is to make it known that they're superior.
6. They always speak with authority
You won't catch a narcissistic leader sounding unsure of themselves or admitting they're out of their depth. Even when they don't know the answer, they'll speak with such conviction that people will often believe they know what they're talking about.
This is why leaders with narcissistic tendencies temporarily thrive during a crisis. When things go wrong, people look to someone who says they're confident they know what to do, even when they don't.
7. They work hard to look like the hero
Since bosses with narcissistic tendencies love admiration, they often put themselves in situations where they can look like the hero.
They may hold a special meeting to announce everyone is getting an extra day off over the holidays and act like it was their sole decision to "gift" everyone with holiday pay so they'll be personally thanked by everyone.
Or, they may host events where they're able to show off their skills, like a golf tournament. They may even host lavish office parties where they act as though they're personally paying for the event.
How to respond to a boss with narcissistic tendencies
You can't change how your boss behaves, but you can change how you respond to instances of narcissistic behavior. Set clear boundaries, ignore obnoxious attempts to get your attention, and speak up if their behaviour becomes abusive. Ultimately, recognising what your boss is doing — and why they're doing these things — can help you take their conduct less personally.