Narcissism in the Workplace and Bullying in the Workplace

How to Handle Narcissism and Bullying in the Workplace

  • If you have ever been the victim of a bully or a narcissist, then you know that life can be absolutely miserable. That is, if you allow it to be. In this article I will explain the causes of narcissism, how to identify the narcissist, how narcissism drives bullying, and how to deal with narcissists in the workplace.

Causes of Narcissism

  • Excessive praise by the parents, and too permissive of parents, causing the child to have unrealistic and grandiose opinions of themselves and their actual capabilities
  • Not enough discipline as a child, and/or setting unrealistic expectations for the child
  • Spoiling the child
  • Heredity

Narcissism is necessary for human development in the first stages of life. It allows the infant to experience life without the worries of outside forces. Eventually as the child grows up, it learns that the world does not revolve around them, that is unless their upbringing prevents the child from doing so.

How to Identify the Narcissist

This is a tough one, as narcissists are masters of deception, but this is the first step in effectively handling narcissists. They hide their "true self" by displaying to others their "ideal self" or in other words the person they aspire to be, but never truly will be. The narcissist is actual very insecure, but cannot accept this and would never let on to another person their weaknesses or own self-loathing. They may even gloat about how much they love themselves or about how "truly happy they are with themselves" but this is actually the opposite of how they truly feel.

When in front of large groups the narcissist usually tends to stay hidden under a mask of comfortable confidence. In a setting with fewer people the narcissist will attempt to control the subject of conversation, often taking control of the subject by taking the current subject and twisting it to showcase themselves, and their self-promoted talents or knowledge. They may also attempt to control the rules and the flow of knowledge, and attempt to gain power. They will seek to dominate whether on an individual level or group level. They must always be the center of attention, due to their envious nature. They will seek out to destroy anyone they perceive as a threat such as an intelligent or skilled co-worker. There methods of destruction include character assassination, intimidation, and dominating any topic of discussion in order to remain in control.

You can also recognize a narcissist by how many "I's" they use in a sentence. The narcissist cannot truly feel empathy for another person, so they are incapable of relating the subject of conversation to anyone other than themselves. You may be having a conversation about something that would have absolutely nothing to do with the narcissist and they will manage to take the subject and turn it into something they are currently experiencing, or have experienced. They will attempt to show you how much more they know about the subject or how much better they are than you at the subject even if they have never really experienced it or know anything about it. Narcissism and lying go hand in hand. You may often find the narcissist contradicting themselves even in the same sentence. This is because much of what the narcissist says is said trying to impress. This generally involves lying, because one person can't be good at everything, but the narcissist can't handle the idea of another person thinking they are flawed. God forbid anyone know something that they don't!

How Narcissism Drives Bullying

Narcissists are addicts to admiration, power, and control. When I say addicts, I mean they get the same feeling the gambler get from gambling, the drinker gets from drinking, and the smoker gets from smoking. Narcissists have low self esteem, so they constantly need reinforcement, which they do for themselves by over-exaggerating their accomplishments, knowledge, talents, and abilities. They prey on other people by bullying the people they perceive to be weak. By weak, I mean nice, non-confrontational, normal people. Narcissists perceive kindness as a weakness. In order for the narcissist to have a feeling of self-worth, they must bring down the worth of those around them. Narcissists MUST be in the spot light. How could they accomplish this if a co-worker is equal to, better than, more knowledgeable than, or more productive than they are? They can't, so they will focus on tearing others down in order to build themselves up.

Narcissists have this this force inside of them that pressures them to be perfect, do it now, to be all-knowing, all-powerful, and the greatest at everything. They also can tend to be very rigid. They may have the perception that those around them are less capable, qualified, intelligent, or productive than they are. In fact this can actually be the opposite, as narcissists will strive so much for perfection that they may use up valuable time and resources that they believe is necessary to complete their work, which may in fact not even be the results that the employer was even looking for. Basically a narcissist may appear to always be busy, imply that their work is more important than it is, and seem to work excessively, when in reality they may be spending so much time on perfecting unimportant details that they may actually not get much work done at all. Regardless, the narcissists believes themselves to be superior to others, and feels the need to exploit their victims in order to gain attention for themselves. The constant need for approval and admiration is the driving force behind their bullying.

How to Handle Narcissists in the Workplace

This can be tough, because you have to be careful how far you go with confronting the narcissist and calling them out. When handling the narcissist, you will need to do this in order to survive. I would not be saying this if we were not talking about the workplace. If we were talking about everyday life in the real world, I would tell you to for the throat, hit 'em where it hurts, and kick 'em while their down. Unfortunately this is not realistic in the workplace. There is a fine line between standing up for yourself and facing confrontation, and creating a hostile work environment. You may not be the cause of the hostility, and in fact you are the victim of hostility, but unless your co-workers and boss recognize this, the narcissist may have already convinced those around you that you are the problem. I advise you to nip the bullying in the bud before any or more damage can be done to your reputation and your mental health!


The most important skill to implement when dealing with a narcissist is holding the narcissist accountable. For example, if the narcissist is droning on about their accomplishments, and you notice they contradict what they had said, or you notice that they are lying, call them out! This is very important because it lets the narcissist know that you won't just ignore their lies and manipulation, but that you are on to them.

One of the main reasons it is important to stand up to the bully is because often the victims of the narcissistic bully will end up relocated, demoted, or even fired. The reason this happens is because they are excellent liars and deceivers so people will tend to believe the lies they have spun about themselves and their victims. No one really is aware that these people are out there. Most people are also not trained to recognize a narcissists in action unless they have an educational background in psychology, or have themselves had experiences in dealing with narcissists. And most of the time, no one wants to stand up to the bully. Bullies are hard to handle, unpleasant, aggressive, and just plain mean. This is why many of them get their way, and are even promoted. Like I said, they are masters of deception, and most people don't have the skills to recognize that most of their self-professed knowledge and abilities are just plain lies. They constantly talk themselves up and talk others down. Unfortunately, many people are manipulated into believing these falsehoods. Narcissists can often be found at the top of the chain of command for these reasons. They have an obsessive need for control and power, and will sacrifice anyone, or any resource to get there including you!

Your Own Confidence

Another skill to use when handling a narcissist actually lies within your own self-worth. You have to have the ability to stand up for yourself when the bully confronts you or demeans you. You also have to have the ability to not allow their antics to anger or frustrate you. Narcissists thrive on your anger and misery and see it as their having power over you. They will test you at first to see how much you are willing to take. If you stop them in their tracks they will know that you won't stand for it. If you do not stop them, they will see that as a green light to continue bullying you. Do not try to understand the reasons they act this way and excuse their behavior. Do not try to empathize with the narcissist as they will never empathize with you. They are incapable of this. If you do not have confidence to stand up to this person, then go get some. If you don't, then you don't stand much of a chance. Many victims of bullying can suffer from medical health conditions including anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and immune system suppression. Are you willing to allow them to exert this much control over your life? I certainly hope not. At first standing up for yourself may be hard, but like any other skill, the harder you work at it and the more you practice, the easier it will become.

Failure to hold the narcissist accountable by confronting the issue will only further reinforce their position of perceived power, and strengthen their campaign.

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