Are You Dealing With a Narcissist at Work? Signs You Are, and What to Do About It

Updated on May 19, 2020
Neena Daniels profile image

A lifetime of experience growing up with a narcisisst, and attracting them thereafter until I started healing and learned what to look for.

What Made Them Pick You?

Dealing with a narcissist at work can completely consume your life, and even affect your physical and mental health. In this article, I'm going to go over signs that your co-worker is a narcissist, and the actions you should take to protect yourself and your sanity.

You may be wondering, "Why am I their target?" Well, there are a few reasons narcisissts pick certain people to sabotage, and others to praise. You may become a target by:

  • Having something they want
  • Being really good at your job
  • Being empathetic

They can't stand someone having a better position than them, or having more friends than them, or being more sweet than them. If they can sense that you are a good, caring person, they may decide they want what you have, and they know you're nice enough to not confront them.

So, What Are the Signs?

They Are Charming

Based on first impressions, the narcissist at work may be one of the most well-liked people on the job. They wouldn't become so likeable by being mean to everyone, so how do they get you to open up? They will charm your socks off. They listen intently to you, they appear caring, they are funny, and they're outgoing. What's not to like? Well, the thing is, they can't keep up the charade forever. Their mask begins to fade and what lured you in starts to take a turn for the worse. A huge red flag to look out for here is that they are often "over the top" with compliments. With everybody.

The narcissist and I became friends very fast because of how nice she was at first.

What to do: Take your time to get to know people's true selves; take time to observe before you get too close to someone.

They Single You Out

Just as they were complimenting everyone in the room, they will purposely leave you out. It's subtle, and only you notice it.

What to do: The best thing to do is not react.

They Will Start to Intimidate You

When no one else is around, of course. You may get what I call the "death glare." You feel it, and can sense it, but it's still not enough to call them out on what they are doing. Because they're still so nice, and you're confused why they are treating you like this.

When I was going through this, the death stare I would get made me sick to my stomach. That's how piercing it was. It was pure hate. And if you've ever gotten that look, you know what I mean.

What to do: Don't make eye contact. She knew it bothered me, and liked me reacting and me worrying over "what I did wrong." The best thing I could have done was not react or even look in her direction. Strong boundaries can put a stop to this.

They Don't Take Criticism Lightly

They may take offense at something, like you talking about something that you can do but they can't. They may take offense at constructive criticism. And if you flat out tell them something they did bothers you, to try and clear the air, be prepared for backlash.

A narcisisst who is offended or has their ego wounded will turn everything around on you.

For example, although she was the one giving me the "death glare," when I had enough and brought it to her attention, she went to management telling them that I gave her dirty looks.

What to do: If you're feeling uncomfortable, go to management as soon as possible. That way if things escalate or get worse (which they tend to do with narcissists) then there is a record.

Narcisissts tend to "suck up" to their superiors. They may even be "best friends" with the boss, if this is the case, go to the next highest level of management.

Also: Document, document, document. Everything. What they did, when, where, were there any witnesses. For your own records and for your own protection.

They Will Talk About You

They will make sure everyone thinks that you are the one terrorizing them. They will forever be "the victim." All the while insisting that they are not one to lie or gossip.

They have no problem lying to others/talking about others for their benefit, but they hold others to a higher standard. If they find out that you went to someone, like management for example, and told the truth—gasp—all hell will break loose.

What to do: As hard as it is to not defend yourself, don't react or explain yourself. The calmer you are, the sooner their lies will come to light. People will see that what the narcisisst is saying does not match up with your character. Your peers may even make the connection that the narcissist is actually talking about themselves!

Sometimes it gets so bad that, without the proper support, you may even consider leaving that job. Dealing with people like this is no joke; they want you to suffer. Staying aware of what is going on and documenting and reporting things right away can help get a jump start on managing what is going on. Keep your boundaries strong and you may minimize your risk of being a target.

Have you worked with a narcissistic person? What was the outcome? How did you handle it?

If you have any other tips for readers, drop them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading.


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    • She-Ra profile image


      5 months ago from U.K

      I'm currently trying to work on the thoughts that I tend to attract narcissistic people, or just generally toxic people. I try to consider that my kindness is a neon sign to toxic people that makes them think I am weak. I refuse to accept the responsibility for their behaviour. Irrespective of what any of us have experienced in our lives, it is not a defence for targeting others and causing ill health in others.

      In the workplace :

      in previous roles I have been bullied and tried reasonable conversions, reasoning with them, remaining calm and professional and being open to moving on (metaphorically speaking) to work together. In more junior roles I have ended up off sick due to stress and then moved areas.

      in a senior role, now in management I am working in a place I was moved from some years ago due to toxic behaviour and this has started up again and ramped up in severity even though I am now their manager. The easiest way of describing it is that I remain in a living hell.


      - initially demonstrated signs that they had moved on from previous behaviours (towards me)

      - seemed to be an aly initially and kept highlighting decisions I had made as 'I'm worried for you, that the staff will not be happy with your decision'

      - escalation; questioning all decisions I make either publicly with an audience or by replying to e-mails making sure everyone was included

      - relishes any attention on them, over the moon when spending a substantial, disproportionate length of time with them where they feel they're centre stage

      - repeated insubordination

      - spreading lies

      - incredibly quick to criticise minimal errors in a disproportionate manner

      I have tried the following:

      - remaining calm, neutral, professional

      - reasonable attention

      - up until recently, open to those who are toxic to come around to the idea that I am not going anywhere; I was happy for them to come with me for the future of our team

      - continuing to do my job and delegating despite the push back

      - smiling and being personable (which is incredibly difficult to do!)

      - discussions with HR to ask whether my course of action is okay

      - keeping my line manager somewhat aware

      Now escalated, and I suspect there will not be an end to this. I have tried a myriad of tactics and now will have to employ something different - do the same thing, get the same results?

      oh... I suppose motivation for this much effort?

      - being challenged on their general performance but their professionalism also

      - they have done this to other managers and they have repeatedly backed down - they always get good results (for them) for this behaviour

      - they may genuinely consider me too young and inexperienced for the job

      - it may be that I hold up a mirror to them and they don't like what they see. Despite the above (young - well not that young!- and apparently inexperienced) I have done a lot in my time and I am very experienced, I know what I'm doing, I know policies and I have a positive management style)

      - they have no intention in doing some of the work because they just don't want to/ don't like it (they want to cherry pick what they do/ don't do) - I have absolutely considered training/ education element in this.

      If people rarely change... how long am I going to have to work through this to achieve a supportive, high quality work place? I work with some incredible and amazing people who work really hard most of the time, they re suffering through this, but have suffered under this for many years and will managers who don't act to change the culture... I have some incredible support from them through little comments and enquiries into my well being, they demonstrate support and solidarity being incredibly careful not to be overheard because they are fearful for the repercussions!! These (along with my principles/ values etc) are what keep me going... but my body may decide for me if it continues for too much longer).

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia Zirkwitz 

      6 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Good article, Neena. I would have to think about whether I worked with actual toxic narcissists-- I did work as a social worker in a large bureaucracy, so there is no doubt that I "worked" with a narcissist, but was I targeted?

      I did have difficult work relationships, but they were generally with people who were not so much malignant as they were schooled in a style of 'power over' leadership that they were attempting to keep going.

      I have to say that retirement has allowed me to forget most of my difficulties in the workplace, and that I did work with a lot of positive, kind and ethical folks who were respectful of their workmates. I am sorry to hear about your experiences and know that they exist. You seem to have a good handle on what to look out for and your experience and writing will help others to limit-- or cut entirely-- involvement with these socially-deranged people.


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