8 Mental Abuse Tactics Narcissists Use At Work
By: Christine Hammond LMHC
The second Stacey walked into the office, she could feel the tension. Usually it took hours for the tension to mount but this morning, something was already amiss. As she turned on the lights for the floor, she checked the other offices for signs of life and finding none, she retreated to her desk. Out of nowhere her boss appeared with the intensity of lion. With no one there to witness the surprise attack, her boss ripped her to shreds like a tiger with its prey.
Abusive behavior is not reserved for just the home. It can happen at work were the stakes of employment, position, benefits, and financial commitments prevent a person from leaving. Abuse is also not just physical. There are many other forms of abuse such as sexual, financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, and verbal. While some of the other forms of abuse are obvious, mental abuse by a narcissist can be difficult to spot.
It’s even more difficult when the narcissist is a person’s boss. The natural chain of command allows bosses to be in positions of superiority. Those with a healthy ego won’t allow such authority to go to their head. But for the narcissist who lives for being in charge and whose ego is fed from the attention given, they have a vested personal interest in maintaining dominance. Some skilled narcissists are able to use their charm to motivate employees, but others are lazy and use abusive tactics instead.
Here are eight narcissistic mental abuse tactics used frequently in the workplace:
- Rage – Ron was called into his boss’ office and asked to close the door. Once seated, his boss stood up and unleased an intense anger over a perceived missed appointment. It was a minor offense and the customer was already rescheduled but the boss didn’t allow for any spoken words. Startled and shocked, Ron sat there in silence feeling like a little kid.
- Gaslighting – In the middle of a team meeting, Grace’s manager artfully wove a story about how she successfully negotiated a deal with Grace’s customer. Grace was puzzled at the comment because her manager was not at the meeting. She began to wonder if she remembered the incident right. After all, why would her manager outright lie about what happened? As if the manager read Grace’s mind, a past error in Grace’s judgement was brought up. This further contributed to Grace doubting her perception and even sanity.
- The Stare – During a training session, Steven could feel his manager’s glare. There were no words spoken, just an intense stare with no feeling behind it. Scared, Steven stopped engaging in the training session and lost all focus. Later, his manager belittled him for not taking the training seriously.
- Silent Treatment – Stephanie knew something was wrong as her boss had not spoken to her in days. She tried to engage her boss but got ignored instead. Trying to take the high road, Stephanie offered an apology to break the silence. That worked but then her boss felt the freedom to blame her for a multitude of other issues that were outside her responsibility. Feeling relieved to have communication back, Stephanie took on the extra responsibility.
- Projection – Peter’s boss was reprimanded by a superior for poor managerial skills. So during a team meeting, Peter’s boss blamed the team for being unmanageable. Peter was even isolated from his co-workers for being demanding, overbearing, and controlling. All of this was inconsistent with any past performance review which left Peter feeling confused and frustrated.
- Twisting – In an effort to help the team work better, Tina went to her boss with a suggestion. She believed if her boss would be willing to have an open-door policy for an hour a day, her co-workers could be more efficient with their time. Instead of agreement, her boss said that Tina was the reason for the lack of efficiency and refused to cooperate with any suggestion. To make it worse, her boss demanded that Tina apologize for her comments.
- Manipulation – Matthew’s manager started the sales meeting by saying that everyone was going to be fired by the end of the week if sales didn’t improve. Then his manager said this was coming from above but if they agreed to work a 60 hour week, everyone would keep their job. Under normal circumstances, Matthew would not agree to the extra unpaid hours, but it if meant keeping his job, he would do it.
- Victim Card – For the first time the team could remember, Vanessa’s boss seemed to receive criticism during a team meeting. When Vanessa went in her boss’s office to check in, she found her boss crying. The boss complained of being ganged up against during the meeting and felt victimized by the attack. Vanessa, feeling bad for her boss, sympathized and lashed out on her other team members.
Narcissistic bosses can get the best of their employees by using these tactics. To outsmart them, memorize these maneuvers, remain silent when they are being used, and end the conversation as soon as possible. This will minimize the impact of mental abuse.
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