How a Narcissist Gets Ahead at Work
By: Christine Hammond LMHC
Ever wonder how a narcissist charms superiors into granting them a promotion while simultaneously taking advantage of co-workers? Despite the rages with co-workers, their rise to the top occurs in record breaking time. So how are they able to pull off this feat?
Their tricks are not new; rather they are inherently intertwined within the characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is precisely why their escalation seems so seamless. Here are a couple of examples:
- The bolder the better. A narcissist will make ridiculous claims of their ability to succeed beyond expectation with a project, budget, or personnel management. Their arrogant ego believes that they can achieve anything despite the odds. When things fall short of expectations, they narcissist is quick to cast blame elsewhere and make even bolder claims of their abilities in the future. This strategy gains them extra attention which further feeds the ego.
- Fantasy numbers. Numbers don’t lie, unless of course, they are in the hands of a narcissist. Then numbers become a rough estimate, an inaccurate perception, or a limitation of potential. This fanciful perception allows them to “play” with the numbers to make they look the way the narcissist sees things. The Deutsche Bank scandal involving an Italian Bank and $367M is a perfect example. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-01-19/how-deutsche-bank-made-367-million-disappear.
- King or queen status. Narcissists frequently act like they are better than those around them to demonstrate their excellent intelligence, confidence, beauty, and success. This is a prevailing characteristic of narcissism. Since perception often becomes reality, the narcissist is betting that by acting this way, they will be seen this way by both superiors and subordinates. This illusion sometimes becomes a self-fulling prophesy.
- Timed silence. A well skilled narcissist knows that the best way to keep everyone guessing is to be completely silent. The lack of communication generates an unnecessary urgency, an insecure environment, and a desire to end the silence. This forces others to crave for the scraps of attention the narcissist does dole out. This keeps the narcissist at the center of attention and forces others to pay even greater notice to them.
- Firing competition. A narcissist can’t stand to have someone outshine them or talk bad about them with other employees. So they will quickly find ways to remove the non-compliant employee by nit-picking little matters, ignoring them, giving partial instructions, or overworking them. All of this is done to eliminate the difficult competition and allow the narcissist to surpass easier competition.
- Seducing the boss. In order to climb the ladder, the narcissist knows they will have to appeal to the heart and mind of their superior. They do this by studying their boss, looking specifically for what they value and fear. Then the narcissist works this angle an inch at a time carefully demonstrating how they can meet the boss’ needs while rescuing them from their fears. Usually this is all talk with no real action.
- Unexpected favor. Narcissists are constantly looking for ways to do someone a favor especially when that person is in a position of influence or power. When the time comes for their personal advancement, the narcissist will expect a return on their favor investment. This could be a referral, job offer, contract approval, stock speculation, or even venture capital. Whatever they want will be far less than what they gave.
- Protected reputation. A narcissist’s ego won’t allow their reputation to be tarnished even a bit. Any attempts to do so by others are swiftly met with a counter attack far more significant than deserved. It doesn’t matter if the attack is untrue, what matters is keeping others on the defense to distract from any real truth about the narcissist. Politicians are great at this tactic.
- Learned helplessness. By creating an environment in which the narcissist is sought after and needed, they generate an image of being the go-to person to superiors. What most fail to see is that the narcissist does this through degrading comments and biting sarcasm targeted at the insecurities of subordinates. This forces the subordinates to seek out reassurance before making any decision which is a fear-based management style.
Once a person sees the tactics a narcissist utilizes to rise to the top of the food chain, it is easy to work around and even avoid. This goal is to remain employed, maintain dignity, and not lose sight of personal objectives.
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