The Impact of Working with a Narcissist
Written by: Tanya Beaudry
Narcissist a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
- Do you know a Narcissist?
- Have you worked with a Narcissist?
- Do you have a Narcissist on your team?
Narcissist: this word has been thrown around lately more than ever before. You just can’t get away from it. The people around narcissists suffer because they are being manipulated. Narcissists are only focused on themselves and how they can get their next ‘fix’ whether it be gaining more power, closing a deal or taking advantage of a situation. They don’t consider the damage that they do to those around them. The damage they’re causing is insurmountable to the ones who want to support them.
There are different types of narcissists but handling them is always the same: be humble, don’t engage. Joseph Burgo, PhD. and author says to “ignore her ‘helpful’ suggestions, or offer polite thanks and move on. A direct challenge will most likely lead her to escalate her efforts to prove herself cleverer or better informed”. He also says “Don’t fight back in direct ways in order to stand up for yourself”. Essentially, don’t rock the boat and walk on eggshells. I have a hard time with the ‘handling’ part. I personally have a very hard time not confronting narcissists because their actions can be hurtful and usually very annoying.
Characteristics of a narcissist:
- Always the victim, always innocent
- No accountability for their actions
- Finger pointing
- Master manipulator extraordinarily good liars
- Defiant…….and more
Dealing with narcissists takes an absolute toll on you. In my opinion getting through to a narcissist is a lot of work and nearly impossible. To me it’s a ‘lose-lose’ situation, usually because I’ve been screaming inside, so I have a hard time keeping quiet. As Dr. Burgo points out this isn’t the best way to handle a narcissist, but when I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. That said, having an outburst and reacting this way is also not good for your own health either. Hence being in that ‘lose-lose’ situation.
Effects of dealing with a narcissist:
- Emotionally depleted
- Fake- you always have to put on a show to keep up the charade
- Aging at rapid speed
- Can’t sleep
- Hopelessly frustrated
- Anxiety trying to get through to them
The overall stress of dealing with a narcissist is very hard on a persons’ body and soul. You need to prioritize what you’ll allow to get to you.
Here are some things to remember before it starts taking its toll on you:
- Try writing a list – a reminder list of the effect of allowing these stresses eat you up.
- Meditation – this keeps you calm and you can learn to adjust your reaction in a more serene way.
- Recognize the manipulation – set boundaries and don’t allow them to manipulate you.
- Don’t go into a conversation with a narcissist expecting different results, don’t set yourself up to be let down.
These days, narcissism is a hot topic. But besides the narcissist themselves, the people affected by their actions are suffering immensely. Having a narcissist on your team, or in your company can have a far-reaching impact. Engaging in coaching activities and performance management work will help. This will either highlight the impact of their behavior or create a path out of the company for this person.
Why Lasting Change Is Hard
Before we had any children, my wife and I lived in the heart of Dallas. One day, on our way back to our house, we were driving down Skillman Avenue when we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour.
The rain was coming down incredibly hard, which wouldn’t have been a problem if the storm drains were equipped to handle that much water. Instead, the road itself filled with water faster than we could have anticipated. Quickly, the water rose up the side of our car. Trying not to panic, we realized that we could not continue and would need to turn around and get to higher ground.
Water rising up the side of your car door is the kind of roadblock you might not expect to encounter, but when you do, it’s formidable. We couldn’t drive through it or even around it. We had to deal with it quickly or face serious consequences.
When we’re trying to implement change in our own lives, it’s important to identify and plan for common roadblocks to lasting change.
The first and, in my opinion, most important roadblock to lasting change is not addressing the real issue.
Let’s say you wake up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. You’re annoyed by feeling sick but your throat really hurts, so you get up and spray a little Chloraseptic in your mouth and drift off to sleep. When you wake up the next day, you still have a sore throat, so you pop in a cough drop and go about your day.
The change you’re making – using a numbing agent – might work if you’ve only got a cold, but if it’s strep throat, you’re not addressing the real problem. Only an antibiotic will cure what ails you, even if Chloraseptic will keep the pain at bay for a while.
Just like how more information is needed to diagnose your sore throat than one feeling, problems you encounter in your life or business require diagnostics, too. Figuring out the real problem – not just your most apparent needs – requires some introspection and a little bit of time.
Here are eight questions to ask when you need to discover the root cause, courtesy of MindTools.com:
- What do you see happening?
- What are the specific symptoms?
- What proof do you have that the problem exists?
- How long has the problem existed?
- What is the impact of the problem?
- What sequence of events leads to the problem?
- What conditions allow the problem to occur?
- What other problems surround the occurrence of the central problem?
Once you have your answers to these key questions, you can’t stop there. Your vantage point is skewed from your own perspective. You’re going to want to ask someone else to evaluate the problem at hand with the same questions and then compare your answers.
If you and all of the partners at your firm have similar answers, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you wind up with wildly different ideas, I suggest seeking the advice of someone outside your organization. Fresh eyes can make all the difference in understanding a problem.
I often talk about being ‘too close’ to understand. You’ve probably heard the illustration about a group of people standing by an elephant with blindfolds on, trying to describe what they’re experiencing. Depending on what part of the elephant you’re next to, you’re going to have different observations.
But someone outside of that elephant’s cage can clearly identify the elephant.
The first key to making a lasting change is to make sure you’ve addressed the real problem and are looking for authentic change.
Next time, we’ll address the second major roadblock to creating last change.
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