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Tag Archives: difficult personalities

How to work with a narcissist

An “extreme” narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. In the workplace, this manifests as someone who exaggerates their achievements, takes credit for others work, needs constant adoration, is self-entitled, and uses other people to further themselves.  If you happen to work with one, or even worse, for one, it can be a waking nightmare!

So can you stop these people from making your work life miserable?  Or is quitting your only option?  The good news is that most narcissists don’t stick around in a single job for very long.  So if you can find ways to achieve a working relationship that is at least tolerable, you just need to outlast them until they leave.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail that published this morning, I offer several ideas to make your workday with a narcissist more bearable.

How to survive the ‘extreme’ narcissist and make your workday bearable


If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B9.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link:

What do you think?

Well, I’d love to hear about your experiences with narcissists in your workplace.  Have you been able to develop a tolerable working relationship?  What ideas do you have to share?  Please comment below. 

As frequent readers of the blog know, I write a monthly column for The Globe and Mail, under the broad banner of “Leadership Matters”.  My most recent columns are linked below:

Separating true leaders from narcissists

NarcissistLast year, I was a featured expert in a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how one can function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  And certainly, if you follow American politics, there is a lot of conversation about whether a certain head of state is a prime example of a narcissist.  So it isn’t surprising that this topic continues to be front and centre in the news.  One question that often comes up in my leadership development practice is about how to separate leaders from narcissists, particularly during hiring, as the outcome of hiring one over the other can be enormous.  Ironically of course, on the surface, narcissists look suspiciously like leaders; it isn’t until later that the truth comes out.

Last week, CNN Business News put out an article titled How narcissistic CEOs put companies at risk, explaining how narcissist leaders create long-lasting negative consequences for their companies.  From a leadership perspective, a couple of points in particular caught my attention.   Continue reading

Dealing with narcissists at work

The July/August issue of CPA Magazine features a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how to function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  Yours truly was honoured to be interviewed as an expert source.  Not just an expert source though as I come by some of this knowledge first-hand.  Back in the 1990’s, I (barely) survived an egomaniacal boss and I live to tell the tale!

narcissists and egomaniacs
Narcissism isn’t just confined to the political arena

In recent months, the popular press has been all abuzz about a certain narcissist (no name needed) in international politics.  But unfortunately, Continue reading

The terrible boss criticizes in front of others

The terrible boss chastises in public

Last week I blogged about one of the common traits of terrible bosses – that they are micro-managers.  Today, ending our short series on this subject, I want to cover one more widespread characteristic of the terrible boss – s/he tells you off in front of others.

Terrible bosses scold in public

There is only one thing more disheartening than being criticized by someone in authority, and that is being criticized in front of an audience, particularly when that audience is the people you work with.  But this is something that terrible bosses do regularly.  You see, from their perspective, it is a way to control by fear, and quite frankly, they do it often because it is effective.  If they can control you and get you to do what they want, AND build up their already low self-esteem in the process, why shouldn’t they?

Sadly though, even though it may work in the short-term, they aren’t building relationships for the long-term.  Continue reading

The horrible boss is a micro-manager

Continuing in our revived series on the characteristics of the boss from hell, here is one more trait common to the horrible boss -– s/he micro-manages you!

Micro-managers make horrible bosses!

The horrible boss from hell micro-manages

The “micro-manager” horrible boss gets involved in the minutiae of your job and re-does everything you do.  He questions your every move and never lets you complete anything on your own.  Working for a micro-manager is not only maddening, it’s wearisome and demoralizing.  It demonstrates lack of trust, and causes you to question your ability to make decisions.

Which is, by the way, exactly what the horrible boss wants.  If you are unable to make decisions and feel the need to get approval for every small task, then to the micro-manager, it feels like he is in control.   And, oh yeah, let’s not forget, if the outcome of any decision is not up to scratch, then it will undeniably be because you have him bad information.  Either way, it’s a difficult place to spend your work day. Continue reading

The horrible boss takes credit for your work

Horrible boss, also known as the boss from hell!

A few weeks ago, I started a short series of blog posts about the traits that characterize “the boss from hell” – you know, the horrible boss who you dislike working for so intensely that you’d do just about anything not to come into work.  Previously, I blogged about how the horrible boss not only treats employees like they’re not people, but also overworks them, and constantly criticizes them.  This short series got so much attention (apparently a lot of you either work for, or previously worked with a horrible boss!) that I figured I’d continue the series, based partly on some of your comments in the emails I received on this subject.  Today’s common characteristic of the boss from hell? – they take credit for your work.

The horrible boss takes credit for your work

Bosses from hell take their employees’ work and pass it off as their own.  Now it’s true that as a manager, you can rightly take credit for the work that comes out of your department.  But it’s when you take credit for the accomplishments AND do not acknowledge the specific people who actually did the work that you cross over the line into the “horrible boss” category.  Continue reading

The horrible boss never praises, only criticizes

Devil businesslady with a megaphone screemingat another businessladiesLast week I started a short series on horrible bosses (motivated by a recent re-watch of the movie The Devil Wears Prada) in which I began to verbalize the common traits that apply to the boss from hell.  So far, we have two – hell-ish bosses don’t see their employees as real people (only pawns on a chessboard), and they overwork them, sometimes to the point of loss in productivity.  Today I have yet another common characteristic of the horrible boss to add to the list – they only recognize bad performance, never good, or god forbid, exceptional!

Quick to criticize, but slow (if at all) to praise

These are the managers who are stridently vocal when things go wrong.  And it usually doesn’t take much to set the horrible boss off on a tirade.  The smallest slip-up, the tiniest error, the marginal delay, all get them riled up and into a tizzy.  They are known to loudly berate and belittle, often with an audience.  In many ways, it’s as if the temper tantrum builds up their self-esteem.  Continue reading

Overworking your employees? You’re the boss from hell!

welcome to hell evil sinner go to the devil disaster

Earlier this week I started a series about the characteristics of the boss from hell, prompted by my recent re-watch of the movie The Devil Wears Prada.  My last post was about how devil bosses don’t see their employees as real people (with hopes, preferences and dreams), but rather as pawns to be moved around on a giant chessboard to achieve some greater objective.  Here’s another trait of the boss from hell – they overwork their employees.  The boss from hell doesn’t understand that overworking his/her people is completely counterproductive, as nothing burns employees out more than overloading them.  In the movie, not only did Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) overburden Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) with more work than any normal person could be expected to handle in a single day, but she also expected her to be at her beck and call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Unlike in the movie, overworking of employees can often happen unintentionally; after all, if you’re in a position of leadership, the tendency is to get the most you can out of your best people.  But the irony is Continue reading

What makes the “boss from hell”?

Business man looking at his own devil demon shadow concept backgLast weekend I watched (again) the 2006 blockbuster movie The Devil Wears Prada.  If you’re not familiar with the film, this comedy drama stars Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, a powerful fashion magazine editor, and Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs, a college graduate who goes to New York City and lands the horrible job as Priestly’s co-assistant.  The “devil” in this movie is Miranda Priestly, quite possibly the ultimate “boss from hell”.  Watching the movie again was great entertainment, but it also got me thinking about what constitutes the “boss from hell”.  What characteristics or behaviours make devil bosses as horrid and dreadful as they are?  So I thought: why not start an intermittent series of blog posts on what makes up the “boss from hell”?  Here is my first one – they don’t see their employees as people.

The devil boss doesn’t see employees as people, just pawns on a giant chessboard, moved around at whim, to meet his or her personal objectives.  Continue reading

Finding the right words in awkward situations

Danielle Harder from the Canadian HR Reporter contacted me a few weeks ago about a story she was doing on difficult conversations in the workplace.  I was honored and thrilled to provide insights on how to find the words in awkward situations and tackle those prickly conversations that are sometimes necessary when dealing with employees.  Here’s the opening of the article:

As a leadership and communications expert, Merge Gupta-Sunderji thought she had heard it all. But when her Calgary-based firm asked clients about the most difficult conversations they’ve had with employees, she was admittedly surprised. Take, for example, the female manager who had to talk to a male employee about continually grabbing himself in his private area during meetings.

Read the entire article that was published in the January 31 issue. 

Do you have any additional tips?  Or any horror stories of your own?