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How to work with a narcissistic boss?

Narcissistic means


  1. having or showing an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.”a narcissistic actress”synonyms:vain, in love with oneself, self-loving, self-admiring, wrapped up in oneself, self-absorbed, self-obsessed, conceited, self-centred, self-regarding, egotistic, egotistical, egoistic, egocentric, egomaniac
  2. relating to narcissism.”narcissistic personality disorder”

A narcissist comes across as charming, charismatic and confident, and in most cases seems like the kind of person we want to work for, only for us to discover the dark side later on. Hence, remember, the grass might not always be greener on the other side.

Narcissists have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and require constant admiration while quick to claim credit for other’s achievements and blame others for their own failure. I always said sarcastically, “Yeah, it was never our fault. It must be someone else to blame.”, usually when I’m frustrated with others inability to acknowledge and own their mistake. So, narcissist care only for their own success, and they’re willing to take advantage of others in order to get what they want and need.

In summary, they might be incredibly difficult to work for. Hence, if you’re stuck with one of these bosses, here some approach you might consider.

Beware of who you’re dealing with

Don’t go around throwing labels. Hence, don’t just label your egotistical boss a narcissist.

When dealing with a narcissist, it’s helpful to get a handle on what makes them tick. The more you understand people, the better your relationships will be. Narcissists have a strong ego ideal with a vision of who they think they should be. And they are controlled by the shame of not living up to this ideal. Meanwhile, productive narcissists are often creative strategist who see the “big picture” and find meaning in the risky challenge of changing the world and leaving behind a legacy.

Anyways, it will serve us in the long run to invest effort in understanding who our superior wants to be and take steps to help them live up to that ideal.


While writing about this, I think I need to retake my personality test. I might be a narcissist myself.

My current Narcissistic Score. Not yet a narcissist but quite high, and hopefully I could do better.

Below you will find a brief interpretation of each narcissism trait and what your score relative to that trait may indicate about you.


Authority refers to a person’s leadership skills and power. People who score higher on authority like to be in charge and gain power, often for power’s sake alone. You scored particularly high in authority, suggesting you see yourself as a leader or as someone who values power.


This trait refers to how self-sufficient a person is, that is, how much you rely on others versus your own abilities to meet your needs in life.


This trait refers to whether a person feels they are more superior than those around them. You scored particularly high in superiority, suggesting you feel you are superior to most others.


This trait refers to a person’s need to be the center of attention, and willingness to ensure they are the center of attention (even at the expense of others’ needs).


This trait refers to how willing you are to exploit others in order to meet your own needs or goals.


This trait refers to a person’s vanity, or their belief in one’s own superior abilities and attractiveness compared to others.


This trait refers to the expectation and amount of entitlement a person has in their lives, that is, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with one’s expectations. People who score higher on this trait generally have a greater expectation of entitlement, while those who score lower expect little from others or life.


Tend to Your Self-Esteem

We need to take care of ourselves. Moreover if we’re working for a narcissist, which can be demeaning and stressful experience.

One approach is to acknowledge the nature of your boss, and don’t take their words and action at face value. This would protect your self-esteem from being crushed. Hence, we need a basis for deriving personal value that’s independent of our job, since we might change job, we might lost our job. And if your self worth is tied to your job, then if any of these situation happens, you’ll be in trouble.

This is generally true in life but especially important when working for a narcissist.


Stroke their ego

We need to figure out how to work effectively.

“When dealing with a narcissist, flattery will get you everywhere”

“They want people to love them, and they will believe any compliment you offer, and sucking up will generally be effective”

“Compliment your boss subtly and do it when you two are alone, but at least be neutral and diplomatic, put in a good word for him and enable him to take some of the credit for your work”

Remember that your goal here is a selfish one, that is to advance your career. It’s difficult, but ultimately to your benefit.

Emulate certain characteristic

” birds of the same feather flock together”

We might not learn how to be a good boss from a self-obsessed boss, but they still teach you a lot.

Watch and learn.

Distinguish between his bad behaviors and more admirable skills, for example, how they make impressions on others, their charisma and how eloquent under pressure. Plus, narcissist often good communicators and tend to be quite visionary.

Hence, they have the ability to inspire others, and this skills can be emulated.


The worst thing you can do

The worst thing you can do is to criticize, challenge, or undermine them!

If you do, he will react in an aggressive and combative way. And they will seek revenge.

Hence, if you have a case to made, try to figure out “what does your case meant for them?”. Approach them with what benefit and make them looks good. Never opposed directly.

Don’t Gossip

Gossiping is rarely a wise move. Narcissist tend be paranoid and see enemies everywhere and whatever you say will likely get back to your boss. You need to know that narcissist are constantly trying to collect information about what others think of them.

Hence, if you need to vent, talk to a therapist, spouse, or a friend (if they don’t work at your company or in similar industry). Therefore, try to be as neutral as possible when your boss’s name comes up in conversation and never put anything in emails.



In summary, these are the principles to remember:


  • Find out what your boss tick
  • Watch and learn. There are always something to learn – something to emulate & something not to do.
  • Stroke their ego


  • Neglect your personal well-being.
  • Challenge your boss. if you need to make a business case, approach it from the boss’s point of view.
  • Gossip. You really don’t want to learn the consequence of this the hard way.

Good luck!


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