Working for a narcissistic boss is like walking blindfolded on a minefield: one false step is enough to trigger an explosion. It may not kill you, but it will mangle your soul and shatter your mental health.
As some of your already know, not a long time ago I quit my unsatisfying job in the insurance industry where I was mentally abused by a manipulative boss, and opted for a complete career shift. My psychotherapist congratulated me on that decision. The new year brought me new opportunities, and so I started working in equine tourism in Portugal, which is absolutely awesome because I’ve always loved horses. But there seems to be just one small (yet extremely important) disadvantage of my new job. It didn’t take me long to realize that my boss is a narcissist. A malignant one. It seems that they’re attracted to the INFPs like bees to honey, so my psychiatrist was right when she said she was afraid that I would repeat the same scheme over and over again…
Sometimes, I think that it had to be this way. It wasn’t a coincidence that the narcissist chose me over other candidates for this job. INFPs with their empathy, naivety, hatred of confrontation and people-pleasing habits are an ideal target for those malicious creatures who take advantage of others with no remorse.
But this time it will be different. My previous experience allowed me to identify him immediately and mentally prepare, which makes all the difference…
What Is It Like To Work For A Narcissistic Boss
Working for a narcissist is a devastating experience, not only for the sensitive ones. I am allergic to inauthentic people, and narcissists are anything but authentic. But their fake smile, their grandiosity, and the size of their ego are only the tip if the iceberg. The deeper you go, the more evil you discover. Dealing with a narcissistic boss can make any person lose their sanity and faith in mankind. How?
- Narcissists treat their employees as tools. To a narcissistic boss, your needs don’t matter. Because he’s paying you your miserable salary, he believes that every minute of your life belongs to him, so you will work 16 hours per day until you drop dead. You are only as good as much he can make using you. Once exploited, you will be disposed and replaced with a new one. Narcissist bosses don’t understand that employment is a business relationship between two humans that are equal, not a form of slavery.
- Micromanaging. Narcissists drive people crazy obsessing about the tiniest and less important details. It’s one of the ways they exercise their control and show domination. Everything has to be done just the way they want, as if there was no other valid solution. It’s always “my way or the highway”, so if you dare to disagree, expect the worst.
- Venting their rage on us. You don’t have to do anything bad to trigger a narcissist’s tantrum. When a narcissist has a bad hair day, he will do everything to make your day miserable too.
- Overcriticizing others and not accepting any feedback themselves is another behavior of a narcissistic boss. They never give me positive feedback, which is terrible for a praise junkie that any INFP is. And if they praise you, it’s surely a form of manipulation – they are probably aware that they’re about to lose you and want you to feel guilty about it.
- Being able to make a mountain out of a molehill. It’s a narcissist’s superpower to make a drama out of something which is no big deal, as it gives him another opportunity to scold you and prove his superiority. After all, in times of economic crisis, he’s doing you a favor keeping you.
- Blaming you for his mistakes. He forgot something important? That’s because YOU didn’t remind him. You are so irresponsible. A narcissist will always shift blame onto you because he wants you to believe that it is you who needs fixing, not them.
- Gaslighting. This is a very subtle form of emotional abuse. Narcissists can manipulate you in such a way that you end up questioning your own reasoning and lose your self-esteem as a result.
Tips For Survival, Or How To Handle A Narcissistic Boss (Especially If You’re An INFP)
#1. Get better acquainted with the enemy. Learn about the mechanism of narcissistic abuse and narcissistic behaviors, so you can spot them and protect yourself. Google the topic, talk to friends, read books such as The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age (which turned out to be a fascinating and enlightening read for me).
#2. Let the narcissist win. Or, at least, make him think so. Even if he’s not right, he will argue with you and attack you until you surrender, so INFPs should avoid it at all cost. So when I get scolded, I nod, breathe and count to 20, pretending to accept his criticism and practicing letting go. It’s not about me anyway, it’s all about him.
#3. Set up your own standards. Give up any hopes to get recognition for your efforts and go for “good enough”. Done is better than perfect.
#4. Sweep under the carpet. When it comes to dealing with a narcissistic boss, honesty is NOT the best policy. Don’t tell him what he didn’t ask about. Access to information is power.
#5. Don’t disclose any personal details. Anything you say may be used against you.
#6. Abstain from criticism. The narcissist is not interested in your feedback anyway because he’s driven by shame. Any suggestion that he might not be perfect will be perceived as a threat to his fragile ego, so if you point at his fuck-up, expect a shitstorm.
#7. Take care of yourself. When it comes to catering for your needs, a narcissistic boss is the last person to care. Rest whenever you can and make sure you have some kind human to vent your emotions with. Someone, who will confirm that it is not your perception of the reality that’s completely distorted.
#8. Don’t gossip at your workplace. Narcissists are obsessed with collecting information on what people think about them, so anything you say will go back to them.
#9. Keep looking for another job and abandon the narcissist as soon as you find it. Over time, the situation will only get worse. You are a wonderful person and he doesn’t deserve you. Contrary to what they think, your employer is not doing you any favor by letting you work for them. They are only buying your time and life energy – both are precious and limited resources.
#10. Don’t try to heal them. It’s an INFP thing to see good in all people, but don’t fall into the trap of hoping that you can fix them. When I meet someone who’s broken, I wonder what happened to make them behave the way they do. I want to give them love and make them feel accepted, but sadly, with narcissists, it doesn’t work. They’re broken beyond repair. No matter how hard you try, a narcissist won’t change, because they never see themselves as a problem.
Any strategy to handle a narcissistic boss is a short-term one. It may help you survive for a while, but on the long run, the job is not worth the sacrifice that you’re making. Money is important, but what is the point of earning a good salary if you spend it on mental heath care and antidepressants? I’d rather be making less and keep my sanity while doing something enjoyable with good people.
So there is already another job waiting for me. The best thing about it is that I didn’t find it – it found me. The Universe provided 🙂 Do I feel guilty about leaving without previous notice and ruining the narcissist’s plans? Oh, very much. I am working on self-forgiveness right now. But it seems the only solution to break free and get paid what I worked for. Being honest about my plans would put at risk my financial situation. Even if there is no reason not to pay you, you never can tell with narcissists.
EDIT: I was actually fired before I managed to quit. The reason? I was unfit for the job and had a negative attitude… Nevermind. I got paid, which was my biggest concern, and it’s a relief to know that I don’t have to deal with my narcissistic boss anymore. The new job is even better because I have a great team. We care not only about the horses and the clients, but also about each other. Thank you, Universe!
People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Leaving your narcissistic boss is the best possible vengeance and the only healthy solution. Let go of guilt and for once, prioritize your well-being. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to quit, and the more you will suffer. Your mental health is in real danger. Prepare some emergency exit and escape as soon as you can, before you develop depression, anxiety, or PTSD. This is how you deal with a narcissistic boss.
PS. What is your experience with narcissistic abuse at work? Share your story in comments.