Narcissistic coworkers sabotage you in many subtle yet effective ways. You may not even realize that they are hurting your career, until it is too late, unless you know what to look for. Here are nine ways I’ve seen narcissists sabotage their coworkers in both my experience and stories I’ve heard from clients.
Narcissist Coworkers Always Take Credit for What You Do
One of the most common ways that a narcissistic coworker will sabotage you is by refusing to give you due credit for their accomplishments. As a narcissist, they will —
- “Forget” that you had a role in the accomplishment
- Put their name first, delete or hide your name
- Be sure to report first so they can take credit
- Make sure they are highly visible in photos and records, even if they took a minor part
- Diminish your impact, and talk up their role
- Wholesale steal your work and pass it off as theirs
Dealing with a narcissist that takes credit for your work is a touchy because if you do it wrong, it looks like you are the one trying to take credit. Narcissistic coworkers may even arrange it so that you look greedy or self-centered if you try to take fair shore of the credit for your success.
This is part of their gaslighting or narcissistic projection manipulation strategy.
When dealing with a narcissistic coworker, you need to be very careful to document and find allies in the office who can back you up on the truth of what happened.
For more information on dealing with narcissist coworkers, see this article —
Narcissist Set You Up for Failure
Another very common that narcissistic coworkers play is to set you up for failure. Especially if you are a newer employee, and they have some power over you, they will go out of their way to assign you tasks that know you are likely to fail at.
Narcissist coworkers love to see you fail, as it makes them feel superior to you.
Some ways that a narcissist coworker might set you up to fail include —
- Assigning tasks to you that are too difficult, or impossible to do right
- Not giving you proper warning, hoping to catch you unaware of changes
- Failing to pass on key information or advice that would help you succeed
- Throwing a wrench in the works, so that things purposely go wrong
- Turning other employees against you in an attempt to sabotage your ability to work effectively as a team
Be very vigilant when you work with a narcissist, as they are adept at sabotaging you so that you don’t even notice it is their fault. They will probably try to find a scapegoat to blame, in order to absolve themselves of responsibility. And, send you on the wrong track when you go looking for who is responsible.
Toxic Coworkers Give You the Silent Treatment
Narcissist coworkers frequently cycle between hot and cold, and will probably give you the cold shoulder eventually, if the haven’t already.
The silent treatment is a form of narcissistic abuse, where the narcissist refuses to acknowledge or speak to you. They do this or order to pressure you to acquiesce to their will, and assert their dominance over you in that social situation.
Eventually, they hope that you will come crawling back and “admit that you were wrong.” However, they may settle for sending a message to everyone else at work, not to mess with the narcissist.
When you are targeted by the silent treatment, is it important that you do not overreact. The best thing you can do is pretend nothing strange is going on, or at least treat them like they are being silly. Do not give the narcissist an ego based reaction that they are looking for.
For more detail on dealing with a coworker giving you the cold shoulder, you should check out this article —
They Spread Lies or False Rumors About You
The biggest weapon of a narcissistic coworker is character assassination. They will constantly we weaving webs of deception around you when they are alone with other coworkers, supervisors, and bosses.
It is important to the narcissist that they feel like they are the best in the business, and if you outshine a narcissist, they will try to take you down a peg.
Some lies the narcissist might spread include —
- You are bad at your job
- You are unethical
- You have personal or family problems
- You have drug or other addictions
- You steal the narcissist’s work (although it is probably actually the other way around)
- You have sordid romantic encounters or an embarrassing love life
- You don’t follow proper procedure
The best way to tell if your narcissist is trying to take you down a peg is if they try to spread lies about other people your way. Often, they will counter balance their rumors about you by spreading rumors about other people to you. This makes a rift between you, and makes it less likely you will uncover their deception.
Narcissists Question Your Ability, to Your Face
Surprisingly enough, narcissists will often send little stabs your way, directly to your face. This is a way for them to make you self-conscious about your ability.
Often, the narcissist will make these little comments nonchalantly, as if they were natural and obvious. Often throwing them in to a larger conversation where they might pass right by. And, where it would be unnatural to comment on them.
Some comments I’ve heard myself and from clients include —
- “You aren’t as smart as me because you have a bachelors degree and I have a masters.”
- “You may be smart, but you aren’t a good salesman like me.”
- “I’ll take over, because the boss wants someone who knows what they are doing.”
- “This is much better than your normal work!”
They Dwell on Wrongs, and Seek Narcissistic Revenge
One sure sign of a narcissist that they can’t let anything go. Once they feel that they have been slighted, even if isn’t something most people would feel is wrong, they never forget and will seek revenge.
You know you have a narcissist coworker with the mind of an elephant (they never forget) when they bring up things from the past you don’t even remember happening.
Once you get on the bad side of a narcissist, it is very difficult to get back on their good side. The best you can do is try derail the cycle of abuse, or get yourself away from the narcissist.
For info on the narcissistic cycle of abuse here —
Understanding the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse | Breaking the Chain
They Employ Narcissistic Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a narcissistic practice, where the narcissist seeks to make you question your own grasp of reality. They do this by telling lies, fabricating evidence, selectively “forgetting,” and subtly changing their telling of past events over time.
Narcissistic gaslighting makes you more dependent on the narcissist, and less confident in your own abilities.
For more tips on avoiding and countering gaslighting in the work place here —
Coworkers with Narcissism Project Their Faults on You
As a narcissist, your coworker has a deep psychological deficiency in the area of their self esteem. This makes them unable to act productively in the face of criticism or direct confrontation.
Any failing that makes them feel “not good enough” initiates the narcissistic reflex to dodge and deflect failure to those around them.
If you have a narcissistic coworker, you are likely to be the scapegoat at some point in your career. They will frame you as a failure in an attempt to shirk responsibility for what they have done.
Often, a narcissist will frame you without you even knowing. Secretly sabotaging you in the face of bosses, supervisors, and other employees.
Narcissistic Coworkers Love You One Day and Hate You the Next
Narcissistic coworkers are highly variable. They will seem warm and happy one day, and extremely chilly the next.
Narcissist use mood swings to keep you walking on egg shells around them. And, to train you to be attentive to what they want and need.
This narcissistic behavior is destructive to your business’s ability to work cohesively as a team. When the narcissist makes everything about them, it is hard to build a trusting dynamic between employees. Likewise, narcissist dislike when things are going “too well,” and will inject drama that breaks the positive flow.
How do you survive a narcissistic coworker?
Survive a narcissistic coworker by: First documenting and gathering alibis to deflect narcissistic character assassination and rumors. Second, keep a low profile and use the “grey rock” method to deprive narcissist of their supply. Lastly, distance yourself from the narcissist and set appropriate professional boundaries.
What is a narcissistic coworker?
A narcissistic coworker is a fellow employee that suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissistic coworkers usually have trouble accepting criticism, deflect their failures on other people, spread rumors, take credit for other’s accomplishments, and set other workers up for failure.
How do narcissists behave at work?
Narcissists at work tend to be very unethical, attempting to make themselves look good and make everyone else look bad. They will take credit for work that isn’t their, while foisting their failures on any scapegoat they can find. They will also engage in gaslighting, triangulation, and give you the cold shoulder.