Working for a narcissist boss is never easy. I spent many years working for narcissist bosses, before I realized the harm that they were doing. Here are 9 tactics that I’ve seen used by narcissist bosses to control their employees.
Narcissist Bosses Choose Favorites
When you work for a narcissist boss, you will notice that they always have someone that is their current “golden child” employee. This person can do no wrong, is “saving the business,” or some such nonsense.
If you an new a new person in the department, and you are somebody that the narcissist boss choose to employ themselves, then you may have started out as the special employee.
Narcissist bosses generally start out with a light touch when new people come on board. They want you to like them, and are likely to shower you with positive attention and praise. For a while.
For more information on how this works, I have a whole article on how bosses shower employees with love as a control tactic —
Generally, after a while the narc boss will move on and choose a new worker to gloat over. A favorite worker rarely lasts for a very long time.
Controlling Information, and Redirecting Everything through the Narcissist Boss
Narcissists, especially managers, fear a lack of control. They are generally poor at delegating responsibility. And, do not trust their workers to do their job correctly.
A symptom of this fear of letting go is that a narcissist boss will want to be at the center of every decision. They will be upset if you fail to inform them of even minuscule events that come up.
They also dislike employees directly communicating between each other without the narcissist boss being able to monitor the conversation. This can lead to the boss requiring to be CC’d on every email, heavily cracking down on “unnecessary conversation,” or even installing audio or video monitoring devices in the office or on company computers.
Never underestimate how for a narcissistic boss will go if they fear they are loosing control.
For more information on protecting yourself from a narcissist boss —
Creating Unnecessary Competition between Employees
One narcissist boss tactic that I saw a lot as an employee was the unnecessary competition. While there are legitimate business reasons for tracking performance and comparing achievements between employees, narcissistic bosses only use this as a pretense to set up unproductive competitiveness between employees.
Some ways to tell if your boss is using competition to manipulate you
- The competition is irrelevant to business outcomes, petty, or extremely arbitrary
- The narcissist boss knows they are better at this than everyone else
- The winner is chosen by the narcissist, without objective criteria
As an employee, I once had a boss instruct our whole office to look through a folder of photos, and who ever choose the best one “won.” Another time, a boss started monitoring sales calls for commissioned sales people, and reward with person with the shorted call times. (This was a company that sold high end products to qualified customers, not an outgoing call center.)
Narcissist based competition may seem productive from the outside, but generally results in creating mistrust among workers and stifling communication. Not to mention, it tends to waste time and make workers less productive.
Narc bosses often designate a Jerry of the office, that can do nothing right. In some ways this person is their personal punching bag. Often someone who is a position where they cannot quit or move on, and has personal responsibilities, so they have to take everything coming their way lying down.
This person is the opposite of the golden child.
A Narc Boss Taking Responsibility for Their Mistakes
One rule of the narcissist boss is that they are NEVER wrong. So, in a situation where they or someone they manage made a mistake, they will always have a scapegoat or two on hand to blame the whole thing on.
If your boss can’t take responsibility for management decisions they make, or actions taken by employees following their orders, they are probably a narcissist.
A Narcissist Boss Constantly Claims Successes that Don’t Belong to Them
When something goes right, a narcissist boss will always be right there to claim it as a personal accomplishment.
On skill every narcissist has is looking really good to their bosses and superiors. Narcissist tend to be well loved by their superiors, which is why managers and CEOs are many times more likely to narcissists than the general population.
The application of this tactic varies, but generally takes the form of —
- Making sure their name is on the top of important work
- Reporting to their superiors in a way the minimizes the work of other members of their team
- Claiming they made, the “key decisions,” even if they had no idea what was going on until after it was done
- Retroactively supporting ideas that proved to be successful, even if they vocally opposed them when they were proposed.
Narcissist Bosses Make Everything Personal
Another tactic that a narcissist boss uses to manipulate employees it to convert everything in to a personal attack.
If you fail, the narcissist boss will say you did it to hurt them. If you succeed, you did it because of their support.
When working for a narcissist, your boss will have a difficult time being professional or objective about decisions at work that may reflect either poorly or positively on them.
With a Narcissist Boss, You Don’t Know What’s True or Not
Narcissist bosses are constantly playing mind games with employees. They will try to make them second guess what they know to be true. And, they will spread lies, rumors, or misinformation to dis-empower their employees as much as possible.
Such disinformation tactics include —
- Spreading rumors
- Telling lies & creating false backstories
- “Forgetting” key information
All off this makes working for a narcissistic boss very confusing. This link shares how you deal with narcissistic boss who is lying to you —
Narcissist Bosses Give You the Silent Treatment
Another common tactic with narcissist bosses, is them giving you the silent treatment, cold shoulder, etc.
I’ve personally had narcissistic bosses walk right past me as I was talking to them, pretending they couldn’t hear me. And, in meetings he would refuse to respond to my comments, changing the subject every time I spoke up.
When a narcissist boss shuns you and cuts you out of normal communication, they are doing this to control you.
If they do this, you can’t let them win, otherwise the abuse will never stop. More information on how to deal with a narcissistic boss when they give you the silent treatment here —
How to narcissist bosses destroy moral?
Narcissistic bosses destroy moral by: creating excessive competition between coworkers, spread lies and rumors that destroy trust in the team, and reduce work satisfaction by failing to acknowledge their team’s success instead claiming it for them self.