Triangulation is one of the favorite tactics of a narcissistic boss, which they use to confuse and control their employees. In my time, I’ve seen triangulation used to devastating effect multiple times. Are you experiencing narcissistic triangulation at work? Here is how you deal with it.
Narcissistic triangulation is a form of abuse committed by boss when they manipulate their employees and coworkers through, usually unwitting, third parties. This can take the form of spreading lies or rumors, sabotaging relationships, or calculated application of peer pressure.
Are you experiencing narcissistic triangulation from a boss at work? Or know someone that does. Here is what you need to know to recognize and combat this this narcissistic abuse tactic.
Common Forms of Triangulation a Narcissistic Boss Might Use
Because a boss is an authority figure at work, who as access to direct communication with all of the employees, narcissistic triangulation is a powerful tactic in the hands of a toxic boss.
Here are some common triangulation scenarios that I’ve seen with narcissistic bosses —
Your boss passing on false or exaggerated negative performance reviews to coworkers, supervisors, and upper management. Usually, the boss will not reveal these negative points to you directly. Instead, they will often put on a happy face and say everything you did is fine or just not mention it.
Your narc boss’s goal with this is to blind side you. They will probably try cover up the fact that the negative report came form them, if at all possible. They may even act like they are on your side, and trying to stand up for you, while selling you out at every opportunity.
Your narcissist boss will spread rumors about you directly to other coworkers. I’ve personally experienced this many times at work with a narcissist boss. If the boss has a problem with you, they will pull other employees aside and “warn” them about you. Some things I’ve heard narcissist bosses say include —
- The victim is lazy, or a poor worker
- The victim is unethical, a thief, or a liar
- The victim has problems at home with their family or relationships
- The victim is overly promiscuous (a “slut” or “man-whore”)
- The victim has medical or psychological conditions to watch out for
Often, the narcissist boss will not stop talking or constantly remind your coworkers of these “facts,” until the coworker agrees that the narcissist is right about you.
Your narcissistic manager will spread false versions of events that you were part of, to make you think that you are crazy. This goes hand in hand with gaslighting, where your narcissistic boss tries to make you doubt your own perception of reality, in order to make you influenceable and depended on them.
I’ve seen bosses do this by —
- “Informing” coworkers where weren’t present, filling them in with a false version of events
- Fabricate false or misleading documents to support their narrative, and distribute them to actively mislead others at work
- Slowly change the story, retelling it over and over with minor tweaks until it is completely changed in substance, and most people at work don’t notice the change
While this article focuses primarily on triangulation as a tactic, narcissistic bosses will intermix this form of manipulation with many other strategies fluidly in order to get the response they desire.
Other Forms of Narcissistic Boss Manipulation
Narcissist bosses use a wide variety control and manipulation tactics to control their employees and coworkers. Three of the most common forms are: love bombing, gaslighting, and the silent treatment.
Here are related articles that cover these forms of manipulation in detail.
- Narcissist Boss Love Bombing | How to Spot It and Combat A Narcissist
- When Your Narcissist Boss is Giving You the Silent Treatment
- The Gaslighting Narcissistic Boss Employee’s Survival Guide
How to Combat a Narcissistic Boss’s Triangulation
The best way to overcome triangulation in the work place is to be as open and “grounded” with your actives as possible. Some ways I recommend doing this are —
- Keep records of your performance and day to day activities separately from official documentation, preferably in a way that your boss doesn’t know about or cannot change.
- Talk about what you are doing with coworkers, try to be a naturally open book kind of person, hiding nothing and being completely candid with what is going on.
- Get everything in writing as much as possible, prefer emails to face to face conversations.
- Try to arrange things so their are trustworthy third party observers present as much as possible. Ideally, someone that is not under the authority of the narcissistic boss.
- Avoid talking about personal matters at work, and especially directly with your boss
Your narcissistic boss will probably actively oppose such transparency in the work place, so you may have your work cut out for you. I always recommend taking steps to insulate yourself form a narcissistic boss, and to have an exit plan in place (see the two articles linked below for details on that).
I’ve covered more general means to combat a narcissistic boss in these two articles.
- How to Overcome a Narcissistic Boss
- How to Manipulate a Narcissistic Boss | Antinarcissism Employee Tactics
Should your narcissistic boss target you for triangulation, it is important that you don’t give them what they want. In the first place, do your best to not get mad or to try to retaliate against your narcissistic boss for what they have done. This is usually the reaction that they were hoping for, and the first step in their conquest of your mind.
The second step is to gather as much information as you can about what the narcissist is saying about you. To this end, having good relationships with your coworkers, and other supervisors or bosses is extremely beneficial. You will need support from other people at work to overcome narcissistic triangulation from a boss.
Ideally, you would gather as much proof of the boss’s narcissistic manipulation as possible, and make others at the office aware of their behavior. Narcissists are only powerful when people believe their lies. But, no matter what you do, keep a low profile and avoid tipping of your narc boss that you know what they are up to.
Unfortunately, narcissistic bosses are in a highly advantageous position, and cannot be directly overcome. In those cases, take steps to protect yourself through documentation and separation from the narcissist boss. Depending on the exact situation, you may need to switch positions at work or quit and find another job.
Need Help with a Narcissistic Boss
I offer private coaching sessions specifically designed to help people overcome a toxic boss, and escape narcissists as work. Click below for details on what private coaching is currently available.
I also have collected more resources on overcoming narcissists that I recommend below, including books, courses, and seminars that you may find beneficial.
What is narcissistic triangulation?
Narcissistic triangulation is an means of psychological control where the narcissist tricks or otherwise convinces third parties to help them manipulate their victim by supporting false narratives, spreading rumors, leveraging judgment or peer pressure, or by sabotaging relationships.
How do narcissists use triangulation?
Narcissists frequently use triangulation to manipulate their victims through threat of, or actual, destruction of their reputation. Often, the third party “stooge” is employed to spread lies or rumors which stain the victim’s reputation. The narcissist may also attempt to ruin the victim’s relationships by spreading lies to their friends and significant others.
Why do narcissists triangulate?
Narcissists triangulate as a way to wield control and manipulate victims, without exposing themselves to direct criticism or reveling their intentions. Peer pressure is incredibly powerful, and narcissists prefer to deal on the level of reputation — boosting theirs and cutting down those of their victims.