The silent treatment is a tactic of control and manipulation used by narcissistic coworkers in order to dominate you. Here’s what it means when a narcissistic worker ignores you, and what to do about it.
Narcissistic cookers ignore you as a public statement of their own superiority, and as a means of making you yearn for their attention. They may do this as part of a hot / cold tactic. Counter their cold shoulder by refusing to acknowledge their behavior or by going with the flow and making a graceful exit from their circle.
Easier said than done? Here is everything you need to know to deal with a narcissistic coworker when they cut you off.
Why a Narcissists Coworker Ignores You
Narcissists are very vulnerable people who are constantly seeking methods of controlling the people around them. For a narcissistic coworker, giving you the cold shoulder is one way asserting their dominance in this situation.
By ignoring you, your narcissistic coworker is —
- Making a public show of their ability to slight you, and thus their “superiority”
- Attempting to make you strive to get back in their good graces
- Let other people know what they will be in for in they cross the narcissist
This type of behavior is coincides with the narcissist’s propensity to view people in a very binary manner. Narcissists view the world through the lens of a story they build around themselves, where they are either the starring hero or the lead victim.
Fitting you in to this fantasy narrative makes you either someone who supports their delusions of grandeur, or an oppressor.
So, if you get on the bad side of a narcissist, they convince themselves that you are deserving of their ire. They will do anything that they can to “get back” at you for “what you’ve done.” And, in an workplace environment that can leniently be done by shunning you.
You can learn more about how narcissists work in these more in depth articles —
- Why Some People are Narcissists | How One Gets a Narcissistic Personality
- Understanding the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse | Breaking the Chain
Should You Be Worried when a Narcissist Coworker Cuts You Off?
Ignoring you is a narcissistic abuse tactic that indicates that you are on the bad side of a narcissist. However you shouldn’t necessarily be worried.
As part of the narcissistic cycle of abuse, a narcissist will lash out in response to insecurities they have which may be due to events real or imagined, and may ultimately have nothing to do with you.
So, it is very possible that eventually the narcissist will get what they want from some other person, and you will suddenly be back in their good graces.
There behavior could also be part of a “hot/cold” cycle, where they start by love bombing you, and then suddenly withdraw, as a way to build a psychological dependence in you towards the narcissist’s approval.
However, narcissistic abuse tends to escalate over time, especially if the narcissist is getting what they want from you.
What To Do When a Narcissist Coworker Ignores You
Here is are two strategies that I find effective against narcissistic employees when they are giving you the silent treatment.
Playing “Dumb” to Defeat Ignoring Narcissist Coworkers
In this strategy, just act normal. Don’t get mad, or call them out. Just go about your normal business.
When you are in a public situation where the narcissist makes it clear that they are ignoring you, just great them normally. If you need to tell them something, walk right up to the front of them and say it, so that there is no way that they could have not heard what you are saying. Then say thanks and walk away.
If their behavior becomes overtly strange, to the point where it would be silly if you didn’t recognize that they are purposely ignoring you. Acknowledge it as if you just can’t understand what they are on about. You might say, “I know you are ignoring me right now, but when you get done can we talk about …”
Overall, be cordial and friendly to them. They are trying to under you skin, and when it becomes clear that isn’t going to work, then they will probably move on to other victims.
Going with the Flow
Other times, you just can’t play nice with narcissist coworker who is ignoring you. They are making your life miserable, and putting your job at risk through their behavior. In that case I recommend —
- You cut off contact with the narcissist as much as possible
- Report their behavior
- Develop an exit strategy
If the narcissistic abuse tactic is working, or they just won’t let up, you may have become the pet project of an abusive narcissist. Unfortunately, there are times when the narcissist has the upper hand, and there is nothing you can do but work you way out from under their thumb.
The first step is to cut off as much contact as you can with the narcissist. Avoid any assignments or duties where they are involved. Go above or around them whenever possible without it being a major breach of etiquette.
The purpose of this step is to limit exposure and minimize damage that they can do to you. For more tips on lowering your profile in the office, check out this related article —
The second step is to shine as much attention on their behavior as possible. Do this by —
- Keeping precise documentation of what they are doing
- Speak with their boss or supervisor privately about it
- Approach to narcissist in public situations where it would seem strange for them to not acknowledge you
One caution is that narcissist tend to be well liked by management. Because they are good at making themselves noticed and taking credit for success, which may or may not be their own, narcissist are more likely to be promoted and CEOs are many times more likely to be a narcissist than in the regular population.
The third step is to find a way out of the situation. If the narcissist is transfixed with you, their attacks may never stop. When you are being ignored, you must develop a plan in case you need to make an exit. Some ideas include —
- Look for other opportunities in the company, away from the narcissist
- Find a way to get the narcissist transferred away
- Update your references, and look for positions outside the company
It is important that you get your references and employment documentation ready well in advance of your situation with the narcissist coming to a head. Narcissist tactics generally involved trying to destroy your reputation totally.
For more details on making an quick exit from a company, read the last part of this article —
Need More Help
Reach out to us a Overcoming Toxic People for personal help with overcoming your narcissistic coworker.