How To Spot A Narcissist At Work

group conversation at work

Ever worked with someone who is an instant charmer, yet in time you realize how self-serving they are? If your answer is yes, you may be dealing with a narcissistic co-worker. 

And you’re likely not alone. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), around 6.2% of the population has a narcissistic personality disorder

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be difficult to spot at work because they are often high-performing professionals. However, there are some telltale signs that show someone is a narcissist.  

What is narcissism?

The word ‘narcissism’ derives from the Greek myth of the beautiful Narcissus.

Narcissus was a young man who discovered his reflection in a pool of water one day and fell in love with it. He couldn’t stop looking at himself in the water to the point that he starved to death.

After he died, a flower blossomed in his place.

So today, we use the term ‘narcissist’ for someone who is overly fixated on themselves, often at the expense of others. Narcissists feel superior to others, are self-absorbed, manipulative, and lack empathy. 

Signs your co-worker may be a narcissist 

At some point in your career, you may come across a narcissist, and they may earn your trust in the beginning. 

However, you may see their true nature when they get an opportunity to serve themselves and undermine you.

Before that happens, look for these signs to spot a narcissist at work.

1. Overplays their status and accomplishments

Signs that someone is not being honest

Most narcissists inflate their status and importance by reminding people of their accomplishments, such as the schools they attended, celebrities or VIPs they know, high-profile projects they are working on, their past employment, etc. 

They are experts at making the conversation about themselves and demanding your attention. Yet, covert narcissists struggle with low self-esteem; they often need validation and admiration from others.

2. Takes credit for other’s work

In competitive work environments, narcissists may steal their colleagues’ ideas or take credit for their accomplishments. For example, a narcissistic co-worker may present your findings as if they were theirs or downplay your contribution to a  project.

They may approach you as a friend if they are threatened or jealous of your talents. However, they will likely pretend until they get what they need from you in the first place. 

After using you, they may stonewall you – or worse – make you believe you did something wrong as they are excellent at playing the victim.

3. Avoids accountability for their mistakes

man holding tight fists

Narcissists love to be praised; it’s easy to imagine what they don’t love – criticism (even when it’s constructive).

Since they believe they are ultimately right or the most capable and intelligent person in every room, they don’t respond well to negative feedback. 

Even if the feedback is justified, it will only anger the narcissist, and they will try to undermine or gaslight whoever is delivering it.

4. Charming when they need to be

Narcissists are known for being charming and charismatic. They are especially good at creating a good first impression. This is because they often use their charm to persuade others to agree with them and manipulate people for their gain.

However, once the smoke and mirrors are cleared, narcissists can be cruel and abusive. At their worst, they may spread rumors, start mobbing and use victimhood to self-justify.

5. Sees themself above others

Narcisissm treatment

Many narcissists struggle to relate to others or see them as equals. They categorize people as superior or inferior, always putting themselves above others.

Consequently, narcissists think their thoughts and emotions are more important than anyone else’s. They lack boundaries and expect everyone to feel the same way. 

For example, narcissists think their time is more important than anyone else’s, so they won’t feel bad about making you wait. Yet if they were made to wait, you can expect them to cause a scene.

6. Lacks empathy

Perhaps the most important sign of a narcissist is their lack of empathy. 

Since they feel superior to others, they rarely understand or respect people’s emotions. On the contrary, they take pleasure in causing a strong emotional response in people, mainly because they use it to control them.

Since narcissists expect everyone to think as they do, they are never wrong. Naturally, they don’t feel apologetic, remorseful, or guilty for upsetting others.

If you are dealing with a narcissist at work, you must remember not to take their actions personally. Although narcissists are a nuisance to others, they do the greatest damage to themselves because they are incapable of forming healthy and loving relationships.

Sometimes, someone you love may be a narcissist. If you are in a complicated situation such as dealing with narcissistic abuse, we’re here to help.

Contact us today for a free and confidential talk with one of our highly trained clinicians.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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