What To Do If your Boss Is a Narcissist?

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay

“What do you mean they do not know who I am? I am… Y.” ~Narcissistic Boss

One of the most important relationships that we have, whether we like it or not, is with our boss. Many of us work 40 hour weeks or more and are often shadowed by a direct supervisor. By boss, I mean your employer or anyone who has a direct supervisory role over you. We would all love to have a relationship with our supervisor based on mutual respect and healthy boundaries but many of us are not so fortunate. Unfortunately, there are individuals among us who wear the mask of the “normalcy,” which allows them to easily blend into society. But, below this surface typicality, there lurks a highly skilled social predator who is constantly looking for the next person to exploit. Research indicates that up to 6 percent of the US population suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). That means that walking among us, one out of 16 people can be diagnosed with NPD.

It is important to note that your boss may be an unpleasant person, but this does not automatically mean that he or she suffers from a personality disorder. I am concerned that the term “narcissist” is frequently used to label someone as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) without a proper diagnosis. Being obnoxious or exhibiting some traits from time to time does not mean a person suffers from NPD.  Having said this, I will use the term “narcissist” in this post to describe a person with NPD.

The DSM-5 defines NPD as a person having 5 out of 9 of the following traits. These traits must be present throughout their lives. They must be inflexible, persistent and cause significant functional impairment and distress. This is a spectrum disorder, which means a person may have 5 or all 9 traits present, which will directly correlate with the severity of the behavior displayed. In this post, I am giving examples which are true. I have been given permission by X to share anecdotes of her employer Y.  X was an employee of a small but very successful family-owned business started by Y. X was an employee for over 15 years and during that time was able to observe first-hand behaviors by Y that meet the criteria for NPD.

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance. Will exaggerate achievements and talents and expect others to recognize their superiority without any commensurate achievements
In the case of X, her boss Y wanted to be recognized as having an IQ higher than anyone else. She was always right and would claim to have graduated from a prestigious university. The truth was that she had attended one semester and dropped out. No one was allowed to question her decision making. If anyone dared to contradict her, she would go out of her way to make life at work a nightmare until they quit. Y expected to be treated like a queen at work. She frequently screamed and lashed out when things did not go her way. These child-like tantrums would quickly subside when she got her way and Y would act as if nothing happened.

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty or ideal love
Y dreamt of being accepted into the inner circle of high society. If you were to talk to her, the conversation was often about how much money she was making, what designer bag she had purchased and her next trip to Europe. Money validated her existence and it ruled her mind. As Y aged she became more preoccupied with her youthful appearance and began to cosmetically alter herself. At work, she would display jealousy and hostility towards younger women. X saw many fresh-faced young women take on the position of being Y’s assistant only to later quit out of exhaustion. Y would openly berate these women appearing to enjoy destroying their egos. Y would be kind, even solicitous towards the male employees, enjoying the attention she would receive from them. She wanted to be seen as the most attractive and receive all of the male attention at work.

3. Excessive need for admiration
Every interaction with Y felt like there was a giant spotlight illuminated her. She needed to be at the center of everything and needed to be constantly validated. During work meetings, she would constantly interrupt to share inappropriate personal stories. She constantly shared stories about men stopping to compliment her. If Y was in the room every conversation had to be about her.

4. The belief that they are special and can only be understood by or should only associate with other special or high-status people
Y would constantly brag about her small company and how everyone in the industry knew her. She craved to be accepted by the wealthy individuals she catered to. She longed to be invited to social events and would become depressed and irritable when she was not. She would light up if a person of a certain stature would speak to her. Y felt she belonged with the wealthy and everyone else was not worthy of her time.

5. Arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes
Y could care less for others. She would often enter a room and only say hello to individuals she felt were worthy of her time. She avoided looking at people as if they were nonexistent. Y was very condescending at work and often would call people stupid. She would often violate someone’s personal space by speaking loudly to their face and touching them without permission. Y treated her employees as if they were property and interchangeable. Among the many incidents that X shared, there was one particular incident that exemplified Y’s attitude about her employees. At the main office, there was an employee that was slightly overweight. Y often made snide remarks about this employee. Y felt that this employee was damaging the company’s appearance so she relocated them to the warehouse division without any prior notification to the employee. Y’s attitude was out of sight out of mind.

6. Entitled
Y expect to be treated as deserving special treatment. Her expectation was that if you were an employee of her company you were obligated to treat her as the queen of the company.

7. Lack of empathy
Y was not able to express any empathy. Y was completely self-absorbed and only interested in her existence. In the case of X, her father passed away the night before she had to work. X was expected and showed up to work the next day and worked a full day. Y was aware of the death and did not express any message of condolences. In actuality, she was especially demanding on this day. It was business as usual.

8. Exploitive
If you happen to reveal something personal that may be of use to a narcissist, they will exploit to their benefit. For instance, if they know you have weak boundaries and are not able to say no, they may proceed to use you to run errands and even babysit their children. They will remind you that you are “family.” They will often “gaslight” their employee to make them believe that they are the one with the problem.

9. Envious of others or believes that others are envious of her
Y had a lot of material wealth and success but this was not enough. She would still display envy towards others. She would constantly go out of her way to terrorize a younger employee based on her envy of their youth or attractiveness. She believed and often exclaimed that women were envious of her looks and success.

Steps to take to protect yourself in the workplace:

1. Avoid being alone with them
It is impossible to avoid interacting completely with your boss who you suspect suffers from NPD. But, you can try to avoid interacting with your boss while you are alone. Practice the buddy system and try to always have a co-worker present. If you find yourself alone with them, it is important that you maintain your boundaries and voice any discomfort you may have.

2. Don’t believe everything they say
Love bombing is one of the tactics most often used by individuals with NPD. A narcissist will idealize, devalue and eventually discard. Your employer may start by showing favoritism towards you. Boundaries will become blurred and you may feel you are actually friends. They may even state that you are more than an employee and they consider you family. They will idealize you during this stage only to later devalue you when you make a mistake. Eventually, you may find yourself discarded, without a job, once the narcissist feels there is nothing more to gain from you

3. Appease them
Whenever possible, as long as ethically and morally right, allow your boss to have the last word. Never contradict or embarrass a narcissist in front of others. This will only subject you to their narcissistic rage and revenge at a later date.

4. Love bomb them
Use the narcissist’s own weapon against them. Flattering a narcissist is a great distraction tactic. If you see they are in a bad mood, make sure to compliment them or make the conversation about them. Remember, in the narcissist’s world he or she is the center of the universe so they will normally not notice that you are manipulating the situation.

5. Maintain your professional distance
It is always a good idea to maintain a professional distance from your employer. It is especially important when you suspect your boss is a narcissist. Do not befriend them on Facebook or on any other social media platform. It is important to remember they are not your friend. You are simply a means to an end and are disposable. Remember the expression, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In the case of the narcissist familiarity breeds opportunity.

6. Never reveal any personal information that may be used against you
While at work, it is important to keep things civil. But, it is not necessary to share your life story. If you find yourself in a social setting only reveal minimal information about your private life. This can easily be done by redirecting the conversation to make it about the narcissist. Discuss only business matters and make yourself uninteresting to them. If given the opportunity the narcissist will use any personal information you shared with them against you.

7. Don’t do favors
Avoid getting manipulated into doing favors or running errands for them after work hours. Once you open the door, you will never stop being an errand person.

8. Document everything
Document any form of harassment and inappropriate behavior. In the case you are unlawfully terminated, you will want to have proper documentation in order to support your case against the unlawful termination.

9. If it becomes unbearable prepare an exit plan
It is important that you are not manipulated into quitting. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney to make sure you have gathered all the documentation you will need if you are planning to take your employer to court. If you feel that you are able to exit peacefully make sure to get a letter of recommendation and leave on good terms.

10. Seek the help of a mental health professional
It is important that you assess the impact the narcissist may have had in your life. Once X lost her job she realized that she was suffering from PTSD as a result of the many years of abuse by her narcissistic boss.

This is not meant to be used as a tool to diagnose your boss or anyone else. Only a licensed psychologist may make the diagnosis. Diagnosis of NPD is typically based on a complete psychological evaluation that may include answering questionnaires and meeting criteria by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) This post is not for individuals who may be in a co-dependent relationship with a narcissist. This topic will be addressed in a later post.

Thank you for taking a moment to visit my blog. I hope you enjoyed this post. I welcome your comments and would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology

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101 responses to What To Do If your Boss Is a Narcissist?

  1. Sara says:

    I love this post and the tips you give for dealing with an NPD boss. It actually sounds like my boss! I try so hard to avoid being alone with him and I actually do write down everything. Thank you Doctor Perry.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Emily says:

    “Y” sounds absolutely terrifying. kudos to “X” for lasting 15 years and sharing their story. Wonderful and informative post. Thank you.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. JesseFromAZ says:

    MY BOSS IS SUCH A NARCISSIST!!! I knew this but your post makes this a lot more clear. My boss one time asked me to buy him a pair of double A batteries during my off hours. I went to the gas station and bought two double A batteries that cost like $7. When he saw how much the batteries cost he was surprised. I said I didn’t know why they would be so expensive EVEN THOUGHT I KNEW! Anything you buy from the gas station is overpriced. I used this strategy a few more times with other things and he finally stopped asking me to do anything. HA! Thanks for the post Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. kathy says:

    This is such an informative post. I am sharing on Facebook. I know lots of people that need to read this.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. mindsoul11 says:

    I had such boss. The chief editor in a magazine where I worked as editor for. It wasn’t fun working there, never appreciated for all the hard work and extra work done too. I had the shock of my life when once he told me to write an article on a tourist place and mail it to him by late night. Since that months edition was about to be printed, I thought it was a last minute addition. So, I wrote it down and mailed it to him before midnight. Next day, the article came out in the local paper in his name. At office he was being flooded with calls for such an awesome article. I felt robbed to the core of my heart. How shamelessly he stood in front of me… that made me sick in the stomach. Next day, I resigned.
    Now I am a happy freelancer.
    Thanks for the post Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You are most welcome! I am so happy to hear you left that work environment and are doing well✨

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Myth*. says:

    Dr.Perry, all of your postings are very informative, and very well written. Also, I hope you and loved ones are holding up well through the devestating fires! I am up here in Northern Cal. And that is all I can say… There are no words … Be safe! Be strong! Many have a long road to recovery! 💔

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you so much 🙏🏽 I hope you and your family are safe. The fires are devastating and my heart breaks for all of those impacted✨

      Liked by 4 people

      • Myth*. says:

        Thank you very much. The city/people of Paradise are our mountain neighbors, and many friends and loved ones! So many people are missing! It is raining tears for the fires to end. And for all those who have lost their precious lives, and have lost their loved ones, may it be a human or pet. Take good care!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. First of all, that picture scared the heck out of me. I just saw In The Heart of The Sea last week and I could only imagine Mobi Dick flapping its tail and sending those kayakers to the depths of the sea…As for the post, I’m going to share it. It’s so informative. Thank you for sharing. I left my job some years ago but I know a few people who need to know how to handle situations like this.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. I always thought this was a rare condition until I started finding out about people who are narcissists or have NPD: my sister-in-law’s soon-to-be ex-husband (undiagnosed but without a doubt…) and my previous boss’s ex-husband (diagnosed).Now I see the stats (1 in 16 people) and don’t know whether to be shocked or what! Another great post. And may all your interactions today be “kind,” on World Kindness Day.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you very much. Indeed let’s make an extra effort to be kind to eachother today on World kindness day✨

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I think I worked with Y or her ugly sister when I first moved to the US. We literally went through all those points and I made all those mistakes. Ultimately she was fired but she blamed me rather than accepting it was her actions. It was pretty ugly but it’s in the past and I learned a big lesson! Thanks for the great work tips because you should use those whether your boss is a narcissist or not

    Liked by 7 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You’re welcome Carol. I actually wrote this to answer your earlier question regarding this topic. I am glad you liked it✨

      Liked by 2 people

      • And I appreciate that. Work takes such a big chunk of our time and to work for someone who creates stress is never good. I like the examples you give on how to protect yourself in the work place. Much appreciated!

        Liked by 3 people

  10. Ben says:

    I wish I could show this to my boss. She is not diagnosed ( that I know of) but this sure sounds like her. I absolutely love the tips you listed. I wish I had seen this before I stared working. Today is world kindness day and I want to take a moment to thank you for you blog. You are an inspiration.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for your kind words. It is never too late to setting some boundaries. I wish you well✨

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Someone in CA says:

    Thank you for another great post. I appreciate that you point out the importance of not labeling individuals as Narcissists without a proper diagnoses. I come across a lot of people calling their ex partners Narcissists without any proof. I think it’s harmful and it makes it seem as if everyone is a narcissist. True malignant narcissist that meet all 9 criteria are rare and pretty dangerous in my opinion.

    Liked by 7 people

  12. I’ve only known one such person (thankfully) and it wasn’t someone close to me but my son. It was horrific to say the least. Took a long time for him to come to terms with the impact this person had on him. I’m grateful for your post and hope that everyone seeks help if they’ve been involved with this type of individual. Thank you.

    Liked by 8 people

  13. Carla from PA says:

    When I get an email from you that a new post has gone up I am always wondering if Dr. Perry will strike another chord. Yes, you did just that. My boss is a complete narcissist… well at least I think so anyway. What you described here totally resonates. Thank you for these helpful steps💗

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Indeed. You can find individuals who suffer from NPD in all areas of life and all over the world✨

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Serena says:

    Great post Dr. Perry. I think I made all these mistakes and my boss was an absolute terror! Unfortunately I didn’t document anything but I am so much happier now. Based on your post I’m pretty sure he was top grade narcissist!

    Liked by 6 people

  15. conversationswithangelsblog says:

    I worked for my Dad. Narcissist parent and employer. It was a living nightmare.

    Liked by 8 people

  16. Great post! I had to share this one. Sadly it describes some past bosses of mine perfectly. With regard to number 4, I had a boss who actually said that if he wanted to have an intelligent conversation with someone he’d talk to himself. Ironically, I witnessed this guy have a total breakdown one day and he was actually having a very animated conversation with a bookcase . . .

    Liked by 8 people

  17. Mel says:

    I love this post! I think the tips can apply to all employee – employer relationships. It’s best to keep your distance.

    Liked by 7 people

  18. Narc. Survivor says:

    “Remember the expression, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” In the case of the narcissist familiarity breeds opportunity.” This is a Great point. A person with NPD is always looking for a way YOU can be of service to them.

    Liked by 7 people

  19. John says:

    This reminds me so much of my old boss. The work environment was so chaotic and stressful. Leaving was the best decision for me. Great post.

    Liked by 5 people

  20. Excellent advice! You can’t always get away from a narcissist boss or coworker. It’s so important to learn how to care for yourself during that exposure. Thank you for helping others survive these experiences. They really can be soul draining.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      It’s important to have firm boundaries.Narcissists will often leave people around them feeling exhausted because they are gaining their narcissistic supply from them. Thank you for your comment✨

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Heyoka Muse says:

    Thank you for posting this blog. I have never had a Narcissist as a boss yet have had them in my life in other ways. I would have a nervous breakdown if I had one as a boss!!!! Thanks for the tips if God forbid I ever get one.

    Liked by 6 people

  22. Mrs. Salazar says:

    I am an email subscriber. I love reading your blogs. They are more like articles actually. Very well written and informative. I am retired now and luckily my employer was normal. Thank you.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. colinseddon says:

    I recently found myself in a similar situation with my boss. I solved it by insisting on having future meetings with a union rep. Once that happened, we agreed that actions would need to be agreed together and publicly minuted. He’s been nice as pie since but I still have to remind myself not to engage him in conversations which will give the opportunity to suck the air out of any kind of debate. It also helps to put the words “it’s only” in front of his name.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. Estelle says:

    Dr. Perry you described my boss to a T. I always avoid him as much as I can!!! I love how you broke this down into manageable things to actually do. I always come across articles or blog posts that talk about what it is rather than how to deal with it. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Love your blog!

    Liked by 3 people

  25. thorton4792 says:

    Great post. Worked at a company where the boss was a narcissist. Unfortunately, it was right after ending a marriage with one. Halfway through my nine months there, I knew that I was going to be setup and fired. I also realized that my position was the scapegoat position. It was a rough time there, but interesting to see how it plays out in the workplace as opposed to a personal relationship.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Barbara Dab says:

    This is so great! I have worked for someone like this, as well as having a family member and friend who are narcissists. It’s incredibly difficult to be in any kind of relationship with someone like this. Mostly, I just try to survive. I’m also working on figuring out my role in this dynamic and why people like this are attracted to me. Thanks for laying this out so clearly.

    Liked by 4 people

  27. AliRose says:

    There is a part of me that wishes that I had read this before I had a boss like this. I was eventually able to get out of my situation, but perhaps if I had known what I was dealing with, I would have been able to protect myself from the emotional damage I am still working to heal. Thank you for posting this, so that others may yet be saved from such pain.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. I love this! My last boss was definitely this person. Luckily, the only time I ever had to work for someone like this. I would have loved to have some of these ideas to use on her, but I was able to retire in May and my life is now work-stress-free. Great things to use, though, if I ever decide to go back to work!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Tandi Tales says:

    Fantastic article. It’s amazing how many problems in a person’s life can be attributed to one external factor. So, X developed PTSD because of the toxic interactions with Y. I wonder how much better off X might have been WITHOUT a debilitating disorder. It goes to show the value of talking to a professional to identify the issue early.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Nassima says:

    Interesting post,many thanks for the useful information. I suspect my boss is a narcissist 😷 trying my best to avoid problems but I think he sees me as a threat for him at work especially that other co-workers told him that the way I do the job is more professional than his😰 I don’t want to get in trouble because I do what I see is right. I think we should be very prudent of a narcissist person whether at work or at social life because the most important thing for them is Themselves they may harm others for that. Thank you again 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  31. M.S. says:

    I am in a terrible situation at work. This describes my boss and he is horrible. I’m taking your advise and documenting everything. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  32. lostinlalaland says:

    Excellent post. I do believe my boss is a narcissist and I am taking the proper steps to protect myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. DaZ says:

    Hi Dr. Perry, my boss has all the criteria from 1-9! I was thinking about this lately what kind of disorder she has, your post has enlightened me of the truth about her personality. She would scream to hell like she doesn’t care, she would never listen to any explanations and claims that she’s always right, nobody could disagree and argue with her, she doesn’t say hi or hello whenever she enters the room, worse… she always tries to find a way to make me give up and quit my job, such a nightmare!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. FloridaSun says:

    Very valuable advise. I am in a very difficult situation at work and this totally describes my boss. I am going to start making an exit plan. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      I am happy that this post is helpful to you. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Your post has been marked as spam. Please read my comments policy on the website version of my blog.


  35. S.K. says:

    I feel like this post was written for me. I am in a similar situation in my work place and I am trying my best to deal with the situation. This was very helpful. Thank you Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 1 person

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