How to deal with narcissism at work

vector picture showing a woman choosing between different types of mindsets: scared, sad, or happy

October 26, 2023

Narcissism is increasingly present around us, particularly in the workplace. In this article, you will get a glimpse into how to recognise unhealthy narcissistic tendencies and what causes them. You will also discover four major things to avoid when working with narcissistic personalities. Watch out for the bonus section, too!

We live in a culture where identity is based on external image, and the level of projected success is the only unit of measure for someone’s human worth. That creates a breeding ground for narcissistic behaviours. However, there is such a thing as a healthy dose of narcissism, just like it is the case with a healthy dose of shame. The “technical” term for healthy narcissism is self-confidence. Having an appropriately positive image of ourselves is crucial for our well-being. We can’t extend love to others if we can’t extend love to ourselves.

This article was written for Life Coach Directory.


1. How to recognise narcissistic tendencies

  • How they view themselves
  • How they view others

2. What causes narcissism

  • The narcissistic injury
  • Two states of the narcissistic personality

3. Four things to avoid when dealing with narcissism at work

  • Consequences of antagonism
  • Manipulation
  • Doing favours
  • Disappointment

4. Effects of narcissism on you

  • Walking on thin ice
  • Feeling guilt
  • Boundaries


Bonus section: three tips for dealing with narcissism at work

1. Show approval when appropriate

If you want to maintain a respectful relationship with your narcissistic colleagues, don’t shy away from acknowledging them. That will put you on the “ally” list and you will be listened to more. The compliments must come from an honest, genuine place. It is quite easy to distinguish, at least at an intuitive level, between candour and clumsy flattery. 

2. Criticise only when absolutely necessary (and be very specific).

Knowing what lies beneath the narcissistic personality’s sensibility to criticism, it comes as no surprise that limiting yourself to the absolutely necessary circumstances can help reduce the risk of fallout. Moreover, because of the narcissistic tendency to see any criticism as a damnation of their character, it can be advantageous if you point out a single specific behaviour at a time. That way, you leave little room for exaggerations. 

3. Expect envy when you share your successes.

Starting from the premise that narcissistic personalities tend to think they are entitled to bigger and greater things than the rest of us, it is easy to see how intense their averse feelings would get should they notice your streak of successes. Sharing the latest praise you received from management, the latest bonus you received, or the latest dream holiday you booked can turn you into their perceived enemy.

Struggling with narcissism at work?

You don’t have to navigate this alone. Would you like to understand more about what you bring into the work dynamics? Are you unsure how you would apply and do’s and don’ts in the article? If so, get in touch and we can chat!