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Do I Work With a Narcissist?

June 14th, 2022


It’s one thing to have a high-strung boss or self-serving coworker, but for people with Narcissist personality disorder, coworkers face a unique set of challenges. You may have used the term “narcissist” or heard it thrown around in conversations to describe a person who is disliked.

Why are we so convinced that we have come across Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the workplace when only 0.5% of the population meets the criteria for it in their lifetime? It’s likely that you may have, but not as common as you think.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

NPD is a diagnosable personality disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual. Mayo Clinic describes NPD as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others”. Underneath their mask of confidence, however, “lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Common traits of NPD listed in the DSM-V:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • The belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • Need for excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • Lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
Where Does NPD Come From?

Where Does NPD Come From?

A common belief amongst psych professionals is that personality disorders are formed early on in life and are generally related to the attachment a person develops with their primary caretakers.

Early childhood and adolescent experiences including trauma and loss also contribute to the potential development of personality disorders later in life.

Lastly, having a parent who also has a personality disorder leaves children more susceptible to developing one later in life.

Who Does NPD Affect?

Those diagnosed with NPD are 75% male by comparison to just 25% females. While there is no data across ethnicities or socioeconomic classes, we also know that there are a few professions that tend to attract people living with NPD. Finance, sports, politics, and the medical field all tend to be professions that attract people with NPD. Additionally, we can see higher than average rates of NPD in C-level executives and others in high-level positions within a company.

Tips on Managing a Relationship With a Coworker Who Lives With NPD

Tips on Managing a Relationship With a Coworker Who Lives With NPD

Any type of relationship with a person who has NPD can be difficult - personal or professional. A close relationship with a narcissist can have negative effects on a person’s self-esteem, self-worth, and overall mental health.

Here Are Some Tips:

  1. Have compassion. I know this may be difficult, but understand that someone who displays signs of narcissism on the outside is internally dealing with low feelings of self-worth. I see a lot of focus in the mental health field on how to heal from the abuse of a narcissist. While this is important, it often discounts that adults living with NPD were often children who felt unloved. As adults, they just want to be admired and accepted by others.
  2. Set boundaries. Someone who is living with a personality disorder will often struggle to understand the general boundaries that many of us think are just assumed by everyone. Be clear and direct about what your expectations are within that relationship.
  3. Recognize that some of the traits of a narcissist can be helpful on a team. Narcissists are often perfectionistic and want to make sure anything they put their name on is successful.
  4. Ask for support. If the relationship has started to affect your mental health in the workplace, ask for support from your managers and HR team.

Healing From NPD

Change is possible with counseling in conjunction with medication. There are positive outcomes for people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who want to learn how to have stronger, more authentic relationships.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is often used with success in the treatment of personality disorders. Clarity Clinic offers DBT therapy for people of all ages, if you think you may benefit from this treatment give us a call today.

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