*A shorter version of this post was recently featured in the Huffington Post.
If you find yourself getting depressed every Sunday afternoon because you have to re-enter the lion’s den on Monday morning with a workplace bully, you owe it to yourself to find out if your boss is a narcissist or what is colloquially known as “a workplace bully”.
The quicker you can identify your boss’s narcissistic traits, the easier it will be to take control of the situation and start to feel good about yourself again.
“Should I Stay or Should I Leave My N Boss” Decision Tree will walk you through all of the important things to consider and help you make the best decision for your circumstances. You can download it HERE.
Research shows over and over gain that victims of a workplace bully are usually the most talented and competent among us. Because you know what you are doing and have natural people skills that allow you to be well liked and respected by your peers, the workplace bully has it in for you.
You have something he/she lacks. Recognizing this important truth will help you maneuver your stressful workplace environment with renewed strength, finesse and confidence.
First please know, It is not your fault
The most important first step to getting your life back is the realization that it isn’t you; but rather it‘s the dysfunctional corporate culture in which you work that enables your workplace bully.
Narcissists have many of the characteristics that make them good leaders, they are tough, non-emotional risk takers but the key difference between the narcissist or work place bully and the good leader, is their blatant disregard for others. They see their job as a game and their employees as pawns to be used in any way that will allow them to win.
You are not alone. Bullying affects nearly half of working adults: Approximately 1 in 10 U.S. workers experience persistent abuse in any given year, another 30% to 40% are bullied sometime during their working lives, and an additional 10% witness bullying but are not targeted directly according to Dr. Namie & Prof. Lutgen-Sandvik of The Workplace Bullying Institute,(www.workplacebullying.org). Other more recent statistics from or WBI show 27% of all Americans employed in 2014 experienced workplace bullying; that is a staggering 40 million people.
You have what it takes to survive a workplace bully
Instead of blaming yourself start using your natural emotional intelligence to manage the workplace bully. Research at the WBI indicates the victims tend to be popular, hardworking and morally upright individuals, specifically veteran associates who are well respected by their peers. Other characteristics of victims identified include: kind, giving, altruistic and agreeable. This is important information because the workplace bully will have impacted your self- esteem.
Boost Your self esteem
Find ways to bring balance and joy back into your life. Don’t underestimate the impact a workplace bully can have on your mental health. Prof. Lutgen-Sandvik, summarizes the harm that occurs: Specifically, bullying stigmatizes through its content (e.g., accusations of poor work, personal shortcomings, mental illness) and traumatizes because it shakes deeply held beliefs about fairness and fair play. These two forces—stigma and trauma—make bullying an experience that severely disrupts reflexively constructed life narratives or identities
According to research on documented workplace bullying and clinical definitions of narcissistic behavior, here are the stereotypes:
- Playing favorites or pitting one employee against another.
- Taking credit for the work of others
- At the start of a new leadership position, the narcissist will purge all of the previous team to replace them with their own obsequious minions.
- The narcissist will lie and misrepresent facts to make themself look good or to avoid owning a costly mistake.
- They like to berate their subordinates in front of others or through group e-mail.
- They interject themselves into activities that are beyond the scope of their duties
- Narcissists will set people up for failure so they can then fire them.
- They will not tolerate being challenged and they overreact to any perceived criticism or threat.
- They schedule important meetings and forget to include you.
Using your people skills, you can start to take your power back
The organizational reality is you can’t win if you fight fire with fire. When one person has resources and power, it will be a short fight and one you are likely to lose. But by applying the following strategies you may be able to finesse the situation.
It is imperative that you do not share too much personal information that can potentially be used against you. While you may be tempted to commiserate with your fellow employees, be careful that you don’t gossip. If something you say makes it way back to your boss then you will make your situation much worse. Be professional, congenial, yet guarded. Share your complaints with someone outside of the company or better yet get a therapist who is not part of your EAP program.
Decide what are and are not acceptable ways to be treated, and have the courage to speak up when the line is crossed but in a non-confrontational way and during a private one on one conversation. Never tolerate outright abuse but don’t respond aggressively. Lutgen-Sandvik says it is not a good idea to confront the bully directly.“They will escalate the abuse worse than it ever was before, and drive the people out of the workplace because now they’ve become serious threats to the perpetrator. So, directly confronting the perpetrator, it’s really a very, I would say, dangerous thing to do.” You will need to tread very softly. (Lutgen-Sandvik: Bullied at work? What to do, www.WBI.org Thursday, October 22nd, 2015)
Try using the WIN Formula:
I Need you to ______
As in: When you make personal comments about my appearance, I feel very disrespected, I need you keep it purely business oriented.
Record and document every conversation and keep every email trail. If you initiate a new directive, be sure to “cc” other team leaders for feedback to make sure your idea is identified as yours so it will be hard for your boss to steal the credit. If there is an incident of verbal abuse then document it and record who witnessed it.
Never challenge them or deliver bad news.
The narcissist is very insecure and so their ego must be fed at all times. Remember your questioning him/her directly will lead to aggression. So if you don’t agree with the initiatives they’re forcing on you, find a way other than directly challenging them to express your views or introduce a different approach. You may need to resort to a subtle form of manipulation to get your boss to think it was his/her idea, and this is a bitter pill to swallow.
Feed their ego.
Forget about ever receiving credit or any recognition for anything you do. It will never happen because they will always take the credit, as your boss or your leader. Flattery will get you everywhere with a narcissist. So you will need to make sure you give them copious credit and outwardly show your appreciation for all their “great” advice and guidance
Reflect on the risks of being a whistle blower.
Narcissists are very skillful manipulators and unless your company has a very clear policy against workplace bullying and they offer anonymous surveys, chances are your grievance may be perceived as a personality issue between two people and so you will make an enemy of your boss and the repercussions could be devastating.
Establish an exit plan.
If you try the above tactics and things still don’t improve, then begin your job search immediately. Or, consider looking for another position within your company. Talk to HR to find out if you can switch teams and work for a different manager. If possible line up another job while you are still employed but don’t burn any bridges until you have a new job. But when the day comes when you finally decide to pack it in, don’t skulk away but make sure your company knows how you were treated and that your boss was a workplace bully.
So boosting the self worth of your boss with excessive flattery may be the necessary tactic to avoid being a threat and therefore a target of his/her aggression. With this in mind consider the comment of D. Kipnis author of The Powerholders .It is both interesting and ironic to note that such flattery, although perhaps affirming to the ego, may contribute to the incompetent power holder’s ultimate demise—by causing the power holder to lose touch with reality”
Given enough rope, your narcissistic boss may hang himself/herself and you can get your old life back. Look at your company and decide what your options are; don’t gossip, don’t challenge your boss but don’t tolerate direct abuse, keep records and keep feeding their ego. Once you abandon ship, let your company know the truth about why you are resigning: YOUR BOSS IS A WORKPLACE BULLY.