Do you suspect your boss is a narcissist?


Published: 17 Aug 2023


If you do then you’re not alone, and you’re probably not imagining it.  In New Zealand it’s estimated that 1-3% of the adult population have NPD narcissistic personality disorder. That might not sound a lot, but in a population of around 5.2 million (including children under 18) that is still a lot of narcissists. In reality most of us have either dated one, been married to one, or worked for one.

How would you know? What are the signs?

  • They are/appear to be charismatic, persuasive, charming but the charm is often unpredictable. In between the charm it’s not uncommon for them to have outrageous outbursts and then love bomb the victim, not through guilt or shame about what they’ve done, but rather through realising that they’ve being ‘caught out’ by others who witnessed it.
  • They have different body language (chin up, upright), walk (strut), hand shake (firm, will often grab an elbow too). Face movements (micro expressions of disgust or contempt) when other people have an opinion or correct their opinion. They use space differently (proxemics). They will use space well, spread their things out in a meeting, lean back in a chair, use chair arms, use big body gestures like hands behind the head).
  • They like to win, seek attention, talk about their accomplishments
  • They will speak early, and often in meetings, may take credit for others success
  • They can create sub-cultures within organisations and businesses (the in and the out crowd)
  • They have little respect for rules around their victim and will actively seek to undermine them and trip them up. Make their victims feel less than, doubt themselves and their decisions about things. Make them believe they are wrong and get them to say sorry.
  • They seek to siphon off their victim from others so they are less easily spotted. It’s not uncommon for them to alienate previous friends of their victims so that the victim has no one but them in their life.

So, how can you step up with confidence, stand your ground, avoid conflict, look like the grown up?

  • Avoid the word sorry, they will see it as weakness
  • Avoid passive questions, you’ll be ignored if you do “If it’s not too much trouble/sorry to bother you but…”
  • Avoid quiet, weak tone of voice.
  • Watch your body language encode stand/sit straight. Don’t shift your weight.
  • Maintain eye contact even if it’s scary.
  • Use I – not we statements. “I think…..
  • Keep information or questions short. 6-9 words at a time.
  • Use the broken record technique to keep bringing up your point if you are being railroaded.
  • Address the behaviour if you are being ignored or talked over/bullied. “Is this reasonable/our culture?
  • Say no if you mean no.
  • Change up your body language. Avoid presenting as passive or submissive. Stay on the 3-9 line with your hands (at waist height) make them slightly stiffer than you normally would and use slowing down, lets get back on track gestures (downwards palms).

Recent article on LinkedIn:

If you’d like to upskill your business/organisation/team on this, or related topics, Elemental Potential has ready to go resource packs with easy to use running sheet on how to deliver this as development/training to a group. Plus notes for your attendees to take away. They are just $99 each, and you can brand and edit as your own.

Here are some resources which may help:

Dealing With Alpha’s

How to deal with a narcissist

How to deal with someone with victim mentality

Who Taught you that (how a person becomes who they are