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Narcissistic Boss: 5 Tips to Cope with a Narcissistic Boss

February 14, 2024

8 min read

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Author : United We Care
Narcissistic Boss: 5 Tips to Cope with a Narcissistic Boss


Narcissists tend to make terrible bosses because of their controlling and toxic behaviors. Narcissism is a term used for a set of personality traits that include feelings of superiority, manipulative patterns, disrespect for others, and more.

Someone with narcissistic tendencies has very poor mental health and may suffer from a personality disorder. In positions of power, their maladaptive patterns make it very difficult for colleagues and subordinates to work efficiently and healthily.

What is the Nature of a Narcissistic Boss?

Usually, a narcissistic person thinks very highly of themselves, often in unrealistic ways. 

  • Along with that, they can be very critical of others while being sensitive to feedback themselves.
  •  If anything causes them to feel even the slightest embarrassment or shame, they tend to project all their negativity onto others.
  • Typically, this can turn pretty ugly as narcissists seem to lack empathy. 
  • A narcissistic boss will probably humiliate their employees whenever they get a chance. 
  • Sometimes, they may even crack jokes at the expense of others or purposely taunt them about their shortcomings and insecurities. 
  • While they do consider others to be inferior to them, they are also constantly craving admiration and attention. 
  • As a result, you’ll find narcissistic bosses stealing credit, fishing for compliments, and even getting offended if they’re not revered. 
  • Furthermore, they tend to be vindictive and may hold an unreasonable grudge for a long time.

How Does a Narcissistic Boss Behave?

Now that we have described the nature of a narcissistic boss, let’s take a closer look at how such a person behaves. The following are just some of the common behaviors of narcissistic bosses.

How to Cope with a Narcissistic Boss?

Lack of Boundaries

A good boss understands that even though they have authority, they need to treat their employees with respect and allow some autonomy. However, a narcissistic boss generally has no concept of healthy boundaries.

They will expect you to work at odd hours, do more than your job role requires you to, and flagrantly disrespect your boundaries. Moreover, they may even convince you that you have no rights of your own. Or that you need to do exactly what they say, regardless of how ridiculous it seems.


An extension of this lack of boundaries is the pattern of micromanaging that most narcissistic bosses have. They may give you a task to deliver, but they will breathe down your neck the whole time you’re doing it.

Often, they wait eagerly to see you make an error, and then they pounce the minute you fail. There is no room for mistakes with a narcissistic boss, and hence, there is no scope for learning. The only thing you can expect is persistent humiliation and criticism.

Zero Accountability

Now, in case there is an error or setback, the narcissistic boss will do everything in their power to shirk accountability. They cannot stand to feel any kind of guilt or blame, so they must point fingers at others.

Even if it is undeniably their fault something happened or their responsibility, they will find a scapegoat to blame.

Disrespectful Attitude

Along with these nasty patterns, there will be a consistent disrespectful attitude for everyone. The only exception to this is if they find someone with more power, authority, or status. In that case, the narcissistic boss will butter up this individual in front of them and backbite in their absence.

Nevertheless, if the idolized person inadvertently does something to offend the narcissistic boss, they will immediately start resenting them.

The Impact of a Narcissistic Boss in the Workplace

Clearly, having a narcissistic boss can be extremely toxic. Even if you’re not working directly under them, just being in the same workplace can be detrimental to your performance. Let’s discuss how.

Negative Work Atmosphere

It’s important to understand that narcissists not only have poor mental health, they’re also in complete denial of it. Consequently, they cannot process emotions healthily, be it theirs or someone else’s. 

So, if you’re going through something difficult, your narcissistic boss won’t be accommodating. Instead, they will give you a hard time even though what you’re experiencing could be an appropriate human reaction.

Unhealthy Competition

A narcissistic boss will also try to pit employees against each other. They usually do this to stir the pot or create drama around them. Doing this reinforces the power that they want to have over you.

What follows is a work environment that harbors unhealthy competition. You might feel stifled under the pressure of showing one up on your colleagues or of avoiding being the runt of the litter.

Poor Employee Mental Health

Naturally, all these behaviors pay a toll on the mental health of employees and colleagues. An unhealthy work environment and toxic work culture fuelled by narcissistic bosses can have a lasting impact on your well-being.

You might find yourself suffering from stress, unhappiness, stagnation, or even something serious like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Low Productivity

It isn’t surprising that being under a narcissistic boss leads to low productivity in the workplace. This could be on an individual level or, in most cases, on the organizational level as well.

Productivity requires effective systems, communication, high morale, and employee satisfaction. None of these can be sustained with a narcissistic boss.

5 Tips to Cope with a Narcissistic Boss

After reading all the above information, if you think your boss is narcissistic, there is a way to cope. Ideally, looking for a different job is the best possible solution. However, sometimes, this is not practically possible. If you find yourself in such a fix, try the following five tips to cope with a narcissistic boss.

Improve Your Assertiveness

Firstly, you will have to work on your assertive communication. Narcissistic bosses tend to look out for meek employees who won’t say much when they’re mistreated. If you’re not careful, you might end up enabling their toxic behavior.

Assertiveness is not aggressiveness; keep that in mind. You don’t need to be rude to your boss to be firm and speak up for yourself. Rather, by practicing assertiveness, you can stand up for what’s right and focus more on solutions.

Observe, Don’t Absorb

The ‘Observe, Don’t Absorb’ method is a strategy that can be used with any narcissist. The key message with this approach is to remember not to take things personally. Remember, narcissistic bosses are sick people in the sense that they are mentally unwell.

Therefore, take everything that they do as a reflection of their own pathology. Don’t let them challenge your self-perception or lower your self-esteem. Observe their sickness, but don’t absorb it and believe it to be your reality.

Grey Rock Technique

Another useful strategy is the ‘Grey Rock Technique.’ As the name suggests, it requires you to be a boring grey rock with nothing interesting to say. The narcissistic boss will try to poke and prod you to elicit a reaction.

They might target your insecurities, hoping to provoke you or make you say something that they will use against you. Instead of taking the bait, say something generic or bland that they cannot use as fuel or what experts call ‘narcissistic supply.’

Build a Support System

The most important thing to do when coping with a narcissistic boss is to find support. It is next to impossible to deal with any narcissist in isolation. You need your people to reaffirm your version of things and avoid gaslighting.

Apart from that, it also helps to have someone to vent to. Narcissistic bosses will give you fresh things to complain about on a daily basis. Try to find people who can offer you emotional support to deal with all the nonsense your boss sends your way.

Get Professional Help

In extreme cases, it is imperative to find professional help. This is usually true for people who’ve been working with a narcissistic boss for six months or more. The impact can be quite insidious and hard to recognize when you’re in the thick of it. 

You probably won’t even realize when the narcissistic boss has gotten to your sense of self-worth. Hence, it’s advisable to find a good therapist and get the professional help you need as soon as you can. After all, your boss won’t go to therapy, so you’ll have to!


It’s highly unlucky for someone to end up with a narcissistic boss. They slowly and painfully make your life a living hell. A narcissist’s behavioral tendencies are bad enough, let alone when put in a position of power.

Employees under a narcissistic boss experience a lack of boundaries, micromanaging, and disrespect, and that too, with them taking zero accountability. Typically, this impacts the workplace negatively in many ways. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to cope.

It’s also advisable to get professional help. Speak to our experts at United We Care to learn more strategies and find professional guidance for dealing with a narcissistic boss.


[1] BİÇER, C. (2020). MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL, WHO’S THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL? NARCISSISTIC LEADERS IN ORGANIZATIONS AND THEIR MAJOR EFFECTS ON EMPLOYEE WORK BEHAVIORS. Nevşehir Hacı Bektaş Veli Üniversitesi SBE Dergisi, 10(1), 280-291. https://doi.org/10.30783/nevsosbilen.653781

[2] Maccoby, M., 2017. Narcissistic leaders: The incredible pros, the inevitable cons. In Leadership perspectives (pp. 31-39). Routledge.

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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