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I don’t care what you think unless it’s about me

People in positions of management are highly respected, therefore it goes without saying that they need to walk the walk and talk the talk. A polished image takes care of the exterior, but behind that impressive façade could lay a personality disorder known as narcissism…

This term describes someone who has developed a thinking pattern based upon low self-esteem and causes the individual great psychological distress due to being unable to balance their thoughts in the same way as others. This results in verbal outbursts in a bid to keep the ego intact. Often a sufferer will exaggerate and distort facts purely to save their own skin and will never entertain the notion of being wrong. This psychological condition often stems from childhood. Sometimes parents indulge a son or daughter with lashings of praise, gifts and attention.  Such programming may encourage a youngster to feel superior and thus expect this level of idolisation to continue into adulthood. If people do not play the game, narcissistic behaviour is used as a means of remaining in the spotlight.

Let’s look at an example… the chairman of a well-known car company would often verbally attack employees to the extent that many were scared of him. After counselling, he was able to find where this behaviour came from. As a child he was constantly belittled and shouted at by his aggressive father. Desperate to feel appreciated, he constantly expected praise from his team and when this didn’t happen he would lash out. Now whenever he feels the need to defend himself, he recognises this emotion and is able to calm his fury and speak with calmness and composure. A leader who is prepared to acknowledge his insecurities can learn new ways to discover the softer, happier temperament which lies within. This will allow such a person to achieve far more using language which is direct, friendly and tinged with a hint of charisma so as the required result can be achieved without feeling inadequate.

It may be difficult for some people to face up to a psychological disorder such as this. Those who have subordinates hanging on their every word have the audience they need to encourage this behaviour. Whilst this allows them to feel good about themselves, a rollercoaster ride of drama can take over, resulting in a lot of attention on their issues rather than the development of the company. Whilst they create an illusion of being highly committed, in reality such leaders are only committed to one person, themselves. The company will likely revolve around them rather than what is needed to stay ahead of the competition.

Hidden behind office doors, throughout the world, are people in managerial roles who suffer with this psychological condition. Working for them is no walk in the park as they are controlled by a defence mechanism which is automatically triggered whenever feelings of failure and inadequacy arise; making every staff member is a direct target. When confronted with such an unpredictable personality, team members are forced to take sides. Many will value their job far more than their colleagues and will therefore have to support the narcissist. This gives that person a little posse to stroke the ego with complements. Those who do not want to become sucked into a cauldron of such emotions tread a very thin line as one disagreement or triumph could set the cat amongst the pigeons! People with this condition want to take all the praise and glory, if someone else should step on their toes, all hell will break loose. Anyone who steals the limelight will be spoken to with disrespect or even ignored…not a nice environment. This form of bullying could spread like rust in an office environment and create a pressure cooker of hostility from one team member to another until the whole office is at loggerheads with one another.

There is no point in trying to challenge such an individual, as any accusations will be dismissed and likely thrown back at you. The narcissistic personality will even go as far as to fabricate a sequence of events in order to save face. In essence they are pathological liars who truly believe their tall tales and more often than not, they will project their issues onto others. No-one will be spared, not even those who have served for years.

Let’s play a game of spot the narcissistic leader…

She shouldn’t be hard to find… look for her body language. This is someone who will feel superior to even God! Look for haughty taughty body language, someone who loves to be smothered with praise and someone who likes to form divisions… those who are on her side will compete against the opposition. She will love to talk about herself but will rarely lend an ear when others have problems. Those who challenge ‘team narcissism’ will suffer the wrath of this betrayal.

How to win…

Succumb to the fact that you will never be able to please her. You could be at her beck and call eight hours a day five days a week but she will never sing your praises. If you happen to offer some good advice, she will happily take it and soak up all the credit for it, so don’t go into this with any form of hope, there isn’t any!

Put on a virtual rhino skin. Yep, you are going to have to be as tough as old boots when dealing with such a person. The only time you will realise you are a human being is when you look in the mirror. The narcissist does not see you as a person; you are simply a pair of ears and a mouth, there to make her feel better. You will always be a giver so don’t expect to ever receive.

Think small. Don’t go into this thinking you will be the first person to be appreciated for what you have done, it will never happen. If you want a pal, a dog is man’s best friend!

Where angels fear to tread… if you know a certain subject will make your team leader see red, avoid it like the plague!!! Do not deliberately put her in a bad mood, she can find one of those all by herself. If you want to touch on a matter, do it from an onlooker point of view rather than yours. For example you could say,” I notice that”…. or “do you think it would be a good idea if”…” This allows you to broach a subject without directly landing yourself in hot water. It also feeds the narcissist with information she can use without ruining her fine reputation.

Adapt your dialect… never start a sentence with words which could sound like an accusation… for example “I notice that you forgot to…” should be replaced with something along the lines of “because you have been so busy….”. Use phrases which pass the buck even if you know without a doubt that the narcissist was to blame. If you cannot adopt this approach and are on the verge of confronting her, it would be far better to keep schtum and secretly look for a new job as you will never win, this type of leader will simply sack you.

Pour out some tea and sympathy… the narcissist will love this. Sympathy is warmly welcomed but it must be used in the correct manner. Sympathise with the fact that she does such a great job considering the fact that her personal life is so hectic, anything along these lines. The aim is to get on her better side. This type of leader will lie and cheat her way out of anything but deep down she knows the truth. It isn’t easy having to always be on guard so a little tea and sympathy for being such a magnificent person will certainly go down well! In essence, believe the lies whilst you are in her presence. You know that when you leave the office you can walk away from the pressure… she can’t.

Become an actor… yep, you had better brush up on your ‘looking amazed’ face as the narcissist will expect you to show vivid signs of being gobsmacked at the things she can do! Display this expression as often as possible to earn yourself some Brownie points. Recognise these traits in your team leader? Poor you, she may appear as gentle as a kitten on the surface but underneath is a pussy cat you really do not want to play with. The only thing you need to stroke on this feline is her ego! Mess up once and fur will fly.

Look to see if your narcissistic leader has a distinct pattern to her behaviour. Perhaps she storms in to the office on a Monday morning with a face like thunder but leaves on Friday with a spring in her step and a song in her heart. If you really need to tackle a certain subject, try sneaking in some positive suggestions towards the end of the week. Notice those prompters which initiate a positive response…does she purr like a kitten when flattered? Does she love the sympathetic approach… use tactics which bring out the best in her. The same applies to her personality, does she respond well to humour? Good manners? Warmth? Find a way to secretly communicate with your leader but use such an approach wisely. This method may allow you to survive a hostile week but you will always live on your nerves when it comes to your relationship with her!

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