10 warning signs your boss has narcissistic tendencies (and what to do about it)

When is a bad boss, not just a bad boss?

It sounds like the start of a joke, but the real-life answer is far from funny.

Being stuck with the boss from hell can ruin your professional life and make being at work hard to bear.

Here are 10 warning signs your boss has narcissistic tendencies and 7 practical things you can do about it.

1) They love a kiss-ass

Narcissists love attention, they thrive off it.

So it stands to reason they like to surround themselves with “yes people” who will blow smoke up their ass.

This helps them to feed their insatiable need for admiration and praise.

Your boss has favorites at work, and it’s no coincidence they are the ones who are prepared to suck up 24-7.

If someone isn’t 100% in agreement all the time, your boss thinks that person must be against them.

2) They need to be right and nothing is ever their fault

A good boss is always open to feedback. But this takes humility, and that’s just not something your boss is capable of.

So instead, you walk on eggshells and are afraid to ever give constructive criticism or say what you really think.

This cultivates an incredibly unsafe feeling work environment. Nobody is comfortable giving their genuine opinions.

The only way to make work bearable is by agreeing with them no matter what.

Whenever something goes wrong, your boss always blames others.

Despite their leadership role, they are incapable of taking responsibility for the bad, they only want credit for the good (as we’ll see soon).

Disagreeing is even worse because they can be so reactive, which brings us to our next sign. 

3) Their mood can quickly turn

Narcissists often used charm, particularly in the early stages.

They want to be liked and have everyone eating out of the palm of their hand. But that never really lasts.

When they’re not happy, you will find their mood can quickly shift. Explosive outbursts are common.

They may become quite aggressive, and think nothing of raising their voice or shouting at people.

When you are on the receiving end of one of these bad moods, it likely feels very threatening.

4) They insist on taking credit where it’s not due

Has your boss ever taken credit for your work?

Maybe they try to pass a good idea off as their own or a “group effort” when it was actually yours.

Taking credit for their subordinates’ work is a sneaky and all too common tactic for bosses with narcissistic tendencies.

5) They boast and brag in cringe-worthy ways

From the outside looking in, it’s pretty embarrassing. But they don’t seem to realize how cringe-worthy their gloating comes across to others.

A narcissistic boss will consistently project an inflated sense of self-importance, considering themselves superior to everyone in the workplace.

That frequently leads to boasting about their achievements and skills. They want to make sure that everyone is well aware of their many talents.

Yet their seemingly excessive self-importance actually masks a very deep-rooted inferiority complex.

6) They never praise or compliment others

Because underneath it all, those with narcissistic tendencies have low self-esteem, it pains them to acknowledge other people’s abilities and skills.

Their egos can’t handle it. To them, someone else being in the spotlight detracts from them.

The concept of collaboration over competition just isn’t one they can grasp.

In their mind, there is limited success to go around, and they want all of it. 

7) They think they’re above the rules

Narcissistic bosses love to talk a good game but fail to take action.

They seem quite hypocritical because they don’t practice what they preach.

Part of the reason is that they think they’re above the rules.

They have an infuriating grandiose sense of self-entitlement. So they tend to believe they are due special treatment and privileges.

Whilst they insist on others following the rules, they are happy to disregard any policies that they deem inconvenient.

Preferential treatment or special perks are only for them and no one else.

8) They’re master manipulators

People who exude confidence 1 10 warning signs your boss has narcissistic tendencies (and what to do about it)

Manipulation comes in many shapes and forms.

But ultimately it comes down to exerting control. A boss with narcissistic tendencies may turn to all sorts of techniques to do this.

In many ways, you may find they can be incredibly charming and charismatic when it suits them. 

That is especially true when they are around customers, clients, superiors, or anyone who doesn’t know them so well.

But the more time you spend around them, the more noticeable the mind games to maintain power and control become.

They may purposely use your insecurities against you to belittle or demoralize you.

They frequently use gaslighting as a way of trying to make you question yourself.

9) They come across as uncaring toward others

For those with narcissistic tendencies life revolves around them. So they are often characterized by a total lack of empathy for others.

Perhaps they often dismiss or trivialize concerns raised by their team members. They are unforgiving of errors or mistakes.

They don’t make allowances for personal problems at home. They have little regard for the impact their actions have on others.

Put simply:

Your boss struggles to relate to or understand the feelings and needs of their employees.

10) They get a power trip out of micromanaging

Research has shown that there is a link between narcissism and micromanaging.

This is yet another one that comes down to control.

Bosses who have to look over your shoulder all the time simply love the feeling of power.

They feel more important by deciding and shaping even the smallest and most insignificant of decisions. 

From your side, it’s incredibly frustrating.

This sort of management style has been shown to decrease not only motivation but also stifle creativity and productivity.

So now what? 7 things you can do about your narcissistic boss

1) Knowledge is power

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already made a good start.

Educating yourself helps you to better understand and deal with what’s going on, and why your boss acts the way they do. 

Once you see that their behavior isn’t personal, and more reflective of their own insecurities, you may find it easier to ignore.

Keeping your head down and not reacting to a narcissistic boss may be enough for some people to navigate it.

2) Keep records

There is a good chance that you’ve already let a lot of things slide. But now it’s time to start documenting specific incidents where your boss displays narcissistic tendencies.

In your records be sure to include dates, times, and details of what occurred. Save any emails or proof of inappropriate behavior that has taken place.

If your boss has a habit of trying to throw you under the bus, be sure to also document your own achievements and the work you’ve put in.

3) Build your CV

For your career growth, it’s always useful to continue to build your skills wherever possible.

This makes you a more valuable employee with greater leverage at your workplace.

But not only that, it’s also smart if you want to create an escape plan to move on to bigger and brighter opportunities in the future.

4) Refer up

You don’t have to tackle a narcissistic boss alone.

You may start by discussing your concerns with some trusted colleagues to get their take on things. There can be greater strength in numbers, especially if you want to lodge a complaint. 

Most workplaces should have other resources available to you as well.

You could seek guidance from HR, go to your union rep, or consider going above your boss’s head by speaking to another manager about it.

5) Take care of yourself

open minded thinker 10 warning signs your boss has narcissistic tendencies (and what to do about it)

A negative working environment is bound to impact your well-being. That’s why it’s important to prioritize self-care activities.

Look for coping strategies that help you manage stress and maintain a positive mindset.

The following have been scientifically proven to help do just that:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Breathwork
  • Mindfulness

Generally speaking, try to make the most of your time away from work with hobbies and activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

6) Strengthen your boundaries

A lot of us struggle with setting firm boundaries, but you’ll need strong ones if you’re going to protect yourself from their narcissistic behavior.

That means clearly communicating your expectations and limits. Meanwhile, make sure you avoid engaging in power struggles or arguments.

Need some help with that? Then check out this article for some tips.

7) Change jobs

I know that circumstances don’t make this an easy option for some people. Even when you can leave, it seems very unfair.

Why should you be the one to suffer when your narcissistic boss is to blame?

But at the end of the day, sometimes it’s better to walk away for the sake of your well-being.

If it gets too much, it’s not worth the suffering. We spend way too much of our lives at work to put up with a miserable working environment.

If you’ve tried to improve the situation and nothing is changing, explore alternative job opportunities within or outside the company.

Don’t suffer in silence

There’s no doubt that dealing with a boss who has narcissistic tendencies can be draining and demoralizing.

It’s important not to let it slowly eat away at you. Recognizing the warning signs and taking proactive steps can help you to protect yourself.

Remember — we all deserve to work in a supportive and healthy environment where we feel valued.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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