Communication skills training:  Handling a narcissistic boss

How to handle a narcissistic boss  

Working under a boss who exhibits narcissistic tendencies can be an incredibly challenging experience. Narcissistic bosses often exhibit a lack of empathy, a grandiose sense of self-importance, and a tendency to manipulate others for their own benefit. These behaviors can create a toxic work environment, leading to decreased productivity, morale, and job satisfaction.

According to Dan O'Connor, the "Wizard of Words" and communication expert, mindful communication is key when dealing with a narcissistic boss. He suggests using "navigational phrases" that highlight specific behaviors and their impact. By doing so, you can avoid confrontational language and instead focus on addressing the behavior itself.

For example, if your boss constantly interrupts you in meetings, you might say something like, "I appreciate your enthusiasm for this topic, but when you interrupt me, it makes it difficult for me to fully convey my thoughts." This approach allows you to address the behavior without attacking your boss personally.

O'Connor also recommends "spotlighting behavior" by calling out specific actions or statements made by the narcissistic boss. This can be helpful in situations where the boss is trying to manipulate or gaslight others. By acknowledging the behavior and bringing it to light, you can prevent your boss from controlling the narrative.

Here are some additional tips for dealing with a narcissistic boss:

  1. Don't take their behavior personally. Remember that their actions are a reflection of their own issues, not your performance.

  2. Set boundaries. It's important to establish clear boundaries with a narcissistic boss. This might mean limiting communication to email or setting specific times for meetings.

  3. Seek support. Talking to a trusted colleague, mentor, or therapist can provide you with valuable perspective and support.

  4. Document everything. Keep a record of your interactions with your boss, including emails and conversations, in case you need to defend yourself in the future.

  5. Know when to leave. If your work environment becomes too toxic, it may be time to consider finding a new job.

Dealing with a narcissistic boss can be incredibly difficult, but it's important to remember that you have control over how you respond to their behavior. By using mindful communication, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can navigate this challenging situation and protect your well-being. As O'Connor reminds us, "You can't control the behavior of others, but you can control how you respond to it."

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