Skip the navigation

Narcissists at work: How to deal with arrogant, controlling, manipulative bullies

By Thomas Hoffman
June 11, 2008 12:00 PM ET

The cost to organizations from narcissism in the workplace is staggering due to illness, stress medications and treatment, lack of teaming and project success, and rising turnover, until the narcissist or corporate bully is shown timely cause and effect from their negative behaviors.

What steps can IT managers take to address these issues?
You have to get educated with a health care professional like a psychologist who specializes in employee counseling services. Get them involved in reviewing the complaints to management and HR, and in helping others to understand these personality types, their behaviors and destructive impact to an organization.

Steps to deal with a narcissist personality type in the workplace include documenting what you observe and get complaints about, and not being afraid to go to HR and say, "This is what I'm seeing and this is what people are bringing to me."

It often starts as a series of complaints to line managers, then to an HR representative. Once there are enough [complaints], they go to HR, and HR will implore a manager to document what they see as well as come and observe firsthand themselves.

How should managers approach narcissistic employees, particularly if an employee is unaware that he possesses these attributes?
Narcissistic employees should be encouraged by HR to see whatever company employee referral service is available to them, such as counseling, and you hope that the person will take advantage of that.

It depends on how enlightened the person is in terms of seeing how their behavior is impacting staff and their own performance. When you get manipulative, bullying and condescending types of comments and behavior, that's what impacts performance and teamwork. That's when you hope the narcissist person will take the encouragement to go seek help.

If they don't, HR has to play back what [the narcissistic individual] did wrong using a calm approach. Establish firm boundaries with timely progressive consequences from the first complaint received. Follow up to see if behaviors appear to be improving or if they are getting worse. People's behavior patterns typically don't change unless they get help.

Up to one-third of a narcissist's victims in the workplace will quit the company or transfer to another department if nothing is done by the department manager or HR to stop the situation. Once a narcissist's behaviors are observed and documented, they can become even more cruel and offensive to others, as they no longer can hide their behaviors and rationalize them away or project their shortcomings onto others.

The key is observing, documenting and taking swift action each and every time so the narcissist knows their cruel behaviors will not be tolerated in the workplace.

Related Stories:

Read more about Management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.



Our Commenting Policies