How Narcissistic Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces

How Narcissistic Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces

Research shows that when a work environment is toxic – due to narcissistic leaders, for example – the toxicity trickles down and affects everyone in the company. This can lead to decreased productivity, job dissatisfaction, multiple resignations and even mental health issues.

Narcissistic leaders tend to be self-centred, have an inflated sense of self-importance, need constant admiration and lack empathy. In other words, they care more about themselves than their employees.

Red flags that indicate your boss might be a narcissist.

Do these traits ring a bell?

  • An inflated sense of self-importance.
  • Acting in a totally self-centred manner.
  • Constantly needing admiration.
  • Lacking empathy.
  • Belittling employees in front of others.
  • Taking credit for work or ideas not belonging to them.
  • Making unreasonable demands.

Narcissistic abuse in the workplace has a significant impact on employees. Even more worrying is the fact that it can be infectious, with employees mirroring their boss’ behaviour and abusing their own subordinates, so the toxicity spreads within the company like a malign fog.

The impact of a toxic work culture

A toxic culture incites deviant behaviour as employees succumb to low morale and the pressure to meet unrealistic demands. In order to improve a toxic work culture, it is important to address the issue at the root: the narcissistic leader. By increasing awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse, we can begin to create change.

Toxic narcissists cause even more problems in a company because their subordinates learn to never speak up and never, ever challenge them. They also soon discover that the best way to get ahead is to give the narcissist what they need to survive: flattery.

Different ideas are silenced, flattery and servility are rewarded, and cynicism and apathy corrode any sense of shared purpose in a culture where everyone is looking out for themselves.

Talented and motivated employees soon give up and leave for greener pastures, so the company suffers a brain drain, while the more opportunistic stay on and get ahead.

If left unchecked, over time the narcissist is capable of destroying the organisation by dismantling it brick by brick.

These are just some of the ways in which narcissistic leaders can impact those working under them.

What to do if your boss is a narcissist

If you have drawn the short straw and ended up reporting to a narcissistic boss, there are things you can do to try and improve the situation.

  • Speak up: It can be difficult, but try to have honest conversations with your narcissistic leader. Explain how their behaviour is impacting you and try to come up with a solution together.
  • Set boundaries: It’s important to set boundaries with a narcissist, both professionally and personally. Stick to them and don’t let yourself be drawn into their web of manipulation.
  • Seek support: Talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. It can be helpful to have an outside perspective and to know that you’re not alone.
  • Find an ally: See if there are any other employees who feel the same way as you do. Having someone to commiserate with and bounce ideas off of can be a big help.
  • Create a support network: A strong support network is essential when dealing with a narcissist. Family, friends, therapist – whoever you need to lean on, make sure you have them in your corner.

If you’re stuck in a toxic work situation, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. It’s important to take steps to protect your mental health. This may include taking breaks during the day, or talking to a therapist.

If all else fails, then the time has come to find yourself a new job.

For Further Reading

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2 thoughts on “How Narcissistic Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces”

  1. I worked at the county civil court a while back. If you ever need an example of a toxic work environment look no further than local government, even at the most rural level. In other workplaces like retail, it’s pretty much expected to have to deal with jerks wanting to feel superior. In government, they get that feeling on a mass scale. Government work places employ the most malignant narcissists, with the judges being the worst. My takeaway was to fear for my fellow citizens having to deal with these people. It’s a scary world out there.

    • Well, I was actually reading that narcissists tend to gravitate towards certain careers – politicians, surgeons, army and yes, the law. Being a judge must be the perfect gig for a narcissist ?


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