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While watching various videos on mental health and anxiety, I began to come across videos on narcissism. This led me to this list. I'll just include the headers so I don't just copy the author's complete work:

  1. Conversation Hoarder and Interrupter
  2. Name and Status Dropper
  3. Spotlight Hogger
  4. Steal or Take Disproportional Credit
  5. Charming and Persuasive, but No Follow Through
  6. Break Rules and Social Norms
  7. Sensitive to Criticism. Blame Others for Failings
  8. Passive-Aggressive Tendencies
  9. Superior/Inferior Orientation
  10. Negative and Toxic Emotions

I could go into detail on which ones they match, but suffice to say about 8 of the 10 mostly fit (this person fits more the definition of a "covert narcissist").

Working with this person has caused me anxiety over the years and I've tried techniques that have been successful in the past working with other personalities. They tend to fail on this person. Apparently that is typical with this personality type.

In my wildest fantasies I'd expose them for what they are, but realistically, I just need to protect myself. The main issues for me are #3, #4, and #8. I've seen some of the other behaviors above deeply affect another (less senior) coworker, though.

Specifically this person tends to try to push off harder tasks and responsibilities they don't want onto my plate, make demands on the projects I am responsible for (like how to solve the problem, rather than focusing on the business requirement), and then tends to not give credit and to "hog the spotlight." Pushing back tends to get passive aggressive comments to others in meetings when I'm not there. They're very clever in how they do this to always sound reasonable.

My strategy so far is to try to involve my manager in every interaction and to get my manager's buy in before pushing back on something.

In the recent past I've already expressed to my manager my reluctance to ever recruit anyone I know to the team, because in good faith I wouldn't be able to say that a new employee's experience with this person wouldn't be miserable. I don't know how much more to communicate to my manager on this (who does encourage open communication) without sounding like someone who just has a grudge.

I'd leave this position, but this isn't the only time I'm going to encounter a narcissist and I currently am enjoying what I am doing. But in the end, I may just leave this position due to this person.

For more context, this is in the tech industry and this person and I are of equal promotion level -- pretty senior -- although this other person has been on the team longer.

Question:

Most narcissist resources online are about narcissistic family or romantic relationships. How do I navigate this in the workplace? How do I protect myself and my career from the credit stealing? The passive aggressive comments when I push back on a task trying to be shifted to me? How do I (and should I?) show my manager the negative behavior and how it affects the team?

References to books are also appreciated as I realize this is a vast topic.

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    This seems heavily focused on describing and ranting about your coworker, instead of trying to focus on your question. Could you perhaps edit your post to address that?
    – DarkCygnus
    Feb 27, 2020 at 17:40
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    I've no idea what your question is, and I've read it twice.
    – Aida Paul
    Feb 27, 2020 at 17:46
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    I am not going to VTC, but at the moment the question is really broad and could use more focus. You may want to consider breaking this up into multiple questions so it is more easily answered versus being closed by the community.
    – Neo
    Feb 27, 2020 at 17:49
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    Reading an article doesn't qualify you to label someone as a narcissist. You'll get more productive answers if you ask for guidance on specific behavior from this co-worker of yours.
    – Eric Smith
    Feb 27, 2020 at 18:01
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    To add on to what @EricSmith said, even if you could render a diagnosis, that's pointless. Having a personality disorder is not in of itself a problem. What specific things is this person doing that is causing you problems? Focus on their behaviors and address those, not what you think might be going on in their head.
    – Seth R
    Feb 27, 2020 at 18:38

4 Answers 4

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Please don't try to be a psychiatrist. Please don't try to diagnose people. People go to school for decades to learn the nuances of diagnosing mental disorders. And people I know in that field say it's more of an art than a science, even with the degrees and all.

You're doing the right thing involving your manager. Remember the only behavior you can control is your own. Also remember that this person's behavior is about them, not you.

It's tough to simply observe somebody's attempts to draw you in to their version of reality, and say, "oh well, that's the way they are. I better get back to work." But you probably should try to do that.

Good luck and strength.

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    Understanding what motivates someone helps -- Understanding that they have narcissistic tendencies vastly changes my strategy for interacting with them. I'm not prescribing them medicine or sending them to counseling -- but identifying a well known toxic personality type with specific traits helps me protect my boundaries and find resources.
    – anonymous
    Feb 27, 2020 at 23:57
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Address the behavior, rather than the semantics

Is this guy really a narcissist? Not actually all that important. What he is is a toxic coworker with certain behaviors. Deal with those. For example, credit stealing is an issue, and it's a question that has come up many, many times on this board. A quick search on "taking credit" yields 205 results (and perhaps ought to be a tag). Still, reading through some of those questions and answers will probably give you some useful insights on how to deal with this.

One basic trick, for example, is to document all the things. If he promises to do something, document it. when you complete something, document it. Then, later, when he hasn't done the thing that he promised to do, or he tries to take credit for the thing you did, you have the records.

Regardless, the point here is not your communications with him, it's your communications with everyone else. Trying to put a label on him that others can doubt, and that he can argue with, pulls you into an arena of social combat that he's much better at than you are. Keeping it to cold hard facts about who did what when, and then letting others draw their own conclusions, is a much stronger play.

But seriously, there are a lot of other answers out there on the specific issues, with more useful insight than I can offer. Go take a look at them.

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    Yes. Document, document and then document some more.
    – JazzmanJim
    Feb 27, 2020 at 19:46
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You asked,

How do I navigate this in the workplace?

Ultimately, the good news here is that the workplace is probably easier than the other contexts you've mentioned (romantic or family relationship). This is because the workplace has a pretty clear focus: doing work. By reminding yourself to focus on that, you can help reduce the impact of people who cause emotional distress. This is hard to achieve, and it's something that took me a good two decades to get good at, but here are some things I've found helpful. When you find this person has done something that hits your emotions, consider the following:

  • Does this specific act have a tangible, direct impact on something I'm working on? If not, switch gears mentally and focus on a work task. Maybe even switch tasks for a day, or start a new assignment. Anything to get your brain engaged. An engaged brain is a focused brain, and when our brains are focused, it's harder for them to wander towards emotions. Many of the traits you've listed are emotional jabs, so you may need to get in the habit of literally asking yourself, why am I upset? and if the answer isn't strictly work-task-related, remind yourself to just redirect and move on. Don't get hung up on blame-stealing, name dropping, superiority complexes, or other emotional attacks. Focus yourself on doing really well at your job.
  • If the thing the person has done does have a tangible impact on a specific work task, use resources you have at your disposal to solve the impact the person had. This may mean bringing a problem to your boss, or getting input from others or clarification on requirements.

Importantly, for the second bullet, don't focus on the person that is doing these things, instead focus on the impact to your work. If they try to direct solutions instead of focusing on requirements, maybe this means sending an email to the business owner to clarify requirements. If they ignore your requests for help, ask your boss where you can get the answers you need. And so on. The point is: don't go to your boss and say,

Hey Boss, Jim keeps doing X and now I can't get the project for the Smith account done.

instead, say,

Hey Boss, I'm trying to work on the Smith account, but I need a method to solve this bug, where can I get some help?

You can't change your coworker. Your boss probably can't, either. But your boss is there to help you overcome obstacles with getting your work done, so make sure you're bringing those obstacles up appropriately.

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  • Erm, are you really saying that when a coworker is blaming you for his mistakes, and taking credit for your work, the best course of action is to do nothing, since it isn't directly related to a work task? Isn't it kind of harmful for one's career when one is seen as the guy that always screws up?
    – meriton
    Feb 27, 2020 at 19:16
  • No, I'm not saying that. I had assumed that focus on the impact to your work would imply inclusion of career path, advancement, and/or reputation. But I do still think there's some subtlety to the point you're making, which needs to be based on awareness of the situation. For instance, some bosses will see right through credit-stealing and you won't have to "defeat" it because they'll realize what's going on.
    – dwizum
    Feb 27, 2020 at 19:25
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Most narcissist resources online are about narcissistic family or romantic relationships. How do I navigate this in the workplace? How do I protect myself and my career from the credit stealing? The passive aggressive comments when I push back on a task trying to be shifted to me? How do I (and should I?) show my manager the negative behavior and how it affects the team?

I think you should work with your manager on how this individual's behavior makes it difficult to get your work done. Document the instances where this behavior occurred and note any other coworkers that may have witnessed the situation. Your manager can help you with what to do next. They may recommend you talk to the individual directly or your manager may talk to the other individual's manager.

I do not recommend you jump to labelling someone as a narcissist with your manager. In general, we are not trained to diagnose our coworkers' mental health like that (if you see that your coworker is in danger of hurting themselves or others please alert your manager, HR representative, police, etc as appropriate) and it's not productive to jump to the root cause of someone's behavior. At the end of the day your coworker may just be really insecure in their role or just plain selfish. It doesn't really matter where the behavior is coming from, it needs to be addressed for you to be productive.

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  • We have the same manager FWIW, (but I don't think that would change your advice.)
    – anonymous
    Feb 27, 2020 at 23:58

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