How to come to terms with narcissistic bosses

Narcissism is also common among managersGetty Images

Narcissists seem to spring up like mushrooms. Each new election brings another person into a leadership position who, with his narcissistic demeanor, wraps everyone around his finger. The question arises, what makes narcissistic persons so attractive that they are often found in positions of power?

A narcissistic leader promises success for parties and companies because they usually make bold decisions, motivate supporters and employees with their visions and represent the organization convincingly to the outside world. She goes boldly and pulls everyone with her. Your self-confident appearance stands for success, popularity and size. Especially at a time when appearance is often more important than being, glamor, applause and power are high values. We like to join admired people because their appearance also falls back on us and strengthens our own self-worth. We overlook the fact that it is not about us or the organization, but only about the profit that the narcissistic person draws from his position.

Narcissistic Seduction

But what makes us so susceptible to narcissistic seduction? It is our own narcissism or it is our unfulfilled narcissistic needs for attention, appreciation, being heard and being seen. Whoever promises us convincingly to take us seriously, to stand up for us, to give us jobs and share in social prosperity, is “our man”, like Donald Trump for the frustrated industrial workers in the Rust Belt. We trust those who make us feel like we are fighting for our cause and are on our side. In doing so, we overlook the fact that most promises made by narcissistic leaders are rarely kept and that we end up empty-handed and humiliated.

Because narcissism also has its downsides such as the abuse of power, destructiveness, the tendency towards authoritarianism, control and manipulation. We usually see these negative excesses too late, when we have long since got involved with the seducer. Not infrequently, after some time or years, we come across a fraud that has been committed behind our backs or uncover lies that turn the truth into alternative facts. But not only that, we also suffer from unpredictable outbursts of anger and massive insults from the narcissistic boss when things (including people) don’t go the way he imagined. It also weakens our motivation to work through devaluations and mistrust and damages our self-esteem.

What can we do?

What can we do when we finally notice? The best thing would be to end the contact and turn away, but that only works in rare cases because we have elected the politician for at least four years or simply cannot give up our job or fire the boss. Instead, we submit in the hope of better times. However, we have to realize that we cannot change the narcissistic boss let alone a politician. So that this misery does not make us mentally and physically ill, we have to actively take care of ourselves.

The first is to make yourself as independent as possible in mental experience, even if there is a material dependency. For example, if we know what narcissistic needs the boss should fulfill for us, we can seek satisfaction elsewhere and no longer have to surrender to his power. Hoping for appreciation from him is just as unlikely as an open and emotionally sustaining relationship with one another. We should be suspicious of excessive praise, it could be a manipulation attempt to exploit us. It’s not really meant to be honest. The more autonomous and self-determined we appear and stand up for ourselves, the better we can align our work and our life according to our ideas and values. But that means taking responsibility and thinking, instead of being manipulated and chasing after loud political slogans and empty promises.

It would be nice if we could become more sensitive to narcissistic processes and identify them more easily in order to be able to resist them in good time. Because seductive as narcissists are, they wrap us around our fingers, and we allow it because we are seductive.


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