“Make sure you put plenty of sugar in the boss’s tea!” was my mother’s tip on the first day of a new job, which was actually code for, “Try your best to please the bitch as much as possible, so she won’t treat you like shit”. The narcissist is often found in a management position at their place of work – the female variety enjoys the sound her high heels make as they enter a room and the male one struts around in an expensive suit spraying his scent throughout the building.
You have to wonder how someone who is quite bananas ends up in a management position, or why divide and conquer strategies are used in the office environment. What’s even more bizarre is how narcissists get away with the toxic things they do to manipulate, control and get ahead of others in the workplace. Their narcantics (narcissist’s antics) don’t mask their dysfunction, they reveal it clearly for all to see, so how do they keep flying under the radar and why do most people around them put up with it?
The adult workplace environment may look sensible, but it’s still the school playground with the same personalities, playing out the same scenarios. One child bullies another child with the help of two or three ‘friends’, while the majority of the other children watch and although they feel sad, they are too scared to do anything about it. Some comfort the victim after their ordeal and the remaining children keep out of the way. Only one child out of hundreds present may step in to distract or confront the bully while instructing another child to get the teacher.
It’s not easy for children to defend themselves against an aggressive mini-psychopath in the making – there is a very real risk of physical harm. Adults have afforded themselves way more protection than children have ever had in the schoolyard and for this reason physical violence is rare in the workplace. So, if it’s not the fear of being punched in the nuts, or having your hair pulled out, what else is keeping people quiet and ‘in check’ as the office narcissist takes every last molecule of oxygen out of the building? Why isn’t this nuisance put in the naughty corner after their first attempt to create chaos and disruption?
Like the mini psycho in the schoolyard, the bully boss uses fear to maintain control and maintain ‘superiority’, but this time it’s the fear around loss of income, loss of face, being on the ‘outer’, loss of promotion, rejection, ridicule and isolation – all the stuff of nightmares. Getting up every morning to drive to hell is no way to live, yet countless numbers of people do it every day and it’s often considered normal or ‘a part of life’. But how did this way of living ever become ‘normal’? How did the schoolyard bully get to be the boss of us as adults, yet again?
The workplace narcissist may be a boss, or a sycophant to the boss – aka a flying monkey. These people do narcissist’s dirty work for them, suggest narcantics for the boss’s perusal and carry them out. Brownie points are allocated to those monkeys who are able to spot non-compliance or dissent amongst the ranks and put a name to the person they think is responsible for causing it (no evidence needed). They are often seen going into or leaving the boss’s office to grass-up, or ‘dob in’ their colleagues in exchange for their boss’s continued validation and favoured treatment – a bit like a protection programme. To win the narcissist boss’s continued favour, monkeys are known to embellish the truth or even make stuff up about someone else. This makes the monkeys very dangerous in the workplace and uncomfortable to be around. They cause low staff morale (and therefore performance) alongside their narcissist boss.
Narcissists are effectively powerless without their flying monkeys or at least some passive enablers, so the narcissist boss is always actively recruiting monkeys, or replacing ones that are aren’t installing the fear of God into others or manipulating them into putting work first and their own families last. The narcissist and his or her monkeys are capable of creating way more misery and mayhem than is ever possible to describe here, but in a nutshell the narcissist boss’s antics tantamount to psychological and emotional abuse and because a person’s job is often under a perceived or actual threat, financial abuse can be added to their skills.
Following the theme of my last Blog Post – https://innerhealthandhealing.net/2019/08/08/narcissist-red-flags-keeping-others-in-the-dark-withholding-information-new-relationships-and-co-parenting/
How does the narcissist boss and/or their flying monkeys and enablers keep others in the dark in order to maintain control over others at work?
Withholding information deliberately is one of the narcissist’s favourite tactics, because when others are second-guessing themselves or their reality, they become easier to control and manipulate. Confusion and doubt distract the chosen target and limit their chance of ever finding out who they’re dealing with and what’s really going on. This unsuspecting person is usually the last to know (or believe) they’re being set up by someone who uses others to get what they want. There are many ways to withhold information when you’re the one in charge.
Keeping employees in the dark about important things, especially things that directly concern them – the employee, is an essential narctactic practice, and one that has been proven time and time again to be effective. As the rug is pulled from under a person’s feet, they are left shocked and bewildered and nicely de-powered. It’s an ambush of the highest order and one that gives about excellent results for the narcissist. Seeing another person lose their shit, or even better – lose their mind, brings about the perfect excuse to point the finger at that individual and deflect any wrongdoing from themselves into the bargain.
The employee becomes a sitting duck to take the blame for unproductivity when in fact the endless sick days are a result of employee stress and nervous breakdowns – all of which have been carefully created, overseen and micro-managed by the boss and their monkeys. All the work-based problems will be the fault of this one employee and the narcissist boss will find (by inventing) many ways to prove it. The sad part is no-one is likely to say boo about it – the victim is the last person who has the energy to embark upon the mammoth undertaking of an unfair dismissal case – they are shell shocked, and self-care becomes the priority. This dire situation is very convenient to the boss, as he or she gaslights the employee further into thinking they have a mental health problem.
The victim has the lengthy, costly and uphill task of trying to recover from the effects of psychological abuse, in-between all the worries around where the next pay-packet will be coming from. The fact they have to omit this work experience from their resume and make disappear all their hard work and achievements is another unfair and unjust headache they could do without. A reference is out of the question as everyone knows that it’s never a good idea to ask a psychopath to do something that has the potential to harm – they will always oblige.
The Routine Appraisal
There are many ambush opportunities for the narcissist boss to use on unsuspecting employees and weighing in as a firm favourite in the sadistic department is the routine appraisal meeting. Here, the narcissist has the official green light (as they see it) to abuse employees. You have to ask yourself why, if an employee was THAT bad, if their work was so poor and costing the department so much money, that nothing was said before. Wouldn’t a healthy-minded person be communicating any actual concerns as and when they arose, instead of choosing to blindside someone this way?
A narcissist not only notices the smell of fear as you walk into their office, but they get off on it. They feel extremely powerful when another person is nervous around them, so in a close contact situation like this, where there is clearly an imbalance of power and one of the parties is a narcissist, an impartial person needs to be present. The narcissist boss will happily provide one their flying monkeys or a passive enabler to be present, or even one of their monkeys from the Human Resources Dept may be asked. The narcissist boss won’t care that this situation is all one-sided and goes against the best interests of the employee. On the surface, it looks like they are being helpful and accommodating, but if the narcissist is choosing the ‘impartial’ person, you can be sure that whoever this person is, they won’t give a flying monkeys about your welfare, because this whole situation will be ALL about the narcissist.
Withholding Knowledge or Information from Those who Need it or Request it
Employees can be set up to fail by a boss or colleague by the not giving, or not passing on, of important or relevant information they need and rely upon in order to do their job properly. The colleague might be a specialist in their field and have all the answers but regard their knowledge as some sort of prize to treasure to huddle around and defend. Their knowledge is a pot of gold that ensures good narcissistic supply – they have the power to withhold something someone needs or make it difficult for people to ask for it. The enquirer may be spoken to with an accusatory or sarcastic tone, and this will preferably be all done in front of an audience – this was a favourite at the nurse’s handover table – “Don’t you already KNOW that?” The enquirer might be given a short, dismissive and unhelpful response that is barely audible, which prompts the enquirer to have to ask again, and this time they are met with an even more hostile response as the same answer is now loudly, barked.
The ‘special’ narcissist may direct the enquirer to a file or a filing cabinet, instead of just answering a simple question. “It’s in the file”, is the best response they might give for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. This prompts the enquirer to rifle through files and papers for an hour of time they just don’t have, but the special narcissist is happy because all that messing about not only gives them narcissistic supply, but it also serves as a deterrent to not be asked anything again.
If the enquirer buys into the special narcissist’s game and allows themselves to be manipulated into staying silent, they put themselves in a vulnerable position. If they don’t step outside their comfort zone and insist on respectful and helpful communication, they are likely to be blamed for the next thing that goes wrong as a result of being under-informed. This, of course, will be picked up by one of the monkeys, if the special narcissist doesn’t personally report it. A narcissist with specialist knowledge is especially dangerous in the workplace. They may withhold information deliberately that impacts workplace safety as well as costs. Don’t be dragged into their manipulation – their pot of gold is for sharing.
Photo by Sneha on Unsplash
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Zoe is a Registered Nurse, Kinesiologist and Holistic Health and Wellbeing Practitioner.
Find Zoe at: www.innerhealthandhealing.net and head to the BLOG page – “Emotional Neglect and Narcissistic Abuse – A Recovery of Self” for more upcoming posts on childhood emotional neglect, co-dependency and narcissistic abuse.