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Trauma from Narcissistic Coworker

Ridicule. Undermining. Dysfunction.

Over the years, I have had some clients describe behavior of a boss or coworker which indicated narcissism. The boss stole all the engineer’s designs and passed them off as his own. A friend was exploited by a person whom she thought she could trust. Ugly gossip was started and had far reaching psychological damage. In my early years, my supervisor threw books, pencils, whatever she could grab off her desk if we turned in reports or analysis which did not meet her needs. She would scream, yell, berate us in front of the others. I have also observed gaslighting, where the narcissist projects untrue statements onto you.

All of this can put you on the defensive, make you start to question yourself, and really do a number on your mental health. This could happen in a personal relationship or at work. The frustrating thing is that normal collaborative or communication techniques do not work on these people, and they seem to be very good at lying and twisting situations so that the victim starts to doubt themselves and their abilities.

First off, I am not a clinical psychologist. I cannot diagnose yet; there is a lot of reading material about gaslighting, narcissism and how to cope with people you have to work with, who unfortunately may have these tendencies.

What can you do?

Take it seriously. Learn about it. If you are educated and informed, it will be easier to see it coming, and recognize the unhealthy patterns. Narcissistic styles can wreak havoc in the workplace. It destroys morale, ruins company culture, sets everyone on edge and can create departmental dysfunction, all while causing major stress amongst those they work with.

In the Psychology Today article, “7 Ways to Cope With Narcissists at Work” by Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D., she states they may:

  • Take credit for your hard work

  • Give you backhanded compliments

  • Ridicule you in front of your coworkers

  • Blame everything on you

  • Knows your weak spot and exploit it

  • Actively try to get you demoted or fired

  • Lie to get ahead

  • Compete with everyone to be "the best" at work

  • Spread gossip about you, and denies doing it when you confront them

  • Sabotage your work

  • Pressure you to do something unethical

  • Get jealous of your accomplishments instead of congratulating you

Want to look good and be seen as the best, even if it means bringing others down. They will do anything to make themselves look better.


Strategies to protect yourself

  1. Get everything in writing. If you are given verbal instructions at work, ask for them to be emailed to you. The best defense is to have documentation of what the narcissist said and when they said it.

  2. Avoid a fight. The narcissist looks for ways to take you down — whether it's getting you demoted or fired. Avoid giving them that opportunity.

  3. Realize it's not personal. You may have the misfortune of being the narcissist's main target. The narcissist usually zeroes in on people who are performing better than them at work, or who has a good set of friends in the workplace.

  4. Don't give personal information or opinions to the narcissist. The narcissist is known for the classic, "What do you think of [coworker]?" Watch out for this trap. If you give any answer, the narcissist will twist what you said and tell that coworker.

  5. Have a witness. If your narcissist coworker says they need to speak with you privately, consider bringing someone with you as a witness.

  6. Avoid contact. This is effective, though hard to do. One of the best ways not to get sucked into the narcissist's games is to refuse to engage with them. If you have any questions about your rights in this area, consult an attorney.

  7. Know your legal rights. You need to learn this to protect yourself.

  8. Get help. Talk with a therapist. If this is a workplace situation, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.

Information is Power

Get educated on the subject. I want to thank my client who referred me to a few you tube influencers on the subject, and I found a few more who had solid advice for those dealing with narcissists.

  1. Dr. Ramani is a narcissism expert

  2. Rebecca Zung is an attorney who specializes in negotiating and winning against narcissists in court.

  3. Stephanie Lyn has videos about parenting and personal relationships with narcissists.

  4. Dr. Les Carter, Ph.D


Contact me at if you want help with strategies to improve your leadership, and learn how to get along better with those you work with.

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