How to Spot a Narcissistic Coworker

< Back to Blog

Narcissism in the Workplace

We've all had co-workers we don't mesh with – but not all of those relationships create toxic work environments. However, there are some personality types that are more challenging to navigate – one of them being narcissism.

According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissistic personality disorder is “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. They believe they're superior to others and have little regard for other's feelings. Behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

So, what does this mean for those of us dealing with a narcissistic co-worker? Or perhaps an even more important question, how can we spot narcissistic behavior in the workplace? Both questions are important to answer, as narcissists can greatly disrupt corporate wellness and even create emotional damage to those around them. Understanding the common signs of narcissism in the workplace is key to weeding out sources of toxic behavior. 

1. Hogs the spotlight 

Being the center of attention is a classic sign of narcissism. In the workplace setting, this is achieved by dominating meetings, presentations, conference calls, and email threads. This shows power and influence, both being extremely important to narcissistic personalities. Other ways narcissists will claim the spotlight include: 

  • Speaking only about themselves
  • Frequently highlighting their accomplishments 
  • Name and status dropping (i.e. their master's degree or the celebrity they know) 
  • Interrupting others in conversations or meetings 

2. Takes credit from others

We all know the phrase "give credit where credit's due." This typically does not apply to narcissistic personalities. Instead, they are known to take credit from others by stealing ideas or presenting a colleague's hard work as their own. In reality, a narcissist often works less than others or is not a key player on a project, but fights to have their name appear at the top of the contributors list.

3. Charismatic but lacks follow-thru

Charm and charisma are common narcissistic personality traits. They are often able to easily charm others, which can later turn into persuading others to believe in their ideas and manipulate people to get what they want. Often times, narcissists are the ones who repeatedly break promises, miss deadlines and 'forget' to pay you back. 

4. Superior/inferior complex  

Another telltale sign of narcissistic behavior is one's inability to relate to others as equals. Instead, they assume a superior position and believe they are better or 'above' those around them. Ultimately, narcissists lack the empathy to treat people equally.

5. Spread negative emotions 

Many narcissists enjoy arousing negative emotions from others. For example, "egging on" or "pushing buttons." On the flip-side, they are sensitive and easily upset when the same is done to them, and may lash out when disagreed with or being stood up to. 

As mentioned, certain personality types can wreak havoc on teams, departments and even company culture on the whole. Narcissists do not handle criticism well, so it's important to have a strategy for addressing the behavior or what to do if an employee is personally affected. Speakfully makes it easy for employees to speak up safely about difficult interactions in the workplace, and gives HR teams the opportunity to address issues before they escalate. Learn more