People who think so highly of themselves are pretty common in the workplace. It can be really hard to be the bigger person when someone loves the sound of his voice a little too well and shuts you down when you offer constructive criticism. Some are simply arrogant jerks, but others may actually have a psychological condition—narcissism.
Psychology Today notes that while it’s normal to have a “reasonably positive view” of yourself based on you being better at certain skills than others, narcissists “have an enhanced view of themselves” and are “particularly likely to enhance traits that reflect their ability to influence the world.” Moreover, they think themselves to be better leaders, more good looking, and more intelligent than others, without worrying whether or not they’re fair or likable.
So what do you do when you need to deal with a narcissist in a professional setting? Here are ways you can make things easier and less stressful for you:
Make his ego work for you.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that you’ll be a push-over, but making narcissism work for you can actually keep the peace within your team. Believe it or not, narcissists have good points too—they can work independently and are driven to gain success, no matter how hard the going may be. Need to get a narcissist to work? Then make them feel important. Appreciation, no matter how small, is important to one who thinks highly of himself. Indulging the ego can get you results.
Give a compliment before you criticize.
Probably one of the hardest things to do is to criticize a narcissist, as this can often lead to episodes of explosive anger. A feature in Quartz by University of Pennsylvania Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Jody Foster explains that “the only commentary that the Narcissus will be able to actually hear will contain some degree of praise in it. So when asking for a favor or for some type of change that could be perceived as an insult, definitely attempt the route of first praising him in some way.” So while you don’t really need to tiptoe around him, it’s best to word your criticisms well and be generous with compliments. They can be poor listeners, but honeyed honest words reach them.
Avoid inciting arguments, even when you’re annoyed
As mentioned, a narcissist thrives when he’s appreciated. While it can be tempting to make a mockery out of his ego, best steer clear of tasteless sarcasm. Insults will only make his walls higher and thicker, and no one from the team will benefit from that.
Acknowledge that narcissists can also be pretty insecure
While a narcissist may appear all strong and puffed-up, he’s actually forever looking for ways to boost his self-esteem, and often that’s through incessantly running to become the best of the best. The Harvard Business Review says that the reason why narcissists (such as the late Steve Jobs) are so important to companies is that they always have a vision or a goal—and people gravitate towards them despite their inability to empathize. Of course, this does not absolve someone for being a jerk, but if you’re dealing with someone with a huge ego at work, try to look past the pomp and stay professional. Behaving otherwise will only hurt yourself.