The Pathological Narcissist In The Workplace

A certain amount of visible anxiety in the workplace is not only a good thing, it is necessary for signalling when there is a problem brewing, and for motivating everybody to get on board and problem solve (a coherent perspective).
Unfortunately, when workplace anxiety is being caused by a pathological narcissist colleague (or worse, a corporate psychopath), then things are going to become chronic and unbearable.

Narcissists are very Machiavellian, and unfortunately, the hidden anxiety they cause within the work environment is likely to remain invisible and go undetected, unless someone can observe the “red flags” and name what is happening.
If the toxic narcissistic behaviour goes undetected, the anxiety that is created is likely to flow from one person to another, and one department to another, until the whole system becomes infected.
I have worked in the Corporate World for almost 20 years, and I have seen mature companies implode due to undealt with toxic pathological narcissistic behaviour.
Here are some of the behaviours I have witnessed in the workplace coming from pathological narcissistic personnel: –

Corporate pathological narcissists (Corporate Psychopaths) significantly affect the general morale of the workplace through their bullying, verbal abuse, humiliation, criticism, conflict and unfair supervision (Boddy, 2011).
These behaviours are the “out of control reactions” of pathological narcissists (both male and female) who suffer from a serious mental illness. These behaviours are likely to have a strong negative effect on the staff’s performance, creativity, etc., because they are deliberate attempts to distort the victim’s reality, which impacts on everybody.
Narcissists are in a company for self-gratification only (i.e. power, money, prestige, etc.), they are not interested in the long-term success of the organisation in which they work (Boddy, 2011). They gain promotion not through their own competencies, but through their manipulation, aggression, charm, coveting their colleagues work or ideas, etc.

Many narcissists are promoted into positions beyond their abilities, and this can lead to trouble for the company who often find themselves trying to cover up for the narcissist’s poor management decisions on the job. These setbacks can cause extra workload for the other employees when trying to repair the damage. Because they are amoral parasites, narcissists will use other staff inappropriately, getting them to do part of their workload and cover for them, take credit for others’ work, blaming others for their own mistakes, humiliating people in public, creating disharmony and causing crisis and confusion in the workplace (Boddy, 2011).

This directional or functional abuse can demotivate other staff members, who resent what is happening in the work environment. The work-related-stress can lead to a fall in productivity, absenteeism, emotional disturbance within the workplace, general dissatisfaction.
In the end, many organisations must pay out large ‘golden handshakes’ to get rid of these pathological narcissists, because they know that going through the court system will be a difficult and costly drawn-out drama.
When it comes to corporate psychopaths, as far as I can detect, the behaviours do not differ that much from person to person, it only seems to differ by degree.

In the Corporate World, it is estimated that corporate psychopaths make up approximately 4% of the CEO population, and these truly are what Robert Hare (1993) calls, “Snakes in Suits”. The one thing all narcissists have in common is that they need a constant source of narcissistic supply to give them oxygen, and for many narcissists the workplace provides that oxygen in abundance (i.e. it provides a place to preen, show off, get attention, shine, seduce, manipulate, humiliate, slight, prey on, exercise control, have power over, rage, and is financially rewarding, etc.).

Empirical data would show that Corporate Psychopaths are more likely to be at senior levels of the organisation than junior positions. However, that can be misleading, because I have encountered them on all levels of the company. Also, I can say that they all did the same amount of damage to others and the company regardless of what level they had reached. It would be true to say that all these individuals were expecting to rise through the ranks of their organisations, but not all were seen to be suitable to do so.

Regardless of rank, they are all without conscience and are always finding ways to cheat the system and victimise those they work with.
The reason they get away with their sadistic behaviour is that others do not know they exist, and even if they did, they would not know how to recognise the behaviours.
Even most clinicians that work in Employee Assistance Programmes for corporate clients are not aware of these pathological personality types. That is how pathological narcissists can thrive while they are free to hide in plain sight.
It is vital that awareness is promoted in every sector of life because pathological narcissism is rampant throughout all society.

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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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