Research, Opinion and Practice
New Horizons in Management series
Chapter 7: Dealing with the Narcissistic Coworker
Highly narcissistic coworkers represent yet another problem for people who want their workdays to run smoothly without having to resolve complex interpersonal problems. Narcissists are part of a category of workers classified as difficult people. A coworker is difficult when he or she is uncooperative, disrespectful, touchy, defensive, hostile, or even unfriendly.1 Difficult people include many different subtypes, such as high-maintenance workers, and lone wolves who do not want to be part of any team. About ten percent of the workforce might be classified as difficult, and perhaps one-tenth of these people could be classified as narcissists. Yet other types of difficult people have an element of narcissism, such as the yes-person who readily agrees to assume responsibility for a project yet often fails to follow through. As a result, the percentage of the workforce that creates problems for others based on narcissistic tendencies is probably much higher than one percent. Nina Brown, counseling professor at Old Dominion University, reminds us that we are not helpless in dealing with destructive narcissist coworkers. People can develop and use strategies and tactics that will help them cope with negative narcissistic behavior as well as dealing with their own feelings.2 In this chapter we include some of Brown’s ideas in our approach to dealing with narcissistic coworkers. We begin by describing some of the problems created by narcissistic coworkers. We then describe a study about coping with workplace narcissists, followed by advice about taking care of oneself when dealing with narcissists. Other major...
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