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7 Ways to Deal with a Toxic Narcissist at Work

Having a narcissist in your workplace can make every day a challenge. We asked relationship experts how to manage game-playing and calm your workplace.

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Ignore their actions

Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist and author, says one effective way to handle bragging and credit-stealing coworkers is to ignore them. “Any engagement is an invitation for a power-struggle, battle, and declaration of war,” she says. Instead, focus on your own work and keep your distance. Use these 18 tips to have a productive workday—despite distractions.

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Recognize gas-lighting

According to Psychology Todaya narcissistic boss or colleague who engages in “gas-lighting” to diminish you and praise themselves will exhibit particular actions. He might question your memory of an incident, change the subject, trivialize your concerns, and forget or deny abusive behavior. “All these behaviors are intended to make you doubt your thoughts, memories, and actions and attempt to make you see that there’s something wrong with you,” says Ray Williams, President of Ray Williams Associates and author of several business books. Here are some more clues to spotting a narcissist.

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Resist the urge to challenge them

Williams also recommends not challenging a narcissist—especially in front of others. If they feel you’ve harmed their self image, they won’t take it well. “Never disagree with the narcissist or contradict him particularly in front of other people; he will punish you for doing so,” adds Williams.

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Realize their insecurity

Most narcissists are fundamentally insecure, says Jelena Kecmanovic, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Arlington, Virginia; they behave the way they do because they need constant validation. “Knowing that narcissists are psychologically impaired might help you avoid taking their behavior personally and to have some empathy,” says Dr. Kecmanovic. Here are more ways to handle the toxic people in your life.

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Accept that change likely won’t happen

If you have observed a pattern of narcissistic behavior, don’t expect that the person is going to change and behave well at work. “This will save you the heartache of disappointment and then anger every time the narcissist engages in bad behavior,” explains Dr. Kecmanovic. “There is a saying in psychology: ‘Nothing predicts behavior better than past behavior.’ So, expect them to continue behaving badly and prepare for it as much as you can.” To counter narcissistic behavior, she advises standing your ground in meetings, practicing assertive responses, and organizing with the others so that you don’t get bulldozed over. To keep confident, these tips will help keep you cool at work.

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Set clear boundaries

Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, a New York City-based therapist says boundaries are incredibly important when interacting with narcissists. “You need to learn to say ‘no’ when she is being intrusive. Don’t engage in arguments. It’s easy to want to defend yourself when attacked but narcissists are unable to hear you. Simply say you disagree and end the conversation,” she says. “Narcissists also manipulate situations and violate boundaries so trust becomes an issue. Communication and trust are two of the most important traits in a healthy relationship and with a narcissist this is nearly impossible.”

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Reach out for help

Hershenson recommends talking to your boss or sitting down with a friend and asking how they deal with people that bother them. Don’t be afraid to lean on others for advice and support. Here are 36 more to make your workday go smoothly.