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How to Lead and Manage a Narcissistic Manager

Navigating the complexities of working under a narcissistic manager can be daunting, but with the right strategies, you can maintain your sanity and professional integrity. Here are some practical steps to help you effectively lead and manage a narcissistic boss.

Set Boundaries

Establishing clear limits on what you are willing to do and what you are not is crucial. Be prepared to say “no” when necessary, and stand up for yourself if your boss tries to overstep. This helps protect your personal and professional boundaries. For example, if your manager requests you to stay late every evening without prior notice, politely but firmly explain that you have prior commitments and suggest a compromise or alternative solution.

Manage Your Expectations

Narcissistic managers often fail to live up to their promises and can be difficult to please. Adjust your expectations accordingly to avoid constant disappointment. Recognize their limitations and prepare yourself for potential unpredictability in their behavior. Understand that their promises of promotion or recognition may not materialize, so focus on tangible achievements and document your contributions to build a strong case for your professional growth.

Document Everything

Keep detailed records of all interactions with your boss, including emails and messages. This documentation can serve as evidence of their behavior and protect you in case of any disputes or misunderstandings. Create a systematic approach to filing these records, perhaps using cloud storage or dedicated folders, ensuring they are easily accessible when needed.

Educate Yourself

Understanding the disorder can help you navigate interactions more effectively. Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of narcissists to better manage your relationship with your boss. Knowing what drives their behavior can give you insights into how to handle them. Reading books or articles by psychologists and business experts who specialize in narcissistic personality disorder can provide valuable strategies and coping mechanisms.

Minimize Conflict

Narcissists often thrive on drama and conflict. Try to avoid unnecessary confrontations and keep your head down. Focus on your work and steer clear of office politics that might draw you into their manipulative games. When disagreements arise, strive to de-escalate situations by maintaining a calm and neutral tone and seek to resolve conflicts privately rather than in public settings.

Get Support

Seek professional resources such as a coach, HR representative, mentor, or therapist. These individuals can provide you with advice and perspective, helping you maintain your mental well-being and navigate the challenges of working with a narcissist. Joining support groups or online forums where you can share experiences and gain insights from others in similar situations can also be beneficial. You can enroll in our coaching program.

Know What You’re Dealing With

Distinguish between an egomaniac and someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. Understanding their motivations can help you manage the relationship more effectively. Recognize their need for admiration and their fear of not living up to their ideal self. This knowledge can help you anticipate their reactions and tailor your interactions to avoid triggering their insecurities.

Tend to Your Self-Esteem

Take care of yourself by finding activities outside of work that bring you joy and a sense of accomplishment. This could be anything from joining a musical group to writing a book. Ensuring your self-worth is not solely tied to your job is crucial when dealing with a narcissistic boss. Engage in hobbies and activities that boost your confidence and provide a sense of balance in your life.

Stroke Their Ego

Flattery can be an effective tool. Narcissists crave admiration and will often respond positively to compliments. However, ensure your flattery is subtle and genuine. Making your boss look good in front of their superiors can also help you stay in their good graces. For example, you might highlight their leadership skills during team meetings or acknowledge their contributions in project reports.

Emulate Certain Characteristics

While you may not want to adopt all their behaviors, observe and learn from their strengths. Many narcissists are charismatic and visionary. Emulating these positive traits can enhance your own leadership skills. Pay attention to how they communicate their ideas and inspire others, and incorporate these techniques into your own professional toolkit.

Challenge Carefully

Avoid direct criticism or challenges to your boss. If you need to present a business case, frame it in a way that highlights the benefits to your boss’s image and career. Narcissists are primarily concerned with their own success. Phrase your suggestions in a manner that aligns with their goals and demonstrates how your ideas can enhance their reputation or advance their objectives.

Don’t Gossip

Avoid engaging in workplace gossip, especially about your boss. Narcissists are often paranoid and will retaliate if they hear negative comments. Keep your conversations neutral and professional. If you need to vent, do so outside of the workplace with trusted friends or family members who are not connected to your professional environment.

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Staying

Evaluate whether the benefits of staying in your current position outweigh the stress of dealing with a narcissistic manager. If your job is otherwise fulfilling and offers opportunities for growth, it might be worth staying. However, if your boss’s behavior is too damaging, consider finding a new position. Assess your long-term career goals and determine whether your current role aligns with them despite the challenges.

Case Study #1 from Harvard Business Review: Find an Outlet to Manage Your Stress

Karlyn Borysenko, who worked for a narcissistic boss, found relief in activities outside of work, such as acupuncture and weightlifting. She also made plans to leave the toxic environment, which helped her maintain her sanity and eventually start her own successful business. Her experience highlights the importance of having a coping mechanism and a plan for moving forward.

Case Study #2 Harvard Business Review: Stay on Your Boss’s Good Side—but Know When Enough is Enough

Jesse Harrison dealt with a narcissistic boss by strategically complimenting him, which helped manage the working relationship. Despite his efforts, the stress of the situation eventually led Jesse to leave and start his own company, learning valuable lessons about associating with positive people. This case emphasizes the need to recognize when a situation is untenable and to take steps to protect one's well-being.

Principles to Remember


  • Get a handle on narcissistic personality disorder and understand what makes your boss tick.

  • Observe and learn from your boss’s strengths, such as their charisma and visionary thinking.

  • Carefully weigh the pros and cons of staying in your job.


  • Neglect your emotional well-being. Find fulfilling activities outside of work.

  • Challenge your boss directly. Frame your arguments around what benefits their career.

  • Engage in gossip about your boss. It will likely get back to them and cause further issues.

Navigating a relationship with a narcissistic manager is challenging, but with these strategies, you can protect your well-being and maintain your professional integrity. Remember, understanding and managing the dynamics of this relationship is key to your success and sanity.

Take Control of Your Professional Life with Our Coaching Program

Are you struggling to navigate the complexities of working under a narcissistic manager? Feeling overwhelmed by the challenges and looking for effective strategies to maintain your sanity and professional integrity? Our coaching program is here to help!

Join Our Coaching Program and Learn How To:

  • Set Boundaries: Establish clear limits and protect your personal and professional space.

  • Manage Expectations: Understand the dynamics of narcissistic behavior and adjust your expectations to avoid constant disappointment.

  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of interactions to protect yourself.

  • Educate Yourself: Gain insights into narcissistic personality disorder and learn how to handle it effectively.

  • Minimize Conflict: Avoid unnecessary confrontations and stay focused on your work.

  • Get Support: Access professional resources such as a coach, HR representative, or therapist.

  • Tend to Your Self-Esteem: Engage in activities that boost your confidence and provide a sense of balance.

  • Stroke Their Ego: Use subtle flattery and strategic compliments to stay in your boss’s good graces.

  • Emulate Positive Traits: Learn from your boss’s strengths to enhance your own leadership skills.

  • Challenge Carefully: Present your ideas in a way that aligns with your boss’s goals.

  • Avoid Gossip: Maintain professionalism and avoid engaging in workplace gossip.

  • Weigh the Pros and Cons of Staying: Assess your long-term career goals and determine whether your current role aligns with them despite the challenges.

Ready to Take Control?

Don’t let a narcissistic manager derail your career. Join our coaching program today and equip yourself with the tools and strategies to thrive in any professional environment. Our expert coaches will guide you through personalized sessions, helping you build resilience, enhance your skills, and achieve your career goals.

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