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Help, I’m working for a narcissist!

| by Andy Zawacki

Now that you understand where your boss is coming from, how is a Christ-follower to cope with such a boss? The following list of helpful hints is designed to coach a Christian through the process of knowing how to deal with the narcissistic boss.

Remember that narcissists can positively impact organizations

Narcissists have the qualities that organizations need to accomplish great things, through what has become known as constructive narcissism. One of the greatest leadership strengths of narcissists is in the area of vision. As the boss, the leadership of the organization is looking to him to lead, not to you. That can help keep you humble.

If you decide to stay, carefully empathize with the boss.

Understanding his delicate emotional state, encourage his self-esteem by sincerely pointing out strengths. Do not expect the same in return. Get your self-esteem needs met elsewhere. The first step in coaching the narcissist out of the downward spiral is to bolster the self-esteem of the narcissist. 

Help your boss with social cues.

Do this in such a way as to downplay the missed cue so as to not point out his deficiency. Mentioning something in passing is a great way to provide him guidance without providing him correction, which he has difficulty receiving. Over time, the boss may well extend trust to you.

Spend time in prayer for your boss.

It’s a biblical mandate (1 Timothy 2:2) and will most likely result in a changed perspective. Speak to the Lord about the injustices you face on the job. He will relate with you. He will guide you. 

Remain healthy yourself.

Taking care of every aspect of you—the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, vocational, and spiritual condition—is key to longevity. Living a balanced life is important to good health. 

Discern God’s purposes in the trial.

Romans 8:28 instructs us that God will use all things together for our good.  In his book, A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards (1992) traces the life of King David from the time of his youth serving King Saul to the time of his overthrow by Absalom. Though David had many opportunities to raise his hand against Saul and Absalom, he refused to do so because he knew God was working in him through the circumstances he endured. 

By refusing to raise his hand against Saul, a classic narcissist, David allowed God to kill “the Saul” in him. While it is not advisable that one should endure abuse by a narcissist, it is noteworthy that most of us have tendencies toward some weakness leading toward narcissism. The trial of enduring the narcissistic boss can do the work of destroying narcissistic tendencies in us. By allowing our character to be shaped in the midst of the trial, we become better prepared for the task of leading others in a healthy way. 

Speak up when the time is right.

If you have garnered any trust in the boss’s eyes, the time will come when an apt word will bring clarity and change. If the narcissist continues on his path, he will self-destruct. If he makes a shift sooner, he may look to you for guidance—the exact thing he needs to help him move away from his narcissistic tendencies. 

Followers have a responsibility in the leadership relationship. Staying silent can communicate support for ideas. Courage is required to speak up when it is needed even though the consequences may be severe. 

Following practical guidelines can provide hope to a follower enduring the trial of working for a narcissist. Seeing the bigger picture God has in mind can provide perspective that is needed either to endure the narcissist’s leadership or to be the change agent to help the narcissist transform. 

Photo source: istock 

Andy Zawacki

Andy Zawacki, a former pastor and teacher has a passion for developing leaders who will change the world. He serves as the Head of School at Arborbrook Christian Academy and is a doctoral student of strategic leadership at Regent University.

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