Narcissists are among the most interesting coworkers. They are also repugnant, disruptive and poisonous to a business, and potentially to your career. That is, if your narcissist sees you as anything except a reflection of his or her greatness. So, you must interact with your narcissist as if everything she does deserves nothing but positive regard and appreciation. Otherwise, expect that your narcissist will attempt to destroy you.
Actually, no matter what you do: your narcissist will attempt to destroy you.
Our office narcissist has picked on everyone except me. That is, until Friday. Then, she pointed her ugly, crazy, manic, depressed, stressed-out-because-I-don’t-have-enough-work-to-do-but-I-have-too-much-work-to-do tantrum in front of me. This came right after it took me 30 seconds to find an important corporate contract that an investor said he needed. It had been created long before I arrived. Our narcissist said the document didn’t exist. After all, she had spent 5 days “looking for it.”
So there I was holding it in my hand after near-zero effort to get it. And my ease of finding it tripped the venom in her mouth to spew. At one point there were words like “you never had a friend” and “you think you know everything” coming like projectile vomit at me. “Stop,” I said. “Go away. I have to get this document to the investor.”
Ten minutes later, she walked by my office and stopped in the doorway. “Oh,” she said. “You’re still working? It’s after hours – do you want me to stay and help you?”
A dead calm hit me.
And in that moment of pure serenity, I had the epiphany.
OMG. She’s a malignant narcissist! A rare breed.
These are people who work to make trouble and cause distress, then reverse on you to suddenly become helpful and appear goodnatured. M. Scott Peck does a great job of describing malignant narcissists in his book, People of the Lie.
The thesis of Peck’s monumental work is this. These people are the evil in the human race.
They have a self-image of perfection. Excessive intolerance of criticism. Scapegoating. Disguise and pretense. Intellectual deviousness. Greed. Coercion and control of others. Symbiotic relationships. Lack of empathy.
So it took two months to actually “diagnose” her, just in time for our malignant narcissist to give her 30 days notice. When we gratefully accepted? She changed her mind. After all, as a malignant narcissist: you believe giving and taking back your resignation would be your right.
This will be an eventful week. We anticipate lots of (false) accusations, blaming, crying, sick days, and precision attacks on the character of others. That is, after all, how we went from “Isn’t she amazing?” to “What’s wrong with her?” At least now we are over the confusion – which is the first sign that you have an malignant narcissist.
She’s not crazy. She’s not suffered any misfortune. She is simply a bad apple, as organizational psychologist Adam Grant calls these folks. Or evil, as the renowned psychiatrist Peck calls them.
For the rest of us good eggs, it’s been a startling realization.
So, if you have been confused, aggravated and disrupted by a co-worker, subordinate or superior: wow! Isn’t it nice to know there’s a diagnosis for these folks? And, as a boss I find it reassuring to learn there is no amount of training, no amount of support and even no magnitude of praise that I could muster to help her.
I had a plant like this in the outer reaches of my property at home. The plant is called poison ivy. It makes you itch, blister and scar. It looks benign, even nice. But, it’s poisonous. Just have to cut it out. Then the rest of the plants can blossom.
And so we will.
Organizational leadership guru Adam Grant recently commented on what spoils a workplace culture. It’s surprisingly simple. It takes just one person to obliterate a collaborative, supportive and positive environment. It doesn’t have to be a person at the top. One mean-spirited, conniving, credit-hogging, work-shirking colleague will ruin your day, your week, or however long you can stand being employed in the same organization.
One rotten apple spoils the barrel.
But one good egg does not make a dozen.
It’s unfortunate to learn that one super-generous, caring and helpful colleague does not cancel out the dirty trickster.
In other words, an organization can’t neutralize a bad apple with a good egg.
That frustrates a lot of workers who enjoy their work and each other. No matter how large the group that gets along and happily produces great work, the impact of a negative, slacking, tattletale telling lout is an unstoppable, sickening virus.
In a client company that I consult with now, there is a really bad apple. In fact, he is a poison apple. He fakes illness. He doesn’t return emails. He verbally attacks junior staff. He demands help when he simply doesn’t want to do his own work.
This was an open secret before I arrived. Now it’s exploded – because he has finally lost the few allies who personally liked him despite his behavior at work.
There is only one answer. It’s a choice, really. He either gets fired or the company will devolve: making less profit, generating less revenue, getting less worker productivity and lots more errors because caring is wearing thin among the minions.
Company layoffs, financial belt-tightening and vulnerability to competitive threats are often laid at the feet of various departments. What went wrong? Did finance manage cash poorly or fail to secure the right financing? Did marketing make bad decisions about buyer behavior and preferences? Were sales reps not filling their prospecting funnels or selling upgrades and add-ons? Has R&D missed the category roadmap, or built when it should have acquired?
“WHAT went wrong?” is commonly asked; however, “what” is the beginning of the wrong question.
WHO went wrong? That’s the question few companies ask or address. Why?
It’s nearly impossible for top management to imagine that ONE person – something so granular in an organization – could be responsible for organizational dystopia or even its demise.
It’s difficult to imagine one person can infect an entire organization.
But, come off an airplane where one person coughed and sneezed throughout a five hour flight, and within the week you have a former planeload of passengers who are now just a bunch of sick people unable to work.
As Adam Grant advises: fire the taker, the faker, the bad seed and the trickster.
Like pruning my beloved rose trees so they can flourish again, I made that recommendation this week.
Watch this space. More will be revealed.
From the moment you wake up, opportunities are staring you in the face. So why are you missing out on them? Why are you missing out on the job promotion that’s available, the openings at the companies you admire, and the business opportunities – even the investor who is staring you in the face?
You just aren’t paying attention to the rich opportunities that are in your environment, both online and on-ground. You are too busy doing your job, looking for a job, texting, gossiping, browsing the web, or trying to “manifest” what is already all around you.
Here’s what we know from neuroscience, as noted in the Journal of Current Biology. Each night while you sleep, your brain is busy sorting, connecting and filing away everything your senses took in during the day. Often you’ve taken in volumes more from your environment than you consciously appreciated. It’s only when you sleep, that your brain processes all the information you missed, plus makes connections with the interests and skills you have.
There are so many valuable, enriching, perfect opportunities presented in the average day of the average person – you could not possibly take advantage of all of them. But among the wealth of opportunities, there are at least a dozen during the average week that connect perfectly with your interests, goals, desires and skills.
You are missing what you are looking for, because you are busy “looking.” Looking through the ads on LinkedIn, looking at lists on job boards, looking at YouTube, looking at Instagram, looking at other people at Starbucks, or looking into your smartphone.
But real opportunities you consciously missed have been taken in and stored by your brain. At night, your brain sifts through everything you saw, heard, felt and experienced – that you were not even aware of – during your day.
How can you access what your brain has stored? Your brain will present the perfect opportunities to you, if you:
Set your brain on autopilot each night.
Before you go to bed, make a list of three things you want, that will help you move forward in your career or business. I call that list your “Big 3.” That helps direct your brain to search and effectively use the material it’s storing in your mental “filing cabinets.”
One of the five big jobs your brain takes on when you sleep is decision-making. By reciting your “Big 3″ list aloud, you are giving it instructions about how to make decisions for you. Just be very specific. Such as: “Find me a great new employer, with doggy day care onsite and free lunches.”
When you deliberately set your brain on autopilot, you create an opportunity recognition system. You control your selective perception, so your brain knows exactly what you want – not just while you are asleep, but all through your waking day.
What are you missing? Actually nothing. You just need to direct your attention to the opportunities that are hiding in plain sight.
When you intentionally activate your selective perception, opportunities arrive. Even better? You see them!