Understand Narcissists and other Personalities You Have to Work With (or, “I am being bullied”)

I am being bullied.

I have been for about a year.

I’m not in elementary school anymore, I’m forty years old.  I own my own company.  But I have a bully.

Having a bully sucks.  I’ve been the minor victim of bad behavior over the years, but this is different.  This is constant, over time, in-your-face bullying.

My bully is probably a narcissist.  Unfortunately, I’ve got the opportunity to learn a lot more about narcissism (or, narcissistic personality disorder) than I ever wanted to know.

What I’ve learned is that narcissists are kind of complex, although they are apparently pretty easy to define.  They are the type of person who don’t care about anyone else, would hurt others without knowing or caring about it, don’t take any blame but are excellent at giving blame everywhere else… and they just simply wouldn’t believe that they are doing any of this. They definitely wouldn’t agree that they are a narcissist – that is too demented for them, and they are certainly not demented.

Check out this article in my local paper: ‘I AM A BULLY’ sign-holder calls sentence unfair.  This isn’t my bully, but something in the article struck me.  This article is about a man (62 years old) in Ohio who has apparently/allegedly done some horrible things to his neighbors.  From the article, here are some things this “man” has done:

  • after “being annoyed at the smell coming from Prugh’s dryer vent when she did laundry… [he] … hooked up kerosene to a fan, which blew the smell onto Pugh’s property,”
  • “called her an ethnic slur while she was holding her adopted black children,”
  • “spit on her several times,”
  • “regularly threw dog feces on her son’s car windshield,”
  • “and once smeared feces on a wheelchair ramp.”

What does this bully say?  He “denied bullying his neighbors,” and “I understand my actions could have caused harm but at that time I was not really thinking about it.” (that last gem was probably because the court ordered him to issue a written apology… nothing as sincere as an apology you are forced to make, right?)

Finally, he says: “The judge destroyed me … This isn’t fair at all.”

That, my friends, is what I would call a narcissist.  Destroy, hurt, harm, insult, and then “oh, poor me, poor me. Why is this happening to me.” Utterances of denial.  And more denial.

Do you know anyone who is like this?  Go visit some battered women’s shelters and you’ll meet women who are on the other end of this much too common “personality disorder.”  There are countless others (men and women) who are dealing with relationships with narcissists in their own, quiet, way.

In my workplace I have been forced to work with people who have one disorder or another.  Working with someone who makes you confused just enough to make you think YOU are the problem.  People who are constantly surrounded by drama, misfortune or discipline, or people who leave the proverbial bodies in the wake behind them.

We enjoy movies and TV series about personality disorders in a workplace.   Dwight is funny, in The Office, from the comfort of our own home.  Michael Scott is hilarious because he is an extreme that most of us don’t have to face at work, but we can giggle when our boss pulls a Michael Scott.  Or the Dilbert boss, who is a complete incompetent.  George Clooney played a corporate hatchetman in Up in the Air.  Fun and exciting to watch, but do you wonder how someone who has to do that for a living can sleep well at night?  Does this person not have a soul, or a conscience?

Here’s what I’ve learned about working with people who have harmful personality disorders: they are all over the place.  This is just life.

We can be sympathetic, and we should be sympathetic.


Many years ago I was involved in a business venture.  When things went south, and the person I was talking to showed his true colors, I had an awesome, empowering realization: I didn’t have to be involved with this person anymore.

As someone who was self-employed, I could CHOOSE whether he was in my world or not.  I know that is different if you are married to the person.  But working with someone?  You have more choice than you might think. (if you are married to this person, you have to decide how much is too much… unfortunately this is impossibly hard to watch someone else do from the sidelines without wanting to scream LEAVE! LEAVE!  But the ones who do leave have a chance of having some peace in their life, and maybe even happiness.)

I know, getting the narcissist out of your life might mean leaving a job.  Trust me, in some cases it might be totally worth it.  I remember a stressful work situation I was in that eventually led me to the urgent care, wondering if I was going to have a heart attack.  It turned out to be a pre-ulcer instead.  Previously, nothing had stressed me out enough to give me an ulcer… not school, the MBA program, or a plethora of other things… but a colleague at work?  That gave me a pre-ulcer?  I was mad that his problems caused my physical grief.

That is not acceptable.

If your colleagues have issues, and they aren’t going away, maybe you need to treat yourself to some basic humanity, be kind to yourself, and LEAVE.

The peace you get in your life can easily outweigh the hardships that kind of relationship can bring into your brain and physical well-being.

I know. This is much easier to say (or write) than to actually do.

But I also know some of you have been, or are, bullied at work.

Maybe it’s time to take care of yourself, and find a work environment where you can have peace, and thrive, and love to go to work everyday.

The first thing I recommend is to try to understand the personality disorder that is affecting you.  Is it a pathological liar (compulsive lying disorder) you have to work with? Is it a narcissist (who will make you think that YOU are the problem, not them)?  Is it someone who simply lacks moral integrity?

Whatever the situation is that causes you stress, figure out the root cause, and then determine whether you are going to “live with it,” and all of the consequences that go along with that (like, what that means for your relationships outside of work), or if you are going to do something about it.

I invite you to indulge in YOURSELF.  Get out of the harmful, stressful situation, and take care of YOURSELF.  Being in a hostile work environment doesn’t mean the HR department has to sign off on it. HR is there to protect the company, NOT you. I knew that going to HR to complain about a hostile work environment would have only caused a lot more problems. Trust your gut, take care of yourself, and if you have to, LEAVE.

If nothing else, learn about the personality so that when you have to deal with it, you are not shocked and manipulated and destroyed.  Knowledge will give you strength and empowerment.

As for my bullying situation, I wish it was as easy as leaving a job, but it’s not.  Bullies are here to stay, and they don’t just exist in school.  I can only hope this situation ends well.

5 thoughts on “Understand Narcissists and other Personalities You Have to Work With (or, “I am being bullied”)”

  1. Best wishes for resolving your situation. Thank you for the article! I am 6 months into a new job and working for a narcissist. It was hard to make the decision to start looking for a new job ( how to explain a 6 month stint to a new employer?) but it is indeed necessary for my own health and my family. In the meantime, I will now be researching narcissism so that I can best cope. Thank for identifying the disorder. I knew something was very wrong but had no idea what it was.

  2. Karen, good luck, take care of yourself and your family, and empower yourself with knowledge. And as they say, it’s easier to find a job when you have a job… now you just have to figure out how to tell people why you are looking, without really telling them “I work for a narcissist.”

  3. Oof. Karen and Jason, you both have my sympathy. I have seen others in similar situations but have not been the focus of it — not since high school, anyway. When it’s among adults, it often shows disturbing intensity. Take care of yourselves, these people suck up so much mental, emotional, and even physical energy!

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