February 7, 2004
To a narcissist-employer, the members of his "staff"
are Secondary Sources of Narcissistic Supply. Their role is to accumulate
the supply (in human speak, remember events that support the grandiose
self-image of the narcissist) and to regulate the Narcissistic Supply of
the narcissist during dry spells (simply put, to adulate, adore, admire,
agree, provide attention and approval and so on or, in other words, be an
audience). The staff (or should we say "stuff"?) is supposed to remain
passive. The narcissist is not interested in anything but the simplest
function of mirroring. When the mirror acquires a personality and a life of
its own, the narcissist is incensed. When independent minded, an employee
might be in danger of being sacked by his employer (an act which
demonstrates the employer's omnipotence).
The employee's presumption to be the employer's equal
(friendship is possible only among equals) injures the latter
narcissistically. The employer is willing to accept his employees as
underlings, whose very position serves to support his grandiose fantasies.
But the grandiosity rests on such fragile foundations, that any hint of
equality, disagreement or need (that the narcissist "needs" friends, for
instance) threatens the narcissist profoundly. The narcissist is
exceedingly insecure. It is easy to destabilise his impromptu
"personality". His reactions are merely in self-defence.
Classic narcissistic behaviour is when idealisation
is followed by devaluation. The devaluing attitude develops as a result of
disagreements OR simply because time has eroded the employee's capacity to
serve as a FRESH Source of Supply.
The employee, taken for granted by the narcissistic
employer, becomes uninspiring as a source of adulation, admiration and
attention. The narcissist always seeks new thrills and stimuli.
The narcissist is notorious for his low threshold of
resistance to boredom. His behaviour is impulsive and his biography
tumultuous precisely because of his need to introduce uncertainty and risk
to what he regards as "stagnation" or "slow death" (i.e., routine). Most
interactions in the workplace are part of the rut – and thus constitute a
reminder of this routine – deflating the narcissist's grandiose fantasies.
Narcissists do many unnecessary, wrong and even
dangerous things in pursuit of the stabilisation of their inflated
Narcissists feel suffocated by intimacy, or by the
constant reminders of the REAL, nitty-gritty world. It reduces them, makes
them realise the Grandiosity Gap (between their self-image and reality). It
is a threat to the precarious balance of their personality structures
(mostly "false", that is, invented) and treated as such.
Narcissists forever shift the blame, pass the buck,
and engage in cognitive dissonance. They "pathologise" the other, foster
feelings of guilt and shame in her, demean, debase and humiliate in order
to preserve their sense of grandiosity.
Narcissists are pathological liars. They think
nothing of it because their very self is FALSE, an invention.
Here are a few useful guidelines:
Never disagree with the narcissist or
Never offer him any intimacy;
Look awed by whatever attribute
matters to him (for instance: by his professional achievements or by his
good looks, or by his success with women and so on);
Never remind him of life out there and
if you do, connect it somehow to his sense of grandiosity ("These are the
BEST art materials ANY workplace is going to have", "We get them
Do not make any comment, which might
directly or indirectly impinge on his self-image, omnipotence, judgement,
omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even
omnipresence. Bad sentences start with: "I think you overlooked … made a
mistake here … you don't know … do you know … you were not here yesterday
so … you cannot … you should … (perceived as rude imposition, narcissists
react very badly to restrictions placed on their freedom) … I (never
mention the fact that you are a separate, independent entity, narcissists
regard others as extensions of their selves, their internalisation
processes were derailed and they did not differentiate properly)…" You
get the gist of it.
Can the Narcissist be harnessed? Can his energies be
This would be a deeply flawed - and even dangerous - "advice". Various
management gurus purport to teach us how to harness this force of nature
known as malignant or pathological narcissism. Narcissists are driven,
visionary, ambitious, exciting and productive, says
Michael Maccoby, for instance. To
ignore such a resource is a criminal waste. All we need to do is learn how
to "handle" them.
Yet, this prescription is either naive or disingenuous. Narcissists
cannot be "handled", or "managed", or "contained", or "channeled". They
are, by definition, incapable of team work. They lack empathy, are
exploitative, envious, haughty and feel entitled, even if such a feeling is
commensurate only with their grandiose fantasies. Narcissists dissemble,
conspire, destroy and self-destruct. Their drive is compulsive, their
vision rarely grounded in reality, their human relations a calamity. In the
long run, there is no enduring benefit to dancing with narcissists - only
ephemeral and, often, fallacious, "achievements".
ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES
New Narc City
Interviews and Articles in the Media
Bully at Work
- Interview with Tim Field
Guntrip, Harry. Personality Structure
and Human Interaction. New York, International Universities Press, 1961
Horovitz M. J. Stress Response Syndromes: PTSD, Grief
and Adjustment Disorders. 3rd Ed. New York, NY University Press, 1998
Jacobson, Edith. The Self and the Object World. New York, International
Universities Press, 1964
Millon, Theodore. Personality Disorders in Modern Life. New York, John
Wiley and Sons, 2000
Vaknin, Sam. Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited. Skopje and
Prague, Narcissus Publications, 1999, 2001, 2003