To not want to be manipulated by this narcissist at work?(20 Posts)
I'm pretty much convinced that I work with a covert narcissist and although I have known something really weird has been going on for ages I didn't actually realise she was a narcissist until I stumbled across the concept and it suddenly made complete sense to me. Unfortunately, prior to this discovery I was inadvertently playing into her hands.
She has a million techniques but her favourite technique is to gaslight me. She continually misunderstands what I say or imagines I'm using a nasty tone of voice (when I am very careful to keep my voice as unemotional as possible at all times). Then she will be tearful and mournful and behave as if I am bullying her when it really, really isn't the case. On the other hand she continually makes nasty, barbed comments about anything and everything I say. I suppose it's a classic case of the narcissist saying another person is abusive using the very tactics they are using themselves to bully that person
She is absolutely brilliant in her role, she is the poor, pitiable victim, going through various life crises one after another. Any unreasonable behaviour from her has to be let slide because she is 'going through a difficult time' again and again and again.
She keeps up an amazing front of being good at her job (thinking about it this is simply her repeatedly telling everyone that she is brilliant at everything) and also Simultaneously making everyone else out to be useless at theirs. She does make increasingly frequent cock ups but again is highly skilled at diversionary tactics. She cannot tolerate any criticism, and will turn on the tears, play the victim and shift the blame with truly amazing skill.
She is the worlds biggest freeloader. She gives out the impression of being kind and warm but never, ever does a thing for anyone, just manipulates people into doing favours for her all the time.
Sadly there is no way she will be leaving her job. Sadly there is no way I can leave mine (I won't detail why because it will out me)
She has management wrapped around her little finger, I can't blame them, she had me wrapped round hers for a long, long time too and I work directly with her! I'm pretty sure management are actually aware of her behaviour, but she is very careful to stop short of anything that could be used in a disciplinary scenario. I also think management can see that she would play the victim and that she would delight in taking them to a tribunal given half a chance so there is nowhere to go with that. !
I am exhausted by the pettiness of it. I basically think that she is very threatened by me as I am younger yet more senior than her. I just want to get on with the work that I love, in the company of reasonably pleasant colleagues (although I'd happily settle for just non-abusive colleagues). I'm so frustrated because I actually really do enjoy my job and I like my other colleagues (except for the narc's flying monkeys). I am well paid and its perfect in every way for me, except for her behaviour.
I am not in charge of her though iyswim, just a higher grade (and get paid more). I think that is basically what her problem is with me but I don't know how it can be the solution. As I say, she is very careful to make sure there is nothing concrete anyone could discipline her for.
Keep a record of her comments and her cockups.
I would communicate as much by email as I could. I would have no personal conversations with her. I wouldn’t try to keep my conversations in a monotone, instead I’d make sure I wasn’t overheard and I’d let a note of boredom/I know what the fuck your up to creep in. Or I’d directly challenge her fake weepiness by saying something like ‘this looks like it’s something for you to deal with’ and walk off.
She’s a nightmare but I wouldn’t pander to her. With someone as bullying and aggressive (passively) as she is I wouldn’t give her eye contact either, I’d be constantly looking over her shoulder slightly bored.
If she deliberately misunderstood what I’d said I would follow up every conversation with an email to ‘confirm’
Get everything written down by email. Then all her lockups are her errors. Be very clear and specific. If she queries your switching to a formal mode of contact raise "misunderstandings" and that she sometimes "struggles" with your professional demeanour.
But you're senior to her. You really will have to reflect on your dealings with her.
Communicate mainly by writing - set out expectations very clearly. Don’t EVER be alone with her if you can help it. Keep all your emails, and make sure others are party to any critical discussions. You need to avoid the ‘oh but x told me’ scenarios md you can if you impart information or instructions as directly and unemotionally as possible and make sure they are recorded in email and if possible witnesses by others.
Google the ‘grey rock’ technique if you think she’s targeting you. Narcissistic people latch onto anyone who will feed their ego. You need to be perfectly professional, full and slightly distant.
It should go without saying but that kind of person should know NOTHING about you personally either.
I was in this situation in the late 80s/90. Exactly the same. It went on for three years. Eventually I did move jobs. Eventually I found out she got found out and people I had worked with all realised. But at the time I was the principal target. Nasty person but oh so sweet on the surface.
Keep it cool and calm and completely impersonal and professional.
Do not tell her anything about your life. I have been bullied at work (unbelievably - because I am a gobby, out-there person who takes no shit), but I was in a very bad place in my life at the time. Bullies wheedle their way in via your weak spots. Give her no weak spots to infiltrate. They will pretend to be all nicey-nicey and "care" but really they are logging your weaknesses and will get under your skin. The thought of it all still makes me feel physically sick. I agree with others. Keep all emails and do not engage verbally unless absolutely necessary. She will be the type who is doing the same.
I used to manage someone like this - in fact the description is so accurate I'm pondering if you work in her team, at the firm I left last year! Is there around 17 of you at a large (top 10) firm in the city?!
I'm afraid I have no real advice, other than to distance yourself as much as possible and don't get sucked into her dramas. I found it very, very difficult and she drove wedges between all of us in our small team until she went off sick with stress for a while, then moved to a different team when she came back. I admit I felt sorry for her most of the time.
Document everything not written by email. Ask for clarification on what she says. IE repeat the words back to her with “so are you saying ....?”
I could have written this. This is the situation I was in a couple of years ago and I really feel for you. It nearly broke me, a lot of people don't understand how much this type of situation affects you and your mental health.
She treated others the same way, many of whom left the company as a result. I tried to deal with it for a couple of years, I was stubborn and liked my job and didn't want to be pushed out by her. But in the end it was affecting me so badly that I realised one of us had to go. I applied for another job and got an offer. Thankfully for me, when I told my boss I was going to hand in my notice, he realised just how bad it was (he knew already but she was clever in not giving them reasons to take things further). He wanted me to stay rather than her, and started disciplinary proceedings against her. I didn't want to go through that but was able to hold off on formally accepting the job offer for a couple of weeks while I weighed everything up. I then decided to accept the new job offer, but on the same day she handed in her notice, she knew she wouldn't come out unscathed of a disciplinary, and it would have killed her for other people to think she wasn't wonderful.
So I stayed, and I can't tell you how much it changed my life not having to work with her. I was lucky, but if things hadn't worked out the way they did, I would have left, no job is worth putting yourself through that, no matter how much you love it.
I could almost have written this word for word, OP. Sadly, I've no advice to add - I'm already covering my back in every way by using grey rock, following up with e-mail, documenting errors and making sure I never have discussions without a witness. My director used to be in my post and has admitted to me that she is "unmanageable" - we are going down the performance management route atm but she is using her many "going through personal crises" excuses to the max.
It is possible to have a successful grievance procedure against these people, even in the public sector - I've seen it done with our appalling narcissist. It took a while and had to be done very very carefully but it worked.
Her manager needs to follow the procedure to the letter, and carefully document multiple incidences of poor behaviour, which includes treating colleagues badly. Explain clearly the wrong behaviour and the needed behaviour and follow up with email every time.
Ours actually blew up and ended up going after a serious incident but the process was nearly complete by then anyway.
I do need to start writing everything down, both in terms keeping communication written so it can't be manipulated and also of what behaviours she's showing and the mistakes she's making.
None of them alone would be anything to be bothered about but when you add all the horrible, little instances together you realise how awful it is.
A question to those of you who say that a grievance procedure was undertaken against a similar type of person: what kind of evidence was there against them?
Have a read about harassment at work. Making you feel intimidated or humiliated counts as harassment even if you don't think she has made an obvious mistake or written something offensive in an email. So anytime you feel bullied, write down what happened and when, if anyone witnessed it, and importantly how it made you feel. Do you have an HR dept you could have an informal chat with?
In my situation, she told an outright lie to my manager about something I had said. It might have warranted a disciplinary against me if I had actually said it. It was only my word against her's but my manager knew I would never have said it and given all the other things that had happened, realised she was most likely making things up. That was the point when I think things turned for me as my manager started to realise just how bad things were. I was lucky as she had slipped up and gone a bit too far.
No actual advice, OP but I feel for you as your situation sounds like a nightmare.
Not quite the same situation, but I was bullied at work by my manager who made my life absolute hell. I spent about 10 months being totally miserable, constantly looking over my shoulder, belittled, excluded. I went from being a reasonably confident and cheerful 40 odd year old woman, and highly regarded in my job, to being nervous and quiet with all of my confidence zapped. Received god knows how many verbal and written warnings to boot. She caused so many problems for me, it affected my marriage and all my family were very concerned for me. I started keeping a diary and recorded everything and then finally raised a grievance about her to her manager but as her manager was a personal friend of hers, (and it was such a shit company to work for) she sided firmly with her and I was made out to be a trouble maker.
God knows how I got through it but she got her come uppance in the end. She ended up losing her job as she ended up dropping her guard, started making mistakes and was finally exposed as the nasty bully that she was.
I hope this will happen to your colleague, OP and one day soon her behaviour will be uncovered and dealt with accordingly.
I do believe that karma exists and things happen for a reason.
I worked with someone like this. I ended up taking a step back and keeping things purely professional - we had to work quite closely, but my colleague was poisonous. She didn't like it, but couldn't complain about it. My being good at my job was something she couldn't cope with - she was a real queen bee. My manager had my back and recorded several incidents on my behalf. In the end the colleague kind of imploded and left. It was a relief.
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