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Narcissism at Work – The Employee Who Gave Employer Hell

We provide an insight into an employee who gave their employer hell – how self-obsessed employees can cost employers huge time and money. 

 

Signs of the ‘Narcissistic’ Worker

Employees with narcissistic traits, or embodying Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), live by the motto ‘me first!’ and everything is about them. These employees are self absorbed and attention seeking. They can display behaviours such as an exaggerated sense of self-importance, lack of sensitivity and empathy to others and a need to be the centre of attention. 

These traits can be relatively harmless. Sometimes people with them can rise into powerful leadership roles – perhaps you might know a boss who acted like this? Or many politicians! 

However, they can also quickly develop into highly antagonistic and manipulative behaviours. This can be incredibly detrimental in the workplace, especially if the employee feels targeted or victimised by others around them, including their employer.  Narcissists have the tendency to become enraged or aggressive when their ego is at stake. Narcissistic aggression can be passive-aggressive or explosive, and employers should aim to avoid being subjected to a narcissistic employee’s wrath. 

Clearly, employers should always be wary of hiring people with narcissistic tendencies. 

A Client’s Experience

For example, an agency temp with good references was offered a full time job by a western suburbs manufacturer. The employee soon became troublesome, using up all their sick leave with frequent short term absences. When warned about this excessive sick leave usage, the employee suddenly began to suffer a number of ‘alleged’ workplace injuries. The employee eventually stopped working and went on workers’ compensation. 

When the employer attempted to confront the employee about the situation, the employee walked out claiming they were being constantly harassed by their supervisor and as a result was suffering from workplace stress. The employer was at a loss of what to do with the manipulative employee and how to find a solution to what had developed. 

Lessons

This example demonstrates two things – 

1.       How to deal with narcissistic employees

This can be challenging, fuelled by their lack of empathy for others and own sense of superiority. They won’t be scared on stepping on others toes to get ahead, including their employer’s. Employers need to be wary of this behaviour and attempt to avoid abject confrontation and being overly-critical.   

To achieve the best results when dealing with narcissists, employers should understand that narcissistic employees hold a self-absorbed view of the world, and generally are only looking out for themselves. Employers need to hold their ground and distance themselves emotionally when dealing with narcissistic employees. This is to ensure employers do not get manipulated or subjected to mind-games from employees with narcissistic tendencies.    

2.       How to prevent issues escalating

Secondly, disciplinary procedures need to be consistently and effectively enforced to prevent issues escalating out of the employer’s control. 

Steve Champion, Director of ER Strategies, stresses the importance of counselling and discipline in preventing employee issues and protecting the employer. 

“Employers need to take steps to ensure employees are educated at a very early stage in their employment on performance and attendance expectations, and imposing disciplinary action when these expectations are not met.” 

Champion states this concept can be applied through a strategy of Constant, Gentle Pressure, (or CGP), to ensure employees comply with their employer’s expectations. (Click for more details on CGP)  

This strategy is ideal for dealing with troublesome narcissistic employees, as it reduces the need for direct confrontations, whilst ensuring expectations are known and met. 

Through proper application and documentation of CGP and other consistent disciplinary strategies, troublesome workers can be performance managed, and if ultimately unsuccessful in turning an employee’s performance around, terminated whilst minimising valid claims of wrongful termination or ill-treatment by the employer. 

Free Download: Termination Letter Template

Need to let an employee go? Use our letter of termination template to ensure you are using the correct format. 

termination letter template