Working for a narcissist is certainly never dull. Defined by their extremely inflated sense of self, many narcissists do make great business leaders (albeit frustrating ones), because they are confident and good at persuading others to follow them. Consider the running joke at Oracle about CEO Larry Ellison: "The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry."
But working with narcissists on a daily basis can take its toll, especially when you realize the person you thought was a visionary is merely a jerk. Harvard Business Review's Rebecca Knight explored the different ways that employees can thrive under egomaniacs, by talking to psychologists and those who have worked for narcissistic bosses and lived to tell the tale. Here are some of her best tips:
1. Rely on praise
One of the most prominent characteristics of narcissists is they seem confident but need near-constant admiration. So if you want to get on a narcissist's good side, you have to do so in a way that plays off of that weakness.
Jesse Harrison, the founder of a startup called Zeus Legal Funding that helps customers manage legal bills, told Knight that one of his former bosses, who was a narcissist, would was particularly proud of his reasoning abilities and technical skills. "Every time I was presented with the opportunity, I would show my appreciation for his logic and his [facility] with computers," says Harrison.
2. Don't get caught up in office gossip.
While narcissists may seem to have an impenetrable sense of confidence, they are still very sensitive to criticism. It's important to steer clear of gossip in any office, but in particular one that is run by a narcissist.
"These people tend to be paranoid and see enemies everywhere," Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London, tells HBR. "Anything you say will likely get back to your boss."
3. You can still criticize--just frame your arguments carefully
If you really feel like your boss is doing something that could seriously harm the company, you don't have to say silent. Present your criticism in a way that highlights how going with Plan X instead of Plan Y will make your boss appear better in other people's eyes.
"Narcissists are constantly trying to figure out, 'what does this mean for me?'" says Michael Maccoby, author of Strategic Intelligence: Conceptual Tools for Leading Change.
4. Find an outlet outside of your job to relieve stress
Narcissists tend to be overly critical of others, and any office that's rooted in negativity is bound to take it's toll. Karlyn Borysenko, the founder of a New Hampshire-based consulting firm called Zen Workplace, told HBR that she dealt with a former narcissistic boss by lifting weights each morning in order to complete an "empowering" activity before going into work. She also tried to remind herself that just because she was working in a toxic environment, that didn't mean that she had to to act toxically.
"I had a mantra on a sticky note at my desk as a constant reminder that read 'Act with integrity. Have compassion and empathy, even when others don't,'" Borysenko said.