These people are highly toxic and will wreak havoc at work. They're one of the most difficult personalities you will encounter: the narcissist.
Merriam-Webster defines narcissism as "extreme self-absorption, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a need for attention and admiration."
Narcissists are manipulative people who wear masks and fly below your radar. You need to spot them before they destroy morale or your reputation.
So how can you tell you work with a narcissist?
1. They're only concerned about their own selfish needs.
A narcissist doesn't care about the things that matter to their colleagues or subordinates, and will probably get defensive when being confronted, so don't expect an apology. If you see a pattern, address it soon through the proper channels to see how they respond. If that person shows no respect for your position, consider cutting ties altogether, whatever that means for you.
2. They can't handle pressure.
A narcissist may stick around for the good times because that's low pressure. But as soon as there's a crisis, don't expect them to be there for support for you or the team. This should be a clear signal of things to come as problems arise, so don't expect the behavior to go away.
3. They will blow you off.
When a colleague expresses disappointment with something they said or did, a narcissist will deflect responsibility, and try to justify their actions or put it on someone else (probably back on you!). It's rare for narcissists to express themselves authentically, speak and be heard without judgment, or take responsibility for what they are creating. This is not a safe professional relationship to be in.
4. They are hot and cold.
Narcissists will drive you nuts by giving you mixed signals. One day they're telling you how amazing and smart you are (a part of their manipulative charm), and the next day they're acting uninvolved, withdrawing, and stonewalling.
5. They are master manipulators.
A narcissist will charm his way into and out of working relationships to serve their needs, and convince a colleague of going along with them, which leads to conflict and brings the whole team down. The antidote to the smooth talker who says all the right things is always to observe and mentally document their actions. Do they follow through? If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
6. They play the blame game.
Narcissists will blame their colleagues or subordinates when something goes wrong, even if it's not based on reality. Nothing is ever good enough for the narcissist. A colleague can try over and over to please a narcissist to no avail. After a while, you start censoring yourself and walking on eggshells because you're afraid of their reactions. In your mind, it's easier to take the pain of another blow than dealing with another confrontation.
Tips to dealing with narcissists
Don't take it personally and don't blame yourself -- the problem is not with you but with them. If you know what you're getting into with a narcissistic co-worker, start emotionally detaching early so you don't take their unreasonable demands personally. Lastly, make sure your boss knows what's going on, and cover your bases. In other words, document everything so that, if HR needs to get involved, you will have amassed enough proof of what's really going down.