8 Traits of a Narcissistic Boss

When the boss thinks he or she is God!
Having a certain level of narcissistic traits is useful in order to succeed. However, problems occur when these traits are too strong and not adapted. The more of these traits an individual has and the stronger they are, the greater the problem. What are the traits of a narcissistic personality? What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism? How do you protect yourself from someone with a narcissistic personality?


“My father is always right. He’s the head of the business and he lets us know he’s the boss. We must always do what he asks. If we question what he says or does, he shouts or gives us the cold shoulder. We cannot express our opinion or criticize him. I feel that he’s manipulating us all. Can you change him?” – Samuel

When I first met Samuel’s father, he told me right off the bat: “It seems that you are an excellent psychologist and coach. I’m convinced that you will make my two sons and my wife listen to reason.” Unfortunately, my intuition told me that I was probably dealing with someone who had a narcissistic personality.

When I mentioned to “The Boss” that he was also part of the problem and I began to challenge his way of communicating with and behaving toward others, it was the beginning of the end of my assignment. He was quick to let me know that I was no better than the other consultants, in fact no better than those who were unable to acknowledge his greatness and excellence.

“A narcissist’s general mode of behaviour is based on fantasies or grandiosity and he or she has a need for admiration and a lack of empathy. A narcissist’s need for prestige, recognition and power is so great that he or she will sometimes make irrational decisions, thereby jeopardizing the business.” – Pierrette Desrosiers, M.Ps.

How can you tell if someone around you has a narcissistic personality?

Here are the eight traits of a narcissistic personality:

  1. Exaggerates his or her own importance
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, glory, beauty or ideal romance
  3. Believes he or she is special” and unique and can only be recognized or understood by special and outstanding people
  4. Has a excessive need for admiration
  5. Has a sense of entitlement
  6. Takes advantage of others in their interpersonal relationships
  7. Is often envious of others and believes other people are envious of him or her
  8. Shows arrogant and haughty behaviours and attitudes

People who exhibit five or more of these traits are considered to have a personality disorder. A narcissistic personality disorder should be viewed on a continuum. The more of these traits an individual possesses and the stronger they are in his or her daily behaviour, the greater the chances the individual is a total narcissist.

Healthy or unhealthy narcissism?

To succeed in work and in business, but also to get along well in life, you must have a healthy degree of narcissism. The right degree of narcissism is not pathological, but useful and necessary. This healthy degree of narcissism provides enough self-confidence, positive assertiveness, ability and interest to perform duties associated with power. A healthy dose of narcissism also provides the energy required to stand up for your rights when they are trampled. It helps great entrepreneurs to dream and to innovate in order to serve a cause greater than themselves. However, when these traits become excessive, then unhealthy narcissism serves only one cause, that is, the individual himself or herself. The narcissist wishes to feed his or her ego, at any cost. The individual becomes blind to all the red flags and jeopardizes the family business as well as his or her relationships.

What to do when you live with a narcissist?

Unfortunately, living with or close to a narcissistic person is like dying a slow death. You accept to be crushed and to be at their service all your life. The only way to protect yourself is firstly to stand up for yourself, to set limits and to assert yourself despite the potential consequences.

This personality disorder requires years of treatment. However, there is very little improvement. Narcissists rarely seek professional help, except when they have lost everything in their lives. Otherwise why would they consult a psychologist since they are convinced that others are those with the problem?

If you are living with or close to a total narcissist, your survival is at stake. Consulting a specialist can help you come to terms with this dynamic. With the help of an expert, you can learn to set limits, to rebuild your self-esteem and to make decisions regarding your life.

In my next column, I will explain the seven reasons why the family business is in jeopardy when it is managed by a narcissistic boss. (in French)

Pierrette Desrosiers M.Ps.

Occupational psychologist, speaker, trainer, business coach and author Pierrette Desrosiers has been actively working with family businesses from the corporate agricultural sector for over 20 years. The psycoach is known for her rigour and unique expertise in emotional intelligence, stress management, burnout prevention, family-owned business transfers, succession, motivation, neuroleadership, happiness, and work productivity.

Pierrette Desrosiers M.Ps.

When it comes to defining a business or life mission, changing negative habits, achieving better work-life balance, preventing a burnout, or improving how you manage your emotions, working with a behavioural expert is essential. Occupational psychologist Pierrette Desrosiers offers conferences, trainings, business coaching, as well as resources to help family businesses manage daily challenges both at home and the office.

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