I remember the first time I met my coworker, Tom. He walked into the office with a sense of arrogance that could make even the most confident person feel inadequate. I knew right then and there that I was in for a wild ride working with this guy.
Tom was a textbook narcissist. He had a grandiose sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. He was always talking about his latest achievements, belittling others, and making everything about him. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time he opened his mouth.
At first, I tried to ignore Tom’s narcissistic behavior and just focus on my work. But that proved to be nearly impossible. Tom had a way of inserting himself into everything, even projects that didn’t concern him. He would take credit for my work, come up with ridiculous ideas that would derail our progress, and then try to pass them off as his own brilliant insights.
I quickly realized that I needed to find ways to cope with working with a narcissist. So, I started to make a game out of it. Every time Tom would start to talk about himself, I would take a mental tally of all the times he said “I” or “me.” It was actually kind of fun watching the numbers climb higher and higher.
But my favorite way to cope with Tom’s narcissism was to beat him at his own game. I started to one-up him every chance I got. If he talked about his new sports car, I would talk about my yacht. If he bragged about his latest promotion, I would talk about my corner office with a view of the city skyline.
It was hilarious to watch Tom’s reaction every time I outdid him. His face would turn red with anger, and he would start to sputter out excuses for why he couldn’t have those things too. But deep down, I knew he was seething with jealousy.
Despite the comical moments, working with a narcissist could be exhausting. Tom was always demanding attention and validation, and it was impossible to get him to see anyone else’s point of view. But I knew that I couldn’t let him get the best of me. So, I continued to find ways to keep my sanity in check.
One day, I decided to go all out and create a fake award ceremony for Tom. I made up ridiculous awards like “Best Hair” and “Most Likely to Talk About Themselves for an Hour Straight.” I even went as far as to create a trophy for each award, complete with a gold-painted plastic figure on top.
When Tom walked into the office that day, I could see the gleam in his eye as he surveyed the room, expecting to be adored. But when he saw the ridiculous awards, he was taken aback. I could see the anger and humiliation in his eyes as he tried to save face in front of everyone.
That was the day that Tom finally realized that he couldn’t always be the center of attention. He still had his moments of narcissistic behavior, but they were far fewer and far between.
Working with a narcissist can be a challenge, but with a little humor and creativity, it’s possible to survive. I learned that sometimes you just have to beat them at their own game and make a joke out of the situation. Who knows, you might even have a little fun along the way.