narcissist

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The Narcissist in the Next Cubicle
Some of the same rules that apply to a narcissistic boss apply to the narcissistic co-worker—particularly avoiding the blame game and protecting your ideas. But there are differences, too.

Narcissistic co-workers can be great in the early stages of a group project—say, when you're brainstorming ways to land a new client. That makes sense: The work is usually done in groups, where individual contributions get noticed and applauded; recognition is the narcissist's drug of choice. If your focus is on what's best for the team, don't begrudge the narcissist the spotlight—but don't be shy about pulling it to yourself when you have something of your own to contribute.

The bigger risk comes later—when the work is more about managing the account, meeting deadlines, holding the nervous client's hand. There's no audience for work like that, and so the narcissist will slack off, letting other people carry the load. Don't permit it. The group should have a way of accounting for hours logged and tasks completed, and the narcissist should be included in those ledgers.

Even in businesses that don't work by billable hours, there are ways to keep track of how much of a contribution any one person is making. An unnamed narcissist at an unnamed magazine in my past was forever shirking work—taking on fewer and fewer assignments and claiming chronic illness as a reason. A quick byline count on the magazine website provided an exact accounting of who in our department had been producing what—and who had been producing next to nothing at all. In the next round of layoffs (and there were plenty in that era), the narcissistic colleague became an ex-colleague.