The Narcissistic Bully – A Psychological Hazard

By Tanya Hallet

Image by DC Studio on Freepik

If you have managed to escape being on the end of a narcissist, then you are one of the lucky ones. Many of us have experienced either working with or being in the relationship with a narcissist. And they are one of the greatest psychological hazards to the workplace.

When you first encounter one in proximity over a period, you usually have no idea what’s going on. Your head is swimming, you’re exhausted, anxious, lack of self-confidence and to top it off, you feel like you’re losing the plot. I know. I’ve worked with some and was married to one a long time ago.

What you may not know, is that you have been fighting against a series of deliberate tactics that has been utilised by the narcissist to make you doubt yourself and exhaust you. Make no mistake, narcissistic tactics are commonly used, especially by abusers and bullies. And since bullying overtly can get you into trouble at work, sneakier tactics must be used.

What Are Some Classic Narcissist Bullying Tactics?

I met a woman the other night who had worked for years in her role. She knew the company well, knew her job, the polices, rules and procedures, and best of all, was empathetic to the feelings of her staff and leaders.

And then a new person was employed. He was not as experienced, he was junior to this woman, but he wasted no time implementing some classic narcissistic bully tactics including:

  • Checking her work over her shoulder,
  • Arguing with her over the accuracy of polices and rules even though she knew them well and had done for years,
  • Going over her head to the manager and saying negative things about her,
  • Sending emails CCing the boss about topics which weren’t relevant.
  • Going to the leaders and managers and saying this woman didn’t know what he was doing and saying he could do a much better job,
  • Repeatedly sending confusing emails to staff members where they were required to “explain themselves,”
  • Ordering staff around and delegating responsibilities to them even though he was not in a leadership role saying that he had managerial positions before (he hadn’t) so he knew better than them,
  • Passing off his duties on to other staff without accurate information and then having a go at them when it isn’t done properly, usually while also adding the boss in on the email,
  • When confronted by other staff, he would either deny what they were saying, or turn it back around on them. Often with a side dish of “This isn’t complicated, I don’t know why you can’t do your job properly.”


D– Deny (I never did that/I’m a good person, ask anyone, I would never do something to hurt you/You’ve misunderstood the whole situation/I’ve got heaps of experience in this, I know what I am doing)

A – Attack (You’re crazy/You need some help/ I can’t believe you would lie like this/ What kind of person are you to make this up?)

RVO – Reverse Victim and Offender (This is your fault/You made this happen/You asked for it/You knew what was going on)

DARVO uses feelings, not facts. And at the end of the whole experience, you’re left wondering what the hell has happened.  When I was growing up, my grandmother used to say, “The best method of defence is attack.” And using DARVO on you keeps you in defence mode while the other person has a field day attacking you. By the end, you’re exhausted and shattered.

Mental Health Impacts

The woman I was talking to told me she wasn’t sleeping, was feeling anxious all the time about work, felt like her confidence had hit rock bottom and she was exhausted. She went to her GP asking for health tests because she thought something must be wrong with her.

She wasn’t alone in this. Over a period of less than six months, nine other staff members quit. They had complained about this guy, but nothing had been done. The narcissist bully had left a trail of confusion in his wake.

Make no mistake, these tactics can have a severe negative impact on people’s mental health.

What Are The Signs For Leaders?

A narcissist is only interested in being nice to people they can get something from, and if you serve no purpose, or if they want your job, they waste no time in making you feel useless, shredding your credibility and getting you out the way. A narcissistic bully is often appears incredibly thoughtful, friendly and charming to all those people at the top of the ladder, so at times, it can be difficult for managers and leaders to see what is really going on.

However, as a leader if you are seeing the following signs, you may have a narcissistic bully in your midst.

  • Reduced staff morale,
  • Staff seeming more tired, anxious, or exhausted,
  • Staff who previously got along fine, suddenly suspicious of each other,
  • Staff involved in more conflict,
  • Staff are less open or willing to discuss things,
  • Increase in sick leave,
  • Increase in resignations.
  • Complaints against a particular person

What Can You Do If You Are The Victim Of A Narcissistic Bully?

  • Read up on ‘Gaslighting’.
  • Avoid taking things personally – there is nothing wrong with you!
  • Document all offensive behaviour – time, date, location, what was said/done.
  • Don’t engage with gossip.
  • Be realistic – the narcissist won’t admit they are wrong.
  • Keep interactions short and sweet.
  • Don’t share personal problems with the narcissist- it will be used against you later.
  • Practice self care,
  • Keep the evidence, go to HR and report it.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression or PTSD (trouble sleeping or sleeping excessively, feeling more exhausted than usual, eating too much or too little, substance misuse, suicidal feelings, flashbacks, nightmares, etc) – please seek professional help from your GP or psychologist.

Narcissistic bullies don’t just go away, they need reporting.

If you are walking this road its tough. Make sure you look after yourself and reach out for help if you need it.