How Codependents Leave Employment with a Narcissistic Boss

The Apprehensive Man Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Apprehensive Man Courtesy of Wikipedia

The narcissistic boss is a charming, beguiling, angelic nightmare who lacks empathy, has an inflexible personality, and inflicts great mental abuse on employees.  They control their staff by intimidation and fear, constant criticism and cultivating a competitive hostile work environment.

Once a codependent employee’s initial admiration ends or the narcissist gets tired of being nice they punish the person for not being docile and obedient.  What is a codependent?  Codependents are people who feel responsible for the feelings of others and tend to seek validation and reassurance from a person who is unwilling to give them this type of support.  A narcissistic boss uses this insecurity to inflict misery and make an employee feel insignificant. They are adept at finding the vulnerabilities in people’s psyches and need someone who is willing to cater to their needs and to give up their own desires. Expecting something from an abusive boss who has nothing to give can make a codependent employee feel crazy.

The narcissist damages self-esteem to assert control, superiority and grandiosity.  This cruelty is done for pleasure as they are unable to empathize with the pain they cause.  When you confront the inappropriateness of their behavior they perceive you to be intentionally frustrating and withholding admiration.  They will shift blame because they will not accept responsibility for their own abusive behavior and instead blame their mistakes and/or bad behavior on the inadequacies of others.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, a patient must exhibit five or more of the following traits to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

● shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

● grandiose sense of self-importance

● preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

● belief that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

● need for excessive admiration

● sense of entitlement

● takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own agenda

● lacks empathy

● often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

The narcissistic boss will not praise, reward, or recognize your work, no matter how long or hard you work for him or her. To meet their demands and please them, they will expect you to work late, come in early, and give up your lunch hour.  Typically, every detail of the way they dress, their clothes, shoes, hair, make-up, accessories, are planned and usually of high quality.  Some high status bosses actually use the services of an image consultant to guide them in projecting a lovable attractive façade.  Narcissistic bosses surround themselves with “yes” people because they don’t like confrontation or anyone to disagree with them.  They insist on having everything go their way.  Employees are merely an instrument for their gratification.

Normal, ordinary, average, and hardworking employees are met with great disdain.  These employees are seen as worthless and coldly ignored after they have served their purpose.  Narcissistic bosses don’t have friends, they have fans.  An acquaintance is a more appropriate term for what they call a friend. They require a daily regimen of narcissistic supply, admiration, awe, praise and obedience.  The narcissist lacks compassion, and understanding and doesn’t identify with an employees problems or dilemmas.  They actually don’t want to hear about you being overworked.  They want to hear you call being swamped as “productive.”

Codependent employees are a perfect match for the abusive boss because they have an exceptionally high tolerance for emotional pain and inappropriate behavior. The high tolerance for pain helped them cope with family of origin dysfunction; as an adult they tend to become victims of abuse.  Codependents from toxic family systems learn that any positive feelings about self are dependent on the mood of someone else. Lacking entitlement to their feelings, they tend to be indirect about their needs, deny hurt feelings, and distrust their intuition. They have the belief that being a good employee means sacrificing for my boss and putting up with whatever the boss wants to dish out.

When you don’t speak up about the behaviors and trauma from a narcissistic employer the abuse can slowly eat at your soul.  Keeping the narcissists mistreatment a secret literally weighs you down as you eat, smoke, drug, or drink your feelings.  Staying in a toxic situation is the beginning of a physical disease process in the bodies of many employees.   Disability leave from employment stress is a prevalent issue, especially in hostile work environments.

Leaving a toxic work environment means you are ready to end the abuse, rigid rules, secrets, manipulation, betrayal, and feeling of desperation. Some codependents say leaving their job is the end of evil.  Terminating employment also means that you are ready to feel the immense relief that comes when you begin accepting the truth and stop denying reality.  You find the power to leave when you stop denying the inappropriate behavior and no longer make it okay to hurt yourself.  You stop waiting for your boss to show respect or be someone he or she is not.  You deal with your feelings and walk away from the insanity.

Tips for preparing yourself to leave employment with a narcissistic boss:

  1. Invest in yourself by learning about codependency and the narcissistic relationship.
  2. Use your deep capacity for love to develop enough love for yourself to stop the pain an unhealthy work environment causes.
  3. Work through your family of origin issues so you don’t find yourself working through them with employers.
  4. Learn to love and respect yourself so you will become attracted to employers who will respect you.
  5. Create a solid sense of self and the courage to speak up when a boss is abusing you.
  6. If you are having great difficulty leaving your employment, please seek professional counseling.

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Thank you for reading my post. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to relationship abuse and emotional pain.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

52 thoughts on “How Codependents Leave Employment with a Narcissistic Boss

  1. Thank you for your article. When I started working for my current boss I remember thinking that something felt off about him. He was outgoing, charismatic, and all those such qualities, but there was this coldness to him that I couldn’t put my finger on. I feel like he is incapable of having empathy for the feelings of others. Where I work, were all a fairly young group of people, and it frustrates me how much everyone just puts up with his behavior. It’s absurd how much my boss boasts about himself and how much he expects everyone to give him their admiration. I really feel like I’m losing my mind sometimes when I’m surrounded by a group of people who don’t question any of it and act like his behavior is ok. I dread being around this boss and wish I was the type of person who could just easily quit a job without feeling any guilt. It’s hard to explain to people what being around a narcissist is like, it’s a very lonely thing to deal with or so it seems.

    • Dear Margaret,

      Working with a narcissist is despairing to the person with good will. It is no fun being in pain at work. You have to give up any hopes of positive recognition for your contributions. Unfortunately, many bosses in the work environment have narcissistic traits or a full blown personality disorder. Often the narcissist’s behavior is not confronted or it is ignored and the toxic unfriendly environment continues along with staff turnover. The cost in lost productivity and physical illness can be astronomical in a large corporation. You are not stuck and obviously perceptive and all the wiser. Abuse is a deal breaker whether it is work or a relationship. This lesson is asking you to not compromise your value. I would focus on possible solutions (i.e., transfer, new job, talking to HR). My heart goes out to you. I apologize for such a long response time. Thank you for commenting.

      Regards,
      Roberta

  2. Thanks for your article. I have been in an abusive job for several years with a textbook narcissistic boss. I worked very hard only to make the narcissist look good in front of senior leaders and clients. It was a really traumatic experience as the narcissist threw abuses and humiliated us most of the time. Only when things were good, the narcissist would call a small group of employees as her friends, but it was clearly a mask to make us vulnerable and to continue the agenda. I am now moving onto a new assignment and have decided to completely abandon the narcissist. While it is not easy to change patterns so quickly, I hope I am doing the right thing. I do fear for any hoovering and stalking as the narcissist may feel betrayed. But hopefully I will be able to get over the fear and lead a peaceful life in future.

    • Dear Brian,

      Thank you for commenting. I apologize for such a long response time. There is nothing worse than feeling quietly victimized in your daily life. I hope your work transition brought you some relief. I am sending you an abundance of peaceful energy.

      Best Regards,
      Roberta

  3. Hi Roberta,
    Thank you for the great post. I worked for a CEO with strong narcissitic traits for 6 years and it nearly killed me. I have a successful 20+ year career and have never before encountered someone who would bully, lie, cheat and manipulate like this person. His paranoia and total lack of empathy were astounding. The term ‘crazy making’ is a good description. I called out his behaviour in the early days and it simply made me a target for his rage and abuse. My real issues started, however, after I finally plucked up the courage to leave, which is why your points on preparation are so important for anyone in the position I found myself in. The experience pushed me into a breakdown and depression and I was unable to work for almost a year. I still have flashbacks to the abuse and experience periods of intense anger and despair, both at the narcissist for treating me so poorly and at myself for allowing it to happen. I hope one day to find peace from it, but it continues to be the biggest struggle of my life. I can only describe the person I worked for as pure evil. I know that they will never experience true human warmth and love; theirs is a truly hellish existence under the mask.
    John

    • Dear John,

      There is nothing worse than working for someone that is less than human. This post came from my experience with a narcissistic CEO. Fortunately I knew what I was dealing with and was able to leave the position shortly after I started. I saw the damage being done to the staff and told the Board of Directors. I needed to say something out of integrity. Recovery from the abuse takes time. I believe the evil is a form of soul murder. I want to encourage you to practice letting go of revenge thoughts if you have any. It is hard to not want to hurt the narcissist like they hurt us. When thoughts come up about your experience start forcing yourself to stop the dialogue in your head. You will have to do this often for awhile, but eventually you will let the nightmare quit taking your peace of mind. You have experienced enough pain. I am wishing you much happiness. Thank you for writing to me.

      Regards,
      Roberta

  4. Thanks so much for the article. I am not sure my boss(es) are completely narcissistic but there’s enough of the behaviors you list that rings true–or at least my feelings about it are real. The validation is a relief. Don’t laugh, but I googled “when does pleasing your boss cross the line into codependency.” I am dedicated to being emotionally healthy and I don’t know if my present situation is conducive to that. So thanks again for your wisdom; I will be incorporating it into my (hopefully successful) search for a job transfer in the coming months.

    • Dear Suzanne,

      It is no fun working in a place that is painful. It seems that many people in positions of power are pathologically self-centered. Be smart and take good care of yourself. I suspect you are very competent. When people can’t value you the message is that you are the one that needs to value yourself. I am sending you positive energy for a quick transfer. Thank you for writing to me.

      Regards,
      Roberta

  5. Roberta,
    I just stumbled onto your website after trying to Google “how does a codependent employee resign from a narcissistic boss. I too have experienced almost 9 years of having to become a slave to my employer.Over the years, the employees that were fired were because they did not ” share the exact same vision” as he does. I have tried to quit 3 times in the past 9 years but he says that if I do he will be financially ruined. He is very dishonest and lies constantly. I could tell you so many horror stories. Now I am starting to have health issues due to my job. So many people including my husband, family and friends say that he has brainwashed me! Well I now have summoned up the courage to resign, but my question is how to do this and stay strong without believing his lies? Also, when he realizes that I am not going to change my mind, I will feel is wrath. In addition, he does drugs at work, carries a gun everywhere and has a 200,000.00 life insurance policy on me. Is it safe for me to give a notice or should I just walk away?

    • Dear Katy,
      I don’t know the history behind your employment of 9 years, so it is difficult to comment. I think it is creepy that an employer has a life insurance policy on an employee. I am aware that this is not unheard of with senior executives in a blue chip companies. If you are in fear of your safety leaving this company you might speak with the local police near your place of work. Ask them about getting a restraining order. Let them know he has a life insurance policy in your name. It would be wise to have a well thought out plan before you exit. Make sure you change any personal passwords he might have access to and that all your belongings are off premise before or if you give notice. Listen to your gut; a clean break sounds the wisest. I am wishing you the best outcome.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  6. Roberta,

    I honestly cannot put into words how much this article means to me. I am going through a nightmare that started 2 1/2 years ago. I have what I used to consider a dream job and now feel trapped in a hopless situation. After an astronomical amount of manipulation, gaslighting, and emotional and verbal abuse I finally came across the term narcissism on a pinterest quote one night. From that minute on my eyes have been opened to what Has really happened to me. I hate myself for it but I have allowed my Narcissistic boss all but destroy my family and me and as a person. I dont even know who I am anymore. For over a year i have known I needed to leave this evil environment but my husband lost his job and we were going through a bad time and I didnt want to put anything else on him. In my mind, leaving the job has not ever been an option bc my family depends on it. My husband has a good job now but I bring home more money than him, our medical insurance is through my job, my cell phone, gas and 2 pensions are all paid for. Financially, we would have to sell our house and change our life if I left. So needless to say I feel stuck. My husband has stepped in one time and I thought that would fix the issues but he does not understand the severity of what I have been through and what this man is capable of. No one can understand until they have lived it. Anyway, didn’t mean to leave such a long post. I just wanted to say thank you because this is the best article I have ever read dealing with the situation Im going through and it is confirmation of what has to be done. I could have a long road ahead of me but I am a Christian and my hope and joy is not found in anything of this world and I have faith that I will get through this and that something good will come from it one day. Thank you again…..mine and my family’s life may forever be changed because of you if I am able to find the strength and courage to do what I know needs to be done. God bless you for the hope you give to hurting people.

    • Julie,

      Thank you for your kind words. My heart goes out to you. It is no fun to be taken hostage due to your current circumstances. I recommend that you commit yourself as much as possible to activities with a (your) church. Getting emotional and spiritual support is imperative. It might be time to literally get down on your knees and ask for guidance. You can take advantage of signing up for emailed job alerts from Indeed, Google, etc. Taking some action will help you feel better and less helpless. Continue to learn about what is happening to you. Investing in yourself is part of the healing process and your key to freedom. Most of all be kind to yourself. This is probably one of your toughest life lessons. I am wishing you much grace.

      Regards,
      Roberta

  7. This was a great article. I just quit a job with someone I’m sure is a narcissist. We work in the fashion industry or I did. It was a great job in a pretty town, ten minutes from my home. I loved the job and the time flew by. The owner was great and I could have had this job forever as most of his employees stay a long time with him. We ran a small shop, myself and the manager and did fashion shows and trunk shows and I got 50% off expensive clothes. It was amazing. Sadly the manager was a clear narcissist.

    Problems began when I started to do too well in sales. Then she suddenly started competing. She would get me to do a job when the customers came in or say she was a manager in front of them or find fault with things I was doing. I didn’t understand it because I was so hardworking and liked by customers. If a customer brought me a gift while the owner was there she would whip out one she received and walk him away so he didn’t see it. She would pick fault with things I did even imaginary things. For three days once she would tell me she had lots of corrections for me in the store and just not tell me what they were. Finally she would tell me and it would be things she learned from another of the owners stores that I wasn’t to know. So it was not a mistake at all like she led me to believe for three days.

    Then she started bullying me into working on days she knew I couldn’t and she started getting angry all the time. Finally I quit with the owner. He begged me to give it another chance and talk with her. Ask her to meet me before a shift and work it out as he didn’t want to lose me. I did and she said no.

    Things escalated. She would insult me at work. Tell me I was fat by saying things like “this comes in a really really big size you should try it on”. That didn’t bother me as I like my figure more then hers. But what did bother me is one time she called me when she knew I was working the late shift alone in the store and she told me all about a robbery in the bank 3 doors down the night before and that he was targeting stores in our neighbourhood for small cash. She made it out like she wanted to know if I was ok but I knew the truth. She was hoping she scared me. Turned out it wasn’t even true he was only targeting banks. Other things she did was shout at me while I was with a customer that it was her customer. Make comments on my clothes like “you like that sweater?” And criticize me in front if customers that I was making sales with. Often while they were in the changing room and I was with them. Our shop was very small and high end so customers got a lot of attention, bottles of cold water and so on and she would practically push me out of the way at work, wanting it to be all about her. I felt like the store was her stage and I was in her way. Anyway I quit today and she called me up all nice acting surprised I quit. I second guessed it but this article made me see that no matter how great of a job I do I can never enjoy working for her. Thanks

    • Sandra,
      I suspect your leaving will impact productivity. There is a good chance that a better opportunity will come your way. You are wiser now about toxic bosses and it sounds like you recognize your value. Good job on showing up for yourself. Keep your head high. Thank you for commenting.
      Regards,
      Roberta

      • Thanks I actually got a second interview this week at an amazing job. My only worry is I need to hand in the keys to our store and I can’t find them anywhere. I’m worried Iay have left them at work. Or maybe Iost them outside. I just don’t know what I can say to her now. Losing the store keys is the worst timing ever. I just want to be done with this situation and now I’m not.

        • Sandra,
          Congratulations on a second interview. You could send a thank you email to the owner for the learning opportunity and apologize to him for losing the keys if they don’t show up. I am sending you positive energy for your next interview. Sounds like perfect timing for a fresh start in 2015.

          Roberta

          • Thank you. I could use the positivity. The owner didn’t even answer me after I quit. He is very mad and since I stated that it was because the manager is unkind she is not happy with me so I have no idea how they will react with the keys lost. To top it off I’ve had the worst Xmas with narcissist relatives and I just feel emotionally spent. Also what do I tell my new potential employers when I have to tell them I quit my previous job. I’m worried about that too. :<(

            • Sandra,
              Emotional hangovers from interactions with narcissist are no fun, especially during the holidays. I would focus on what’s right about you and what is good in your life. Making a gratitude list might help quite your fears and lower anxiety. When interviewing you don’t want to bad mouth a past employer. It is always best to be prepared with an “elevator speech” when discussing why you left your previous employment. The best reason for leaving is to move toward a better opportunity. Emphasize the positives (seeking new challenges, pursuing new experiences, etc.) about the new position/company. I am wishing you the best.
              Regards,
              Roberta

              • Oh my god, that’s what I have! What a great description. I kept asking myself why I feel so low and down when I’m normally such an upbeat person and that’s exactly what it feels like. Like a hangover. Thanks too for the great advice for the interview. Happy 2015 to you too!

        • Update: just wanted to tell you that I did get that job and now after 6 months been promoted to manager and it’s really the most perfect job for me and I have an amazing appreciative boss so thank you so much for helping me find the courage to leave my last job.

  8. Wow, how appropriate a read for Thanksgiving!
    I suppose I should realize that I am a co-dependent personality but this article really nails it for me. I gave notice last week, knowing that yes, I was bored and yes, I was working in a field that I don’t like, but the real reason was my boss. He fits the profile and I have been miserably uncomfortable with him for my almost 2 yrs on the job. Of course, when he threw me a crumb here and there, I lived off that high for a few days until he returned to his old self, spewing his ideas and philosophies, expecting me to agree when he well knows that I don’t. He was talking AT, not TO me and getting joy out of being able to say what he wants when he wants with no guilt whatsoever. His mantra is “I don’t care.”
    I want to say here that these kinds of people do not always embody all of the traits of a narc, so don’t be fooled if your narc boss doesn’t dress impeccably or comment on your clothing, etc.
    This concerns me because some co-dependents will continue to think it’s their fault because the boss doesn’t display ALL the characteristics. If you’re feeling trapped in a situation where you get no say and are not heard, feel ecstatic if you get a weak compliment, and are extremely uncomfortable w/this person, you are in the wrong place and need to get out before you become buried.
    Thank you for this article. The depression and anxiety I was beginning to feel was completely attributable to this boss. The firm was small (5 of us) and the only person not a peer was me, the AA. The rest were co-owners, and since they all got along fine, even though I well knew this narc boss was under my skin, I thought it was me and that I was depressed. I now realize it was all about him and my reaction to him. I tried all kinds of ways to deal with this guy but because of my past and the inability to escape the scars, (tons of therapy that at least uncovered the issues) I have been unable to deal with him. Finally I just went into myself and started avoiding any personal conversation, etc. The depression worsened as they left me out of important decisions the office was making that affected me. When they didn’t tell me directly that they were bringing on another partner, I realized I had to leave. Perhaps they wanted me to. There was not a shred of compassion or caring from this guy. He sent me a cold note, “You were an asset to our business but I could tell you were bored. We’ll talk.” One guy expressed his sadness at my departure and the other 2 have said Nothing. I am pretty depressed and miserable as I am not young and since I was dumped off from my 20 yr job w/a Fortune 500 which I LOVED, it has been one horrible job and boss after another. A couple of year ago, I worked for a sociopath, who pulled me into a disastrous fantasy. Thankfully I did not “take part” but my heart did. It took 3 years to get over that. My next job was with this narc. I feel like I’ve been hit with a brick.
    I so want to work but finding something is going to be hard at my age. As well, I will not take a job or stay at one with someone who seems mentally weird or unhealthy. NO way.
    Thank you for this excellent article.

    • Steph,
      Thank you for commenting on this article. You are correct some narcissistic bosses are not invested in their dress or appearance. Your cerebral narcissist tends to put emphasis on intellectual grandiosity and often is very miserly. The somatic narcissist uses their body and appearance for narcissistic supply. I once worked for a narcissistic CEO that hired an image consultant and the nightmare experience prompted this post. As a society we are producing or maybe identifying narcissists at a disconcerting rate. Ones chance of encountering a garden variety narcissist or a sociopathic one in the workplace/dating arena is high. I would like to suggest that you no longer entertain thoughts or buy into the belief that your age will affect your marketability. We tend to create what we believe. I do understand the psychic damage and emotional hangover that results from working with a self-absorbed vampire. I suspect you are a good man of great value with a contribution to make. You have much to be grateful for this thanksgiving. Your purgatory is coming to an end. I am sending you positive energy for a quick recovery.
      Best Regards,
      Roberta

      • Hi Roberta! And thank you for an informative and warm post. One thing I want to let you know is that I’m a woman. Hahaha. Maybe you interpreted my name as a man’s. It’s short for Stephanie. Anyway, as such, I can more than identify with your experience. In looking back, I clearly see that I have both dated, worked for and with individuals who clearly suffer from anti-social personality disorder at some level. A few just have to have been full-blown narcs and/or sociopaths. I suppose this is a learning experience, certainly not in any way pleasant or an adventure. Yes, agree that “nightmare” well describes the experience one has with these disordered monsters. I unfortunately, walked into one situation right on the heels of another and should have been more in tune with the red flags. Though these two are very different, it’s clear both of them behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally in my presence.
        Thank you once again, Roberta, for your thoughtful and kind response. I hear you on the age thing. I’m having an extremely hard time aging and feel completely out of touch and saddened by this process, as if a death has already occurred within me. I do see a therapist but I have pretty much all my life. I know what I need to do, my mind doesn’t want to let me.
        Happy holidays to you, Roberta!

        • Steph,
          I did think you were a man based on your name. Ageism is such a rampant discrimination in the US that it is hard not to be affected by it. Christiane Northrup, MD has an empowering message in her book “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.” I listen to her weekly show on the internet at the Hay House Radio website. Maybe it is time for a complete makeover to remind yourself of your worth. Thank you for writing to me. I am wishing you the best.
          Regards,
          Roberta

  9. I am living this right now. I have worked for this company for three years and initially my female boss was very nice but as she has gotten comfortable (she was a new hire when I arrived) she has gotten out of control. She tells you to do something then yells at you the next day for doing it. She calls you names like dip $h!t and stupid. She refuses to fix problems within the business so that things run smoothly for fear that may make it look like she is not needed. I’m an IT manager and she demands I give her administration access to all of the systems….she has no computer training or know how and has ruined 4 laptops since I have been here downloading games. She will lie and say she didn’t say something when you know she did and in front of people. She takes credit for our work with our board. She holds meetings every other day in which we have to listen to two hour stories about her dogs and cats. The worst thing I think was when I suffered a miscarriage due to crazy stress I was put under. When I told her what had happened and why I had been out she responded by pulling out a sonogram picture of her niece’s pregnancy and telling me how happy they were they were having a baby. No I’m sorry, no are you ok just showed me an actual sono pic of a person who is still pregnant! This is one of a huge list of stories we all have. The bad thing is I live in a rural area and jobs are hard to come by so just quitting or me isn’t an option. I do recognize myself as a codependent and it is due to family history so it is very hard for me to stand up for myself. Recently I have been doing just that. I have been honest and firm and that has landed more negative attention on me than before. I feel like at any time I am going to burst and tell her how we all feel about her. I live every day with the mission of avoiding her as much as possible (which is hard to do most days as she is technologically impaired). I know if I leave I will not get a reference from her. She piles work on me all with a top priority. The network is crumbling because I can’t get to repair anything because I get pulled off and put on silly little projects every day. She has run off almost every customer we had when I first started here. I’ve heard her tell a grown man to “repeat back to me what I’ve said because I don’t think you are listening” and then put her fingers up to his mouth and say “SSHHHHHHHH”. I have never in my working years encountered someone like this and it is an ongoing experience I will not soon forget!

    • Meg,
      Your work situation sounds very dis-empowering. The writing of this post was motivated by an experience I had with a narcissistic CEO. It is no fun working with an energy vampire. I suggest keeping a watch on the job market in your area. A position will eventually become available and looking will help you take some power back. You might set up email job alerts tailored to your skill-set from websites like “Indeed jobs” or “Google Alerts.” Most companies are not going to call your current place of employment for a reference. It is no fun going to a job where people are victimized. I am wishing you the best. Thank you for writing to me.
      Regards,
      Roberta

      • Thank you. I have started looking for other opportunities in my area and you are right it does make you feel a little less stuck and a little more in control.

  10. This is the best article I’ve seen on this subject. Thank you – it is so helpful. To all who are struggling and stumbled upon this… Have faith and step out with good counsel, a sober mind and hope. I am living proof that there is freedom and peace when you think you’re done. Just like another commenter is about to do, I left my job of almost ten yrs that I gave my absolute best to. In the last weeks before I left I would drive to a park on my lunch break, cry hard and go back to the office with a brave face. Felt like I was cracking into pieces and would never be ok again. I had lost the me that I was years ago.

    It’s now been over 8 months and I’m amazed at how things have worked out. The universe will rise up and meet you half way when you do the right things. Leave gracefully, avoid gossip and just take care of yourself. I was willing to let the chips fall – move into a box if I had to (I didn’t). I hit my personal breaking point and was getting physically ill. A trusted counselor helped me so much. It was my decision and I have absolutely no regret. And guess what? You’ll find out that there are lots of employers/clients who totally appreciate what you do. Thank you again to the author of this. I had a memory tonite and looked up this subject- first time in months. Peace to you.

  11. I am so happy to have found this article. It confirms that I have made a really good decision at a time when I really need support. Thank you for this!

    Next week I will leave a job of nearly 10 years to escape from a boss who is proud of the fact he can make others (the women of the workplace) cry. Even though I have a wonderful new job to go to I feel so humiliated and defeated by this experience. This job seemed so promising at first and for the longest time I took on his criticisms, as hurtful as they were, as development points I could work on. In the end several nasty comments in the space of a few days cemented my decision to leave as soon as possible. I haven’t thought about my new job much as I won’t feel free until I am home safely at the end of my last day. Logically, I do know that I will look forward to a brighter future, I hope I feel that way soon.

    Thanks so much for your insight – you have helped me.

    • Eve,
      You are welcome. I want to stress using self-compassion as you recover and to do something symbolic to acknowledge leaving purgatory. Reward yourself with an action that brings you pleasure. More power to you! I am wishing you the best in your new job.
      Regards,
      Roberta

    • Eve- I’m excited for you! Your story sounds exactly like my experience. And good for you for lining up a job while under that stress. I took some time off- had to -but I’m back to work and it’s great. Leave it all behind and take care of yourself. I’m so thankful now. Best to you.

  12. I enjoyed reading your article and the posts. I worked as an Executive Assistant to a narcissist for 10 long years. The first 8 years he needed me to make the right introductions for him in the industry we worked in, since he was new to the industry. I worked 24/7 for him. Didn’t see he was a narcissist until he turned on me and began treating me like dirt in a corner. He had no regard for anyone but himself. The anxiety I suffered was terrible. Finally one day in February of last year, without even thinking about it, I walked into his office and handed him my resignation letter. He was shocked, couldn’t believe I would ever leave him. At my “Farewell Party”, he cried and gave such a heartwarming speech, even had a video made of photos of me and him to a few songs. I kept my composure, didn’t shed a tear. Mainly because I had shed too many tears, too many times because of his bullying and abuse. He has reached out to me a few times since leaving, via text. I keep my answers short and to the point. It has almost been 1 year since I left him, but I still find myself being upset and angry over the way I allowed him to treat me and take advantage of me. Sometimes I cry about it. I feel so foolish to think this person actually valued my opinion and how I was fooled. I am wondering will these feelings ever go away? I want to say he is finally out of my life, but he isn’t because I still have this hate inside of me. Maybe it isn’t hate, but I am not sure what to call it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Rene,
      Posttraumatic symptoms from relationship abuse can last for some time. I feel for you as I read about your nightmare. I believe investing in yourself by learning as much as you can about codependency and narcissism will help you come to terms with what happen. I invite you to look at what you were trying to learn by working in purgatory. It’s possible that the purpose of the relationship was to discover your true identity. Most of us have to hurt a lot before we change what is painful. Finding meaning from your adversity can lead to gratitude for the lessons learned. Holding on to your anger might be due to a desire for revenge. Refuse to let him rent space in your head and continue to suck the joy out of your life. The psychic damage from a narcissist is insidious and evil. Please allow yourself to get professional support if needed. You deserve a healed life.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  13. I think this disordered type of relationship goes on more than people think. Especially if you are working for a small business where you begin to buy into the notion that you are somehow responsible for shouldering the success or failure of the business as opposed to simply providing an honest days work. This was very insightful. I left one if these hell spins after four years and it was crippling to begin the recovery process. But I did. One thing that you mentioned and that helped a great deal was writing a note to myself and putting it on my refrigerator. It said “you’re doing good I’m proud of you and I love you.” That was very odd at first to tell myself that but it really started to work. I live alone and one day my narcissistic father visited and signed my note to myself, “love, Dad”. I resented that and was not at all surprised that he did that. Unless you experience people like this who will go to great lengths to steal your soul, you may think that was a kind gesture. And in his mind I’m sure he thought it was. But not mine. To me that was again another narc trying to extract another piece of me. I didn’t react or say anything. I simply erased his signing. And now my note is mine again and makes me happy again to read it. There is hope after a crazy narcissistic life invasion. Just make a plan, stick to it and trust yourself. You will get better. And it feels great!

    • You are a powerful women with a life path that is not for wimp’s. I know the profound sadness that comes with a narcissistic parent or boss. The conciliation is that as you heal your life, what happened growing up will become your depth. I am wishing you an abundance of grace and love.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  14. Thank you so much for writing this. You have described my workplace almost perfectly! I have been so confused lately. My boss’s personality just seems to be getting worse and worse. He never, EVER gives praise even though many of his employees are talented way beyond their payscale. He delivers thinly veiled insults, expertly designed to dig at our respective weaknesses. He just loves the lift he gets from taking someone down a peg. He’s sexist. The men in our workplace sit around doing nothing while the women follow them around cleaning up their messes, and he seems to encourage this behavior by inaction. The women are exceptional employees, very hardworking, highly skilled and devoted, but nothing they do is enough for him. He has endless praise for himself and his work, and everyone else is worthless. He seems to see us as cartoon characters with no lives of our own. If we don’t behave as though we are thrilled to cater to his every weird emotional need, we are attacked and berated for our lack of enthusiasm. He has no boundaries and he brings his volatile emotions to every confrontation, often yelling, crying and swearing, completely unprofessional. As you can see I am unintentionally compiling a laundry list of all his faults, and of course it only gets longer and longer. I am planning on leaving this island of misery but I won’t be able to do it for at least another six months. How do I mentally zoom out of this circus and maintain serenity on a day to day basis? As it is I just can’t seem to stop obsessing.

    • Cedarwaxwing,
      I feel for you. Working in purgatory is a nightmare. Maintaining your serenity might take a moment by moment approach. Reminding yourself often that what he does or says is not personal helps. I would avoid him as much as possible. Refuse to victimize yourself by letting him rent space in your head. I would stop talking about him to others and interrupt your thoughts when the negative dialogue begins. The way to torture a narcissist is to ignore them. Keep your eye on the ball and know that your employment will be ending soon. I am wishing you a quick escape. Thank you for writing to me.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  15. I am so glad I found this article. I new have the courage to move away from this situation I am in and came to understand the job needs me I don’t need it!!!

  16. My boss is the owner, hardworking and dedicated. His son however fell far from that tree. I intended to marry into the family but his “visionary” son has really gotten worse these last three years…he recently used a major charity event to assert his role as future leader of the company. And in additional he has assumed a management role he was completely unqualified for, and every decision has cost the company money. But the latest nerve was when he convinced his sister to break off our relationship. I guess he felt I was a threat. He told me many times how he will be in charge one day and I better know my place. (I feel bad bc I was hoping the three of us, him, his sister and I, could work together since we actually compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses brilliantly… aside from his inflated ego) But his parents- the owners (and who I called family) sided with him. They didn’t know what else to do. Blood is thicker. so in the end it cost me the love of my life, a great future at a great company, and a wonderful opportunity to grow as a leader. Today, I’m walking away with the respect of every employee while he’s still talking about the great leader he will be one day.

    • Dear Anonymous,
      I can’t help but think you “win” by walking away with the respect of every employee. The deeper message I get is the painful loss of two identities, that of a valued competent boss and a loved partner. As you heal from these relationships you will find great lessons learned. If you work on not taking a victim mentality you won’t be allowing this man to rent space in your head. He would love knowing you are continuing to be pulled into resentments. This is easier said than done. Explore your options. Give yourself what you need. Ask for what you need. Hold your head high. Thank you for commenting on the post. I am wishing you the best.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  17. I was working with a narcissistic boss. He stole my ideas, and my clients. However, I always stood up to him. I told him once in one of our many “Lobby” meetings, “Your trouble is that you have a big Ego”. His reply was ” I don’t have an Ego problem, I don’t have an Ego problem…………..Okay so I have an Ego problem”. Then he said that’s how I am and you have to deal with it or else.

    My reply was. This is how I am and you have to deal with it or else.

    In the end I was fired, because I emailed him a link to a website describing the criteria of having a narcissistic personality disorder. Well that’s the reason he gave one of the Directors, I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the week before I had just secured a client funding of £125,000 (of which I was due 20%).

    What I noticed Man’s first name was Edward. But I slowly realised his nickname should be “Big Ed” ( Cockney’s always drop their “H”‘s when talking : ).

    • Budd,
      My post on the narcissistic boss came from an experience I had with one. I spoke up too about the abuse and disrespect. I wasn’t willing to accept the destructive behavior that what was being dished out. I believe a new door will open for you. Let your own success be the result of leaving this company. I am wishing you the best.
      Regards,
      Roberta

  18. Great insight! Nice that I am not alone working with cccrrrazzzzyyyy narcissist! QUESTION: What causes or attributes to Narcissism? More importantly, if you work for a narcissist, and you depend on them for your job, what do you do to maintain your job security, at the same time, deal with such insanity? Plz help!

    • Maureen,
      Thank you for writing to me. Narcissism usually develops in severely dysfunctional families where a child learns to not to trust that his or her needs are going to get met or how to love self and others. Their caretakers are inconsistent in parenting, tend to ignore the child, or actively abuse. In many ways they are true victims. The person that they present as in adulthood is made up. Their inner world is a nightmare. Narcissistic bosses are actually easy to control if you are willing to give them constant admiration and attention, periodically ask them for their brilliant advice even when you know how to resolve a dilemma, never question their decisions or expect recognition for your contribution. If you don’t take their emotional baggage personally and can play their game you will probably maintain job security. I am wishing you the best.
      Roberta

  19. Pingback: How Codependents Leave Employment with a Narcissistic Boss | Vital Simplicity

  20. Roberta, This is fabulous, as usual. While reading through this post, I couldn’t help think of the same situation applying to pastors with their church congregations. I find the church situation extremely saddening and have wondered what keeps people going so many hours a week year after year in the face of continual bullying, including public belittling and verbal attacks. I have discovered that I only have to look to my past and the desperation we can feel either trying to make a living or trying to get close to and do right by God. TREMENDOUS abuse of power. It takes a lot of courage to walk away and be willing to face emptiness, insecurity, being alone, being confused, being in chaos for a time, and being “different” and potentially talked about. But from what I see, very little is more necessary than taking the plunge and truly letting go of toxic situations. Thank you, Roberta, for your leadership and enlightenment over such important issues. You make a big difference in my life.

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