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Mentoring a Narcissist

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Regardless of industry, there will always be self-absorbed, self-important employees obsessed with status, appearance, and power. These narcissists often overestimate their skills and abilities, putt others down, and manipulate their co-workers for personal gain. These individuals may be difficult to detect at first, as these negative attributes might initially be mistaken for self-confidence. So what can be done with these types of employees? Is it possible to turn them around? Is it worth the time and effort? Although resistant to guidance, a narcissist may possess subject matter expertise, technical skill, or strategic ability that might be worth saving. However, mentoring such an individual is often unpleasant. Begin with empathy and mirroring. Narcissistic behavior often causes others to react with criticism designed to put the narcissist in their place. Rather than fall into this pattern, the mentor should start with affirmation, understanding, and praise. Additionally, rather than directly confronting narcissistic behavior, Socratic questioning can be employed to help the narcissist come to desired conclusions themselves. Try lines of questioning such as, “I wonder why so many people have that reaction to you,” or something more direct like, “Why do you think so many people think you’re arrogant?” By working with a narcissist, rather than against them, it’s possible to achieve positive results.

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