The average person spends roughly 90,000 total hours or at least a third of their lifetime at work. The workplace can be one of our daily life’s greatest influences and sources of either joy or misery. It is not surprising why people can get so stressed and get sick from their jobs alone.

One of the greatest sources of anxiety at work, surprisingly, is beyond the very reason why we go to work. They’re the people we work with regularly who can contribute so much to our everyday reality and whether our experiences are generally pleasant or generally devastating.

According to an anonymous source, “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” Whether it is a boss or a colleague you work very closely with, it can be influential enough to define your reality and experience at work.

One of the more unfortunate and familiar scenarios that people encounter at work is finding themselves working closely with a narcissist. A generalization about narcissists at work is the realization that many of the same traits that make them impossible people to deal with personally (insert all narcissistic co-worker’s traits here) are what makes them most effective in rising up the ranks. These are the same traits they use to effectively seek leadership positions, which they land, much of the time.

This is not to generalize that all the people in senior leadership are narcissists, but leaders generally are in a position to command others at their will, and for narcissists, this can be their golden opportunity to practice narcissism, behind a legitimate leadership façade.

Here are strategies you can use to your advantage should you find yourself working closely with a narcissist:

Pick the Narcissist’s Brain

If you find yourself working closely with a narcissist, but you decide and choose to stay, then get ready for many listening sessions. A narcissist who wants your attention will keep finding ways to capture it. Compliment them from time to time as you know these are valuable to a narcissist. But be more of a listener; you don’t want to share your whole life to someone you know can very possibly use your vulnerability (one day) against you. Be attentive and listen to what they’re trying to tell you. Take the best you can from the situation.

Build a Wall

No matter how seemingly charming and friendly, a narcissistic person does not truly recognize people as friends, especially if they feel threatened or intimidated by them. Everyone is a competitor. Since you’re in a professional setting, always remain a cool calm collected professional, but do not consider the narcissist as a friend you can vent to or turn to for genuine support. Remember to set personal and professional boundaries with a narcissist co-worker.

Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive

Communication is key in working with anyone and in a professional setting with a narcissist, it’s best to communicate assertively. This is one way of establishing your boundaries but make sure not to be aggressive; there’s a big difference between the two. When provoked, a narcissistic individual can lose their temper and spit out fiery words, so you want to avoid that at all costs.

Build a Strong Support Network

Build a core group of people you can trust and consider your friends at work. Should the time come for you to become the narcissist’s object of envy, or if the narcissist co-worker starts believing you are envious of them, they can make your work-life extremely difficult. By building a solid support network, you have people to vouch for you and who genuinely know what you’re going through. They can also give you the emotional support and strength you need.

Don’t Take It All Too Personally

Be emotionally mature and understand that when the person you’re dealing with is a narcissist, you should take everything they say with a grain of salt. Don’t ever let their criticism get to you. Of course, this is easier said than done, but if you are emotionally prepared, you are fore-armed. You need to stay emotionally stable and centered as you deal with a narcissist regularly. At the very least, learn to laugh about your not-so-good days by cultivating a humorous attitude.

Limit Your Exposure

Limit your time with a narcissist co-worker as much as you can. The more time you spend with this person exchanging talk, the harder it will be to not engage and deepen your connection with them. A narcissist has a wall built around themselves no matter what they tell you, so you can’t trust them.
Key tip – Learn to build that wall from your side, too.