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In the work place

Unhealthy behaviours are not just limited to romantic relationships because a person with unhealthy process and way of being  can’t and won’t limit their behaviour to ‘in doors’ because it is who they are at their deepest level, and they can’t help themselves in the moment by moment interactions.


This unhealthy process is complex, utilising faulty thinking, based on what the perceptions collected from their environments and interactions with others.  In this unhealthy process a person can believe they are superior to everyone else, they are always right, entitled to have what they want when they want it and they use people to benefit themselves at all times.  Anything the person  does is to benefit them in one way or another.  So, don’t get fooled by the 'I'll do anything for you' or the  ‘too good to be true’ type in your office! Once you become of little use to them you will be discarded until they hoover you back when they want something.

Masterson (1988) through his research believes the exhibitionist narcissist would be seen as having a more inflated, grandiose self perception with little or no conscious awareness of the emptiness within. Such a person would assume his or her  condition was normal and that others were just like them and would be seen to seek lots of admiration from others with an insatiable thirst.  They perhaps would have an inflated sense of self which  helps them own an importance which is superior to others and they don’t feel emotional  empathy for anyone; they present their self as confident, knowledgeable and competitive.  This leads them to become preoccupied with fantasies of power, success and achievement and to get it they must control those around them and their environments as much as they can.   Healthy Narcissism will achieve these things with hard work, determination and effort and respect of others working together to achieve the common goal.  Unhealthy Narcissism will want success handed to them, on a plate, made of gold, without much effort being put in because they think they are entitled to have power and control  so don’t see the ‘why’ they have to gain success through their own merits.  As Masterson puts it 'a self under siege'!


Therefore in the work place they utilise others to make themselves look good at the detriment of others success

What drives them? Inside themselves they have extremely low-self esteem, extremely fragile sense of self and vulnerable to the slightest remark which might smack them as being critical or criticizing them.  What they really are is fragile, mirrors, repeaters of others words, parrot fashion and great pretenders, at home, in the office, with extended family and friends with anyone and also to themselves. They don't acknowledge their real feelings because they feel inadequate, not good enough and/or a failure not matter how hard they try.  So to cover this inner state they act the opposite. 

In the work place they can be annoying and frustrating at one end of the continuum and at the other a serious threat to your career if they have any amount of power over you.

Many people may display these traits from time to time because we all have narcissistic traits, many use healthy narcistic process for our healthy self-worth, self-love and self-esteem which leads to resiliency.  When we are authentic we will deploy healthy narcissism, our emotions will be stable and balanced, we will flow with how we feel, and our behaviour will be considerate to and of others.  We genuinely care about others, their feelings and their well-being. We do not have a need for power or control only that which we need to survive and live, which will be authentic.  We do this by achieving one step at a time, after lots of effort, we know we have worked hard to achieve and feel authentic feelings of pleasure, joy at our successes, our work is fulfilling and this is projected out with ease.  When we feel we've not done so well, might feel disappointed, upset for a little while but then we will pick ourselves up and not repeat the same again but reflect on how we can change what  disappointed us. 

Unhealthy Narcissistic behaviour is often very very subtle which is why people with these behavioral traits  stay under the radar but their effects can be felt more often than not and most of the time you may hear yourself saying ‘ I can’t quiet put my finger on it but’.  Did they actually do or say that or perhaps I misunderstood and believe me they are banking on you questioning your self and self-doubting because when you are you not questioning or doubting them!

Some people will utilize some of the healthy and some of the unhealthy behaviours and this makes it difficult for us to discern what is healthy and what is not, what is an off day, week, month or what is the persons 'default' process.  How do we measure behaviours?  ..... what another's behaviour evokes in us, how we are left feeling, how we are when with different people at different times.  How we behave when with different people are we different with certain people or are we the same with all people?

In the work place unhealthy can be seen in the following behaviours:


BraggingThey are constantly talking about how good they are in subtle ways; I do this, I have done that, when I’m not doing this, when I have a spare half hour I’m always doing that.  They put themselves at the top of everyone’s list of ‘look at me, look how much work I get done’.   Talking about how family members can’t do without their support or what their off spring have or are achieving.  What ever they are talking about is repeated over and over to the same person and anyone who will listen, constantly bragging; telling colleagues about your  children's achievements and  your own achievements is healthy, however the person utilising an unhealthy process  will repeat several times to the same person.   This is because they are looking for ways of feeling special and what better way then to brag about what they do or what their children or families have done because children and family members are seen as an extension of themselves.  So, if others  have achieved something they will feel special because really, they only achieved it because of them … so all swoon!

Hot potato When they are feeling vulnerable they won’t ask for help and support they will ‘big’ their self up by pulling others down by pointing out our weaknesses or incompetence’s. For example, ‘come on your not very organised are you’, 'you’re not very good at that are you, or they are  the one asking, ‘do you know what you are doing’!  They won’t have asked however by a questioning or as a curiosity style or 'can I help you with anything’, the hot potato is said like a statement of absolute truth.  Their truth, because they are trying to combat their inner emotions which is telling them they are incompetent or don’t know what they are doing.  So instead of admitting or owning their feelings they project and transfer them onto others and believe they own them.

They can't own those feelings, they can’t actually admit they are struggling in any real way because they are superior remember!  Therefore, can’t be seen to be anything less than perfect, so they pull others down by pointing out their mistakes or weaknesses, so they can still look good and more than another!

Seeking out the leaders The unhealthy processors  only want to associate with others in power and control; so in the work place they will be the ones who either creep up to their line-managers, CEO’s and anyone in senior posts or haughtily walk around ‘as if’ they are a leader even when they are not in a managerial role.   All others are seen ‘below’ them as such to be used in any way they can be used for their benefit.  The leaders are also being used in order for them to get themselves promoted.  So they can be seen as having status, seniority and therefore about the rest!

Never accept they are wrong especially if you have criticised them, the person  will go out of their way to prove you are wrong, that you are lying and that you have a vendetta against them. If this is the case, they will launch a vendetta against you to counteract what has been pointed out about their self. Remember they have to win at all costs, they are always right, and they are superior, well so they think. They can’t be in the wrong ever full stop.  So, if they are right then you have to be wrong and they will go to the ends of the earth to prove it!  Black and white thinking errors are abound.  You or I would probably say well I make mistakes and I can own that one but this one is not me at all, we wouldn’t dismiss any feedback we might take it to heart and be upset for a time them we’d more or less explore it and change if change is needed.  The person deploying an unhealthy process  however doesn’t make mistakes full stop; well not that they would own any mistakes or weaknesses about their self.  But they would be upset about it and be seething inside at someone having the nerve  to criticize and point out their 'failings' which they can't and don't own in any real way that would be reflected upon and thought about in a way to change. 

Big ego – They are the colleagues who everyone veers towards, they are loud, big personality, always ‘there’, full of themselves and tend to be around when things go wrong.  This is because they believe they have the solution to your problems; they are the only ones who can help since everybody else is inferior (including you). They will identify with you in some way, what they are doing is mirroring you, so you feel they understand you or to get alongside you.  They get on with everyone, well to their face that is but behind their back they talk about others, so if someone in your office disparages other work colleagues in an unjust way, be clear  the chances are when they are not talking to you they will be being unjust about you.  That is so long as you are not a ‘supply’ or a flying monkey for them.

Undermining - If you work closely with the person  in your work place then they will more than likely undermined your work in favour of themselves – You might have produced a piece of work that is seen to be successful, however they will claim it indirectly and sometimes directly for themselves.  This is where you will hear the ‘I’ and ‘my’ loud and clear for example yes ‘I did a project’, ‘my team will do this for you’, I will help you as much as I can!  When in fact they will pass this person on, they will promote themselves and not mention the person’s name who created the work but will objectify them by omission.  This reflects their grandiose sense of importance and superiority – they are often a one-man band when it comes to work, they pay excellent lip service, they have the gift of the gab! In the work place no one is working on their own we are all equal cogs working towards the common goals of the business.  They focus on our imperfections, our weaknesses whilst ignoring their own and they will use humour to wear you down, since humour is one of those things that’s funny, but you never know if they really mean what they said, or it was actually just a bit of fun, sarcasm or a put down disguised in their humour. 

Humiliate in public – The unhealthy  have to climb up others backs to keep their sense of superiority, so they will humiliate others in front of colleagues.  For example, if you have difficulty speaking in groups or meetings they will ensure they mention that by saying something like ‘you can join in you know' or ‘what have you got to say about this’?  Especially if there is a lull in the group speaking, so all eyes will come to you, they’ve put you on the spot.  They do this to intimidate and manipulate you because if you was ready to join in you would have, in your own time at your own pace.  They want to make you feel uncomfortable, so your weaknesses are on show what better way than in a group of people at meetings or get togethers. 

This can go two ways of course because we can either be motivated into not being humiliated by working to overcome our fears or motivated to avoid or stress about their humiliation. 

Pressures you to do something unethical – this might be to go home early but signing out at the normal time; it might be persuading you to call in sick to get an extra day off when you’re not sick.  This might be filling out expenses forms with non-work claims or encouraging you to take work stationary or supply’s without paying for them.  This might come in the form of not applying company policies or saying well they are just written down, but we don’t really need to follow them (since rules  don’t apply to them).   You might say some of these things are trivial or don’t matter, however they matter to this person  because they will be stored up to be used against you further along the line if they need to use them to disparage you whilst exalt self!  They will be used to evoke your guilt trip and have one over you or have 'our secret' secrets are very powerful, secrets are not the same as confidentiality! 

The perpetual victim – Nothing will be their fault since they don’t make any mistakes!  So, when something has gone wrong they will never hold their hands up or say perhaps I could have done that differently!  They will blame the other person or you if you are around and it will always be someone else to blame never them; they will distort facts to suit their needs, provokes and then blame the provoked.  They can't be seen as anything short of perfection.

Rewrite history – they will deny something either happened or was said by them, they simply rewrite what has gone before if it does not suit them, the story will be changed to suit their needs in the here and now. Black will now be white and white will now be black there will be no grey area or perhaps I’ve forgotten, they will be adamant that whatever was said or done was not how it was at all if it did happen it won’t be how they remember it!

Need for admirationThey have a constant need to be told ‘how great thy art’ this is seen in them eliciting praise, affirmation and compliments.  We tend to feel special through our relationships with our loved ones, family and friends, we all need to feel wanted and loved.  The person with unhealthy behaviours will need to feel admired which is a little different than feeling love, in that they can’t feel love and don’t trust that love coming from others is real or about them. Admiration feels safer and the need for the adulation of others in order to feel special is strong in unhealthy narcissism. They will compliment you to elicit complements from you, they seek attention, adoration, approval and respect from others without offering these things back.  They will give you what you want and this will be seen by you as 'what a lovely person they are', they understand what I'm going/been through', 'they get me' hurray!   You however are more than likely to be vulnerable at the time because when you are vulnerable in the beginning of a relationship with them,  this is when you are your most open, trusting, transparent and grateful of someone who seems to care because you need that care.  The unhealthy however is manipulating you for your 'fuel' you are nothing but a 'supply 'for them being used from that first contact;  any relationship with someone utilising an unhealthy process is  a one-way street. 

Bait and switch - this means the person  will lure you into a false sense of security for example they will constantly say one thing especially in front of others but then do the opposite,  both  when you are alone or when you are with different people.  For example, ‘Yes I can do that’ and then switch to ‘I never said that’ or’ I will use room so and so for the meeting’, then don’t put a 'do not disturb post on the door' so you walk in on a meeting because they are not in the room they said they would use.   In front of others they will say ‘oh we can move IF YOU want us to’,’ notice the 'if you want’ because they are absolving responsibility for what has happened they are putting you in the place of accountability.  This is to create confusion for whoever is the victim target, it’s gaslighting at its finest, this creates self questioning ‘did he say that, or didn’t I hear her properly?  I’m not sure now!

This creates the self-doubt cycle for the victim, this manipulation tactic is very very subtle!  In front of others this is to imply a) you got it wrong, b) you didn’t listen in the first place, c) you didn’t give them the information they needed to get it right.

Their intention is to show you as the wrong one, the one who made the mistake, be clear they have manipulated you and the other people who are there into thinking something which is not true!  The victim who doesn’t want to create a scene, a drama or show the person  to be wrong doesn’t say anything in those moments, so job done for the manipulator, their goal has come to fruition they win!

Arrogance – They use ‘I’ a lot, in the work place ‘we’ is usually the strongest word in teams who pull together and win collectively but with manipulators in a team you will hear them say ‘I’ more than ‘we’ and they will claim they have single handily achieved something, if it suits, when another may have put all the effort and time in to complete a task.

Idolise or Discard – You’re either idolised or discarded by them in the work place; they don't have  middle ground or way of being it is either or, black and white.  If you are ‘in’ then they will idolise for example, overexaggerate your achievements, use words like awesome, fabulous, fantastic, perfect, when all you’ve done is made a cup of tea for them or done a routine work task.  If you are ‘out’ they will discard for example, not even notice when you have made them a cup of tea.  Since they feel entitled why should they even offer a courteous thank you; or even notice the routine task done well.  Black and white, hot and cold.  If you’re in then you will ‘gush’ and ‘swoon’ in front of them, if you’re out you will be deflated, quiet or fed-up in front of them.  What is happening a lot between people is transference and projection and its coming from the unhealthy one and being absorbed by the empathic one. 


 Either way you will be supplying them with energy, the energy to uphold their false self because he resents his dependency on others, so behaviour will be to projected onto another, in the office presents self as a  person who is ultra-independent, got it all together and all going on.  Of course, healthy people are interdependent that is dependant on others and self equally because we recognise we need others whilst at the same time can stand on our own two feet most of the time.

Gaslighting - One of the cruelest manipulating tactics used is gaslighting.  He lies through his teeth, denies how something happened, he rewrites our history together. He tells you what you think and feel, i.e. " you don't mean that" he enlists other colleagues to collude with him, she finishes your sentence when with others and undermines you, tells others in front of you that "she has to work harder because she's not as intelligent as the rest.  So you as her target, questions your memory, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and sanity.  He instills self-doubt to suit his needs and wants.  As they manipulate the truth he may say something like "what is 'truth' anyway"?  When you protest this is not how it was or call him on his lies.  She  is adamant, like a dog with a bone who won't let go no matter what you do or say.  She will call black white and next time around white will have become black.  Now all of a sudden this person will have  selective hearing, selective memory recall and offers the exact opposite of what was  offered before.  This is to disorientate and psychologically manipulate the  victim.  Whilst you are busy trying to figure out if you are going crazy or if you've lost your mind.  They  deliberately trying to destroy your perception of the reality you built together.

Cognitive Empathy as opposed to emotional empathy.  Using cognitive empathy to get to know your weaknesses and vulnerabilities; cognitive empathy is different to emotional empathy in that it collects the perspective, the viewpoint  of others.  Emotional empathy on the other hand 'feels' into and with another, imaginatively sharing what another feels.  Whereas cognitive empathy simply is putting yourself into another shoes without engaging in their feelings.  Cognitive empathy understands how others think, sees their patterns of relating, but it stops short of feeling what another is feeling.  They ' gets you' but they don't care about you; cognitive empathy is part of the mirroring skills in the love bombing and idolizing stages and part of the devaluing and discard stages.  Cognitive empathy along with mirroring are some  of there strongest tools, since once they understand how you tick, they can use, abuse and manipulate, confuse, sabotage your efforts, give you the silent treatment.  Use reverse psychology,  double standards and meaning to disorientate, launch smear campaigns against you, disparaging you to your colleagues to get one up-man-ship and to offer colleagues the seeds of doubt about you!


At their will, in short once they understand how you think they can gaslight, hence love bombing and idolise stages of their process.  They need to know all about you to be able to use you without you knowing you are being used.  There's no end to the unhealthiest  talents which bring about  the most negative outcomes for all; equally for them too because their process actually keeps them from the richness of a genuine and authentic feeling world and any real connection to another and equally to self.  If we put ourselves into their shoes as a child having to survive and build all these harsh and negative survival strategies it must have been and still is a lonely place to live within.

Disguised Compliance - Is seen in families where safeguarding concerns might be, it means caregivers are seen to be 'compliant' co-operating with the child welfare agencies to avoid raising suspicions of any neglect or concerns for the children.    Published case reviews highlight professionals sometimes delay or avoid interventions due to parental disguised compliance.  For example in the Victoria Climbié inquiry and Baby Peter.


source - Disguised Compliance


People utilising an unhealthy process at work can  use 'disguised compliance' in much the same way, they speak their agreement to policies and procedures, they engage in face-to-face meeting, supervision, talks about work matters and on the face of it they seem to be following the 'rules' and voice their strong work  ethics to perfection.


However, their modus operandi  is 'I'll say what you say, but I'll  do as I do' they say one thing and do another,  in nine times out of ten they do the  opposite of what they say.  They will 'talk the talk' but not walk the walk.  Therefore there is a gap between what they say they will do and what they actually do (incongruent) whilst professing to be congruent.


What they do is tell you what they think you want to hear so they put across an air of compliance for example, have you finished that project - 'yes,' when it sits in a draw not looked at, did you ring so and so yes when the person has not been rung or they say they are following ethical codes but are not in actuality.  They will discuss things and even agree with your 'perspective' and at a latter date even repeat word for word what you said about the subject,(mirroring) but it won't be their own thoughts on the subject it will be yours or someone else's point of view.  Just so you can believe they got it, their with you, they understand both you and what your talking about., there's not much more warming than a person who understands and get you because of our need to belong!  

Out of the lime light however, they are following their own rules.  They are skilled manipulators,  believe they are superior to everyone else, believe they are always right, and they use people to benefit themselves at all times.  Anything and everything a person with an unhealthy process going on  does is to benefit self  in one way or another; they manipulate and deceive, therefore the rules don't apply to them, but they also need as part of their deception to gain power and control, be  seen to be 'compliant' like the rest of us! 


Why?  Because it works for them!

Beware the too good to be true office colleague who doesn't put a foot wrong, they may well be drawing your attention away from what's really going on and they are extremely good at it, they've had years of practice. 

You may well be asking yourself: 

'Why'  didn't/don't I see all  this  working with a colleague who deploy this  process in their working day?

The answers are simple:  

  • Because we're  not looking. 

  • The person is  using selective interacting, selective information giving, cold, conniving and closed to others.

  • Working against us , sabotaging so we don't 'see them' in any real way. 

  • They only let us see what they want us to see, when they want us to see and not one second before!

  • We might not  know about any of the above why would we? 

  • First impressions are strong and lasting. 

  • We want to believe others think and act like us so we have a sense of belonging.

  • We don't want to believe this person in front of us uses any  of the above on us since we're 'nice', 'good', 'emotionally empathic' people who do no harm to others, so why would anyone want to harm us?

  • It may be we 'don't' want to see because to do so might mean changing the status quo. (we don't have to do anything other then 'know' about the reality of someone else's behaviour to protect our self! We don't have to do anything we don't want to do)

  • If we've known them for a few years we might not want to believe we've been gullible enough to be: continually  lied to, cheated on, deceived, used, treated like a fool, taken for a ride, laughed at behind our back. 



            Add your own …………………………………………………………….


However the courts are full of people divorcing people who act unreasonably in the way they behaviours, domestic violence is rife, bullying is abound and children do actually die at the hands of those professing to care for them because of caregivers using 'disguised compliance'. Therefore welfare staff are deceived and kept in the dark!  People leaving work places because of difficult and manipulative colleagues who may be seen as power hungry …… they are and might well be much more besides.  The person is left with no opportunity within the work place so they find another job and leave the problem behind them.

Victims have an empathic, caring and optimistic nature, where they believe  others at their core  are good! So any 'slip' in behaviour from them is not pattern matched to first impressions (love bombing, idolise)  so bad behaviour is made almost invisible, ignored or excused as 'having a bad day' or 'a little naughty' but not bad, one offs.... but one offs add up if you were to spend more of your time with them.  However at work unless you sit next to them and are looking for such behaviours they remain under the radar beavering away getting their own needs fulfilled at the detriment of others! 

Be open to the fact such behaviours exist, people do deploy them, beware of colleagues, people who seem too good to be true, become aware of how you could be manipulated in any place and be open to learning!


As Lord Laming  (2003) suggested social workers need to practice “respectful uncertainty”, applying critical evaluation to any information they receive and maintaining an open mind.  


  'Actions speak louder than words'

Observe the actions others perform that will be their biggest give away and one of your greatest tools!

Not just interacting with a person because they 'seemed' great, awesome, bubbly in the first place!  Without an open mind to possibilities because probability leaves no room for maneuver.  Probability can be absolute when in actuality things may not be what they seem.  Step back once in a while be objective, look and look again, see the bigger picture.  If something irks you or your in doubt check it out ask someone else, bring in a fresh pair of eyes, because when we are close to another we don't always see the actuality of things as they are unfolding in front of us!


Because all of the above and more  is being deployed in homes, offices, churches, institutions, organisations, work places up and down this and every country in the world daily!

If you feel you've been deceived by a person deploying an unhealthy  process contact me today to gain self-awareness, healing and support.

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