How Narcissists Get Away With It

Updated on December 15, 2017

Gossip and Divide

Anyone who's ever worked with a malignant narcissist knows how much discord one person can sow. A fog of confusion descends, and the environment seems to become more toxic by the minute. That's because people with disordered personalities thrive on drama and division, which they create by spreading false rumors with a little bit of truth mixed in, to make the story more plausible.

They also recruit flying monkeys, whom they artfully manipulate to carry out their agenda. Typically one target is chosen, and the idea is to drive this person out of his or her job. After a short breather, another target is selected.

Meanwhile, because the air has become poisoned, no one is happy. However, it's very difficult to figure out exactly what's going on. That's because an adult who suffers from a character flaw, serious enough to bully another, knows their number will be up if they don't use a lot of smoke and mirrors to deflect attention away from their own misdeeds. One tried and true trick is to blame everything on an innocent person, who happens to be their target. Then, they need to convince everyone else that things will improve if this person is banished.

If you continue reading, I'll explain just what tools a malignant narcissist likes to use as a wedge, to divide, conquer and emerge victorious.

Narcissists Try To Weaken Your Social Standing With Gossip

The Art of Projection

Narcissists are masters of deception. They like to project their own faults and shortcomings onto others, and, when they pick a target, this is what they do. This defense mechanism serves two purposes. It effectively shields them from the blame. It also allows them to operate under the delusion that the victim deserves or has somehow earned this treatment.

Oftentimes, this is done as a pity ploy. A malignant narcissist will drum up sympathy by claiming to be the victim. In a role reversal, they claim the target is the one causing trouble for them. Eventually, the entire office sympathizes with the perpetrator and turns upon the target.

Some experts believe malignant narcissists and sociopaths are really two different manifestations of the same disorder, or at least there's only a very fine line separating them. In her classic book, The Sociopath Next Door, Dr. Martha Stout, PhD., tries to give us clues as to how to spot these charlatans when we first encounter them. This is a very difficult task, she concedes, because character disordered people often come across as charming, at least initially.

However, she notes, there is one tip off. Beware of a new acquaintance who tries to play upon your sympathies. This is a common thread she's noticed among sociopaths.

Narcissists Try To Make You Fearful and Confused

Grooming the Victim

The word "grooming" usually applies fixing one's hair and putting on some makeup. But, in this case, it means the narcissist is set on sizing up his or her target. If the predator is a woman, this usually involves getting to know you better by establishing a fake friendship.

She'll pretend to share a lot of intimate secrets with you. Actually, some of what she's telling you make make you a little uncomfortable, because it seems as if she's revealing too much too soon. But don't worry. She knows not to say anything you could ever use as leverage against her. She's way too clever for that.

However, most of us are socialized to reciprocate in our speech. If someone says something, we'll usually respond. A malignant narcissist will bait you to respond. She share some of her secrets, hoping you share yours. This is a tactic that often works because she'll also ask you pointed questions, and stare at you while waiting for an answer. To counter the awkwardness this creates, you just might spill your guts.

Sociopaths do seem to be able to maintain sustained eye contact longer than the rest of the population. Some people have referred to this as the "predatory stare."

Narcissists Are Master Manipulators

Manipulating Everyone Else

People with narcissistic personality disorder would register high on the scale of manipulative behavior, if they were tested. They are extremely clever and seem to have superhuman ability to "read" other people, and to assess various social situations.

They tend to zero in on people's weaknesses, and then adjust accordingly. A target's weaknesses will be used against her. If the narcissist wishes to draw people to their cause, they'll work hard to fulfill their most pressing needs.

Say, for instance, someone has an unhealthy desire to fit in and be accepted. The narcissist will make this person her right hand gal. Another coworker may be juggling a work schedule with caring for an aging parent. In order to win their loyalty, the narcissist will offer to stay with your parent on Saturday afternoon, so you can go grocery shopping. She'll also bring you a nice, home-cooked meal every Wednesday night.

Recruiting their Flying Monkeys

By manipulating everyone else in the office, the narcissist now has a loyal team of supporters. They've all been fed lies about the target, who is now showing signs of emotional fragility. She looks glum and she seems a little angry. This fits perfectly with the bully's assessment of her of being emotionally "unstable."

If any of the team members also happen to have a cruel streak, or happen to have an empathy deficit, they will be recruited as flying monkeys. That means they can each do little tasks meant to wear down the victim. These are assigned by the narcissist either directly or by "hinting." (I'll explain more about this later.)

That way, if the target tries to complain, she won't know where to begin. Each incident alone will sound petty and trivial. If she goes to the Human Resources department, and points her finger at several people, you can guess the rest. She'll be quickly branded as the troublemaker.

Some Tactics Used by Malignant Narcissists

This is when a narcissist in a position of power divides two other parties by abusing one, and showing preferential treatment to the other.
This is when a narcissist accuses you, typically in conversations behind your back, of the same destructive behavior he is engaged in.
This is a form of emotional abuse in which the narcissist attempts to make you doubt your own recall and perceptions
Character disordered people are usually manipulative and persuasive. They drop "hints" with the full expectation you will take the bait. Oftentimes, this is done to set you up for a fall.

Narcissists and Hinting

Disordered personalities often subtly direct others to accomplish certain tasks by a behavioral mechanism called "hinting." They don't directly come out and ask you to do something. Instead, they drop a hint you'll likely follow through on.

They like to pull this tactic out of their toolbox when setting their target up for a fall. For instance, they might complain to your supervisor that you spend a lot of time away from your desk, with the implication that you aren't getting a lot of work done. To cement this impression, they drop some "hints" that encourage you to walk around the office more than you normally would.

To do this, they exploit your natural willingness to help. "My office needs an overhaul, because more clients are starting to visit," they may tell you. "Would you mind coming in and giving me some suggestions?"

Thinking that you're aiding the company, you agree to stop by after lunch. The narcissist prolongs the conversation about redoing her office. Then, she tells your supervisor you disrupted her workday with useless chitchat.

Video About "Dark Souls" and Empaths

Manipulated Conversations

Directed conversations is a tactic often used by flying monkeys, whom are partner bullies. They will be fed lines to say within your hearing range, designed to confuse or disturb you. Here is an example. Someone being edged out of a job may no longer be invited to key, important meetings that once required their presence.

However, because they are still invested in their job, they may be highly interested in what's being discussed. The narcissist will make sure one or more of her flying monkeys walks by your desk, and lets you catch a snippet of the conversation, about how someone else is now being assigned tasks once delegated to you. This is done solely to hurt your feelings.

The Destruction Doesn't End With You

The immediate goal of the abuser is to make you so miserable that you can no longer do your job, and ultimately leave the organization. Most of the time this tactic works. An estimated 75 percent of targets are either fired from their position, or submit a voluntary resignation, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, an advocacy group established to help victims of workplace abuse.

However, this doesn't mean the abuser will suddenly turn nice and the office will now run smoothly. The narcissist will soon select another target and the cycle will continue.


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Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Rhonda Marshall 18 months ago

    It can be very upsetting not to mention frightening when you find (literally out of the blue) that your supervisor at work has been gossiping about you and has turned all your co-workers against you. Suddenly you can do nothing right, your work is all wrong, your attitude and personality is wrong, even your manner of speaking , and where you come from, are wrong. She literally screams at you and confronts you over the smallest matters. It eventually gets to the point where you have to resign or end up with a heart attack or stroke because the pressure is so great. And to cap things off, she accuses you of being a narcissist!! It is just too ironic to be believed. I spent untold amounts of time trying to figure out where I went wrong and how I could have pleased her........ Eventually I just had to accept that there was literally nothing I could have done............

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

    Hi savvydating, thanks so much for reading and for your feedback.

  • roob profile image

    Ruby 2 years ago from United States

    those dolls are so creepy!

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Martha, please don't become a hermit. Certain professions do seem to attract self-centered and self-absorbed people. Actually, we're all this way, but to a greater or less degree. It's the extreme end of the spectrum that causes all the problems.

    Yes, you'll probably see some disordered personalities with self-proclaimed artists, as well as actors and movie stars. But, surprisingly, you'll find narcissists in the nursing and teaching professionals as well. They are everywhere, including church.

    But most people seem to be of very good will, and do not intend to cause others harm.

    I've written extensively about this stopping, with tips for spotting a narc, on my Female Bullies blog, which you can find at femalebullies @

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Dana and Melissae, thank you both so much for reading. Dana, I'm sorry you're going through this experience. It's a blessing that she has some obvious issues and is not a covert type of personality.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi tadpolesue, I'm so sorry to hear of all of this, but I am happy to hear you were able to save your marriage.

    atchokins, I totally believe this, especially if you are living in a relatively small town.

    janshares, you are so kind. Thanks so much for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi anonymous, you're exactly right. If you're working in such an environment, it's time to update your resume and start the job search. This is not normal. I've also noticed that there's a lot of infighting once the target is gone. It's almost as if they need someplace to direct all their anger.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi joe, thanks so much for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Laura, thanks so much and thanks for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Scorrar, sorry to hear about this bad experience. The bully you encountered got what he wanted, but probably not for long. There will eventually be trouble, and eventually the higher ups will catch on. But not until more people have been targeted and run out.

    Your manager shouldn't of asked you this question in front of people. I'm happy to hear you're out of there.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    You too Eddy, thanks for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Christin, I am sorry to hear of your troubles. I'll pray for you.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    I can just imagine. Sorry to hear about this bad experience.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi WriterFox, it does seem to all come down to rivalry and pride. Thanks for reading.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi FlourishAnyway, thanks for reading and thank you for your ongoing support. Barbara, thanks for reading as well. These types are pretty predictable.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Ms. Dora, thanks so much for reading. I truly hope to spread the word about this insidious condition.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi NathaNater, More people seem to be writing about this societal scourge. I'm hoping, somehow, that exposure will help to curb this behavior. If just one or two people would not tolerate this in a workplace, then the target would be greatly aided.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Jeannie, then you know just what I'm talking about. They make for miserable coworkers. Thanks so much for reading.

    Hi CMHypno, The truth always does come out in the end. You just have to be patient.

    Hi reb, sorry to hear of your encounters. It's very unpleasant to work or deal with a narcissist. My story in a nutshell is that I encountered a very malignant personality in a church setting. Narcissists like to act pious.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi Mj, thank you for the kind words. I've learned about this disorder not through a formal education, but with hands-on experience. But I'm happy to have learned it. Thanks for sharing.

  • ologsinquito profile image

    ologsinquito 4 years ago from USA

    Hi suzette, thanks so much for reading. I like your approach of staying strong and pushing back if you have the resources. Bullies often respond well (by backing off) to such an approach. Some targets are so worn down that they can't do this. Ignoring the drama, if possible, is another good approach.


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