X-Rubicon - Profile, History, Experience - Dr. Marco Behrmann




"Humility eats Narcisissm for Breakfast" - How to embrace your enemies and profit from big egos

Narcissistic behavior is becoming more and more popular, especially among managers who are leading alone and in top management. They often stand out for their staged grandiosity and concentration on their own person. They often pull the strings with charm and great virtuosity, so that their own opinion is confirmed and resistance avoided or fought with much power. Perception is skewed and the view of reality narrowed in their own world perspective. What if such a person is your leader? Being bossy or knowing it all doesn't help much - even if this is exactly the behavior that those people actually show with great passion. Here are 6 strategies for achieving better results and saving a lot of trouble when working with or for narcissists:

  1. Do not play tit-for-tat: pressure creates back-pressure. Try to redirect the energy to what the person actually needs from you or for their own self-value. This will lead to (more) cooperation and constructive ideas.
  2. Set reliable boundaries: Explain your cooperation principles in easy words and without appearing cynical or snappish. Stick to your rules in an exemplary and reliable way.
  3. Provide recognition: Praise the true strengths of the person's behavior. Be honest about what you really could learn from the person.
  4. Give room for spotlight: Think about where you can accept staging or how you actually could use it for shared goals. But do not follow every secondary theater of war, stay with your goals.
  5. Use their strengths: Join forces with the person working toward common goals. Formulate the proposal by beginning with the benefit for the other person, but put your cards and expectations on the table transparently.
  6. Do not show false pride: Humility is stronger than arrogance. It is not about winning or being better. It is about overcoming the difficult constellation in a goal-oriented way. Mastering cooperative Aikido will most likely make you prouder than having the last word.

I sum, when working with a narcissist, you need to establish a reliable framework and explain transparently and honestly what you work for. People with narcissistic personality traits often demand loyalty or even submission in an ultimate sense: "If you're not for me, you're against me." This makes them very sensitive for scenting dishonesty or intrigue. In particular, when you shake the narcissist's house of cards with facts or other realities, you will trigger their resistance. And even if they actually are defeated, you should not show malicious joy of their humiliation but empathy. Offer your hand and do not return their last strike with another counterattack. Everyone can learn - maybe from your role model of humility. That will be strong leadership!
If you are interested to dig deeper into the topic of narcissistic behavior, this textbook will be a good resource: Walter & Bilke-Hentsch (2020): Narcissism (German). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
In addition, Adam Grant gives valuable food for thought on how to consciously and carefully counteract toxic relationship patterns in a recent New York Times essay.

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