Mount St. Mary’s President Resigns: Do YOU Work for A Narcissist?


The news was released today that President Simon Newman of Mount St. Mary’s University resigned in the wake of the scandal caused both by his policy to aggressively encourage underperforming students to leave the school as a ploy to increase the school’s rankings, and then summarily firing tenured faculty who opposed the policy for being “disloyal.”  Matters were made worse when it was released that President Newman defended his unpopular policy by asserting, “You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”

While it is impossible to accurately analyze President Newman’s motivations from afar, his public behavior serves as a useful illustration of the behavior of a narcissist at work.  Narcissists tend to lack empathy, make unilateral and autocratic decisions and become outraged at the idea that anyone would oppose them.  At work, they tend to promise great things and then try to achieve those goals by force of will rather than through collaboration.  If the goals are met, they are praised by the power-that-be as heroes.  If not, their flame-out can be something to behold.

The faculty and students at Mount St. Mary’s are not the only ones who seem to  feel they have been affected by workplace narcissism.  Workplace narcissism is not unusual at all.  Many middle and upper level managers as well as executives exhibit strong narcissistic traits.  Do YOU work for a narcissist and, if you do, how should you handle it.

Industrial psychologist, Bernardo Tirado, suggests three steps for dealing with narcissists in the workplace.  The following represent highlights from his tips.

Dealing with Workplace Narcissists:  3 Steps

Step 1:  Determine if he or she is a true Narcissist

Find out if the person is a true Narcissist.  Use the called Narcissistic Personality Quiz.  Although it’s designed to determine if you’re a narcissist, it can be easily applied it to the person you’re trying to assess. 

Step 2:  Know How a Narcissist Thinks

Narcissists, by definition,  only care about themselves.  When working with a narcissist, you need to keep in mind that they will never be your best friend.  They will befriend you to see what they can get out of you and in their mind, will do favors expecting that you will do the same.  Unfortunately, in the workplace you can’t just write this person off and walk away.  So the best thing to do is to go along with him or her.

Narcissists also don’t do well with criticism.  If you ever have an issue with a narcissist never blame him or her directly as this will only infuriate them.  The best thing to do is to be indirect and talk around the issue.  So make it more about how you feel and how it’s impacting you versus how they are at fault.

Narcissists also expect you to be immediately responsive the moment they demand attention.  I once had a boss that would send me an instant message asking if I was there at my desk, then a minute later he would send me an email, and then another minute later he would call my phone.  All because he wanted a very trivial question answered. 

After he did this to me a few times, I caught onto his psychological game and so what did I start to do?  I ignored him.  It’s a risky play to ignore a narcissist but in this case, I knew that he was always persistent to the point that if I was not there to answer his question, he would find someone else that would.  I leave it with you to decide what best works for you.  What you need to know is that when a narcissist wants something, they want it now.

Step 3:  Working with a Narcissist

Always lead with how you feel first.  Narcissists are caught up in their own world and as a result, lack empathy.  Sharing your emotions is a huge blind spot because you’re forcing them to put your feelings first. 

If that feels too vulnerable, the next strategy is to focus on solutions and not the problem.  Narcissists like to focus on the problem and dissect it over and over again.  Rather than falling into the pitfall of seeing the glass half empty, flip it on its head and influence the narcissist to see the glass half full.  State the problem and quickly move towards to the solution. 

It’s typically best to present several solutions.  Narcissists like to be in control and if you can provide options, the better off you are.  Options are a way to unconsciously make them feel like you respect their opinion and are asking for them to control the direction of the solution.

Lastly, if all else fails then your last option is to make them feel special and unique.  Narcissists get high off of being in power and live for attention and admiration.  If you want them to do something, tell them how great they are and watch them perform. 

Tirado’s tips highlight the fact that you shouldn’t think that you cure the workplace narcissist or even get them to be more empathic with you.  True narcissists just don’t have it in them and nothing you can do will change that.  But you can still thrive if your boss is a narcissist by knowing how they work and how to work around them.  If you are looking for even more tips for dealing more gracefully with both the narcissists and other prickly people in your life, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!  Making Peace with Difficult People!

You’re So Vain (You Probably Think This Quiz Is About You).

How narcissistic are you?   A new study shows that one question can accurately reveal the degree of narcissism you exhibit.


To what extent do you agree with the following statement, “I am a narcissist”?

Not at All True–1   2  3  4  5  6  7 –Very True


(A score of 3 is about average.  A score of 4 means you’re more narcissistic than about 80% of people taking the quiz)

Read the article.

Take the actual quiz.

Cardinal Narcissus?

Reflecting upon Cardinal Mahony’s recent blog posts, Mark Shea wonders if there isn’t a kind of sociopathic narcissism at play.  He uses the terms loosely, but it’s worth asking if there is something more to it than hyperbole.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is disturbingly common among leaders of corporations and other high-profile institutions, including, sadly, the church.  That’s not to say that God can’t work through narcissists–he works through all of us after all–but it is important to realize when you’re dealing with one so that you can view their work and their pronouncements with a grain of salt.  Too many people fall prey to ecclesial narcissists like Corapi, or Cutie,  or Maciel only to have their souls crushed when the mask comes off.

People love heroes.   They love a person with a great story.  Narcissists know that and are good at playing to it.  But not everyone with a powerful conversion story or who puts themselves in the public eye is necessarily a narcissist.   So, how do you know if you’ve got a narcissist in your life, or your company, or your parish, or your chancery?  The link above describes some of the diagnostic markers for  NPD, but there’s a difference between diagnostic criteria and the way a person carries him or herself.  The following are some of the behaviors and traits you often see in someone who has NPD (Hat Tip,

“Haughty” body language – A physical posture implying and exuding an air of superiority,…He rarely mingles socially and prefers to adopt the stance of the “observer” or the “lone wolf”.

Entitlement markers – The narcissist immediately asks for “special treatment” of some kind.   He wants to talk to the person in charge.  He always needs special accommodations.   He becomes indignant or hostile if denied.

Idealisation or devaluation – The narcissist immediately sizes another person up as someone who can boost his status or someone who is unhelpful to boosting his status.  Those who are status sources will be praised–at first, and then torn down as the narcissist gains acceptance by the target’s friends.  Those who cannot help the narcissist’s status will be humiliated or insulted in some way so the narcissi can at least use the interaction to reassert his superiority and dominance.

The “membership” posture – The narcissist always tries to “belong”. Yet, at the very same time, he maintains his stance as an outsider. The narcissist seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself without the efforts commensurate with such an undertaking… One of the most effective methods of exposing a narcissist is by trying to go deeper and discuss matters substantially. The narcissist is shallow, a pond pretending to be an ocean. He likes to think of himself as a Renaissance man, a Jack of all trades. A narcissist never admits to ignorance IN ANY FIELD!

Emotion-free language – If the narcissist is asked to relate directly to his emotions, he intellectualises, rationalises, speaks about himself in the third person and in a detached “scientific” tone or writes a short story with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical.

Seriousness and sense of intrusion and coercion – The narcissist is dead serious about himself. He may possess a fabulous sense of humour, scathing and cynical. But he never appreciates it when this weapon is directed at him. The narcissist regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global.

Have you experienced someone who displays these narcissistic traits in your life?  How have you been affected by other’s narcissistic behavior?