You hear the narcissist label used quite a lot these days—in ordinary conversation, in news articles, on television. Most people use the word to describe men and women who think a little too well of themselves and don’t have much regard for the feelings of others.
Kurt is always bragging about his “amazing” social life on Facebook—what a narcissist!
Lena talks non-stop about herself and won’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise—she’s such a narcissist!
When used this way as a kind of put-down, it gives the impression that all narcissists are alike—egomaniacs who are socially tone deaf.
But narcissism actually occurs along a continuum of possible expressions, with healthy self-esteem at one end and Narcissistic Personality Disorder at the other. Even men and women who demonstrate its more toxic forms, people I refer to as “Extreme Narcissists,” don’t all look alike. They have differing personality types and different modes of shoring up a grandiose self-image; they also affect your own self-esteem in different ways.
From least to most toxic, here are five different types of Extreme Narcissist you might encounter in the workplace, with some advice for ways to handle them (and yourself) when you come into conflict. Bear in mind that Extreme Narcissists always need to prove that they are “winners” in comparison to other people they view as “losers,” though their methods vary.