The label "narcissist" is heard fairly commonly these days, but most of us don't really know what it means. Sure, we've heard that it's someone who is "full of herself" or someone who "thinks he's better than everyone else."
If you are having problems with someone at work, or you're hearing troubling things about an employee, you may be encountering a narcissist. It's useful to know the basic signs that can clue you in to get more information. If you are a manager you'll want to pay attention so you can do your best to maintain a good work environment. If you are working with or for a narcissist, you'll want to know for certain so you have a better chance of taking care for yourself and handling yourself well.
If the person in question:
• Seems kinda charming
• Likes to talk about himself
• Is uninterested in others except at very shallow (one question) level
• Name drops, kisses up, wants to be associated with the movers and shakers
• Makes it sound like everything in his life is bigger, better and more important
• Seems to relish performance mode, feels like he's always putting on a bit of a show
• Comes across as somewhat or very superior, arrogant
• Seems to be involved in unhappy or conflict situations more than the average employee
• May use demeaning or aggressive tactics to maintain control
If those signs are present, you should look into things a little deeper. Notice if this person is skilled at deflecting responsibility when things go wrong, and placing the blame at someone else's feet. Notice if this person is happy to claim credit when things go right, even if his involvement was minimal. Notice if people around this person seem to try to avoid him, or conversely work really hard to accommodate him and keep him happy. Do people comment that this person sucks up to management and is rude to underlings? Notice if there are more than one or two complaints about this person -- is there a common thread to the things people say about what it's like to work with him?
Not all difficult personalities are narcissists. Some are sociopaths. Some are people who have some narcissistic behaviors but are open to behavioral change. Sometimes it's someone under a lot of stress, and so going through a narcissistic period. If you suspect you have a narcissist in your work life, take the time to learn more. Watch the behaviors, discern the patterns. Learn skills for being effective with this difficult personality. Figure out a course of action. Avoid gossip as you seek support. If you are a manager of a narcissist, even though it might seem more difficult at the onset, the best thing to do is not ignore it -- take the bull by the horns and figure out the best possible way to deal with it for your organization.