At work, narcissists seek admiration and acclaim at the expense of others. They may:
Take credit for others’ work.
Undermine coworkers in an attempt to gain admiration or attention.
Seek to gain the respect and trust of respected people at work, such as managers or a CEO.
A person with narcissism may change their behavior as they continually seek a narcissistic supply. This can have catastrophic effects on an entire workplace. Some workers may perceive the narcissist as a friendly and hard-working colleague, while others fear the same person as a source of abuse.
Some people with NPD are able to use their jobs as a narcissistic supply, enabling them to excel at work. Others refuse to work or are resentful about their jobs—especially if their jobs do not bolster their self-esteem.
Narcissistic tendencies by one person in a family can affect the entire family. It’s common for children of narcissists to be abused or neglected. Popular guides to narcissism suggest that family members fall into predictable, stereotyped roles. Those include:
Enabler: The enabler, who is often the spouse of a person with narcissism, excuses the behavior of the narcissist. They may think the narcissist has a valid reason for behaving the way they do, or they may enable the narcissist in an attempt to avoid abuse.
Flying monkey: Flying monkeys are enablers who abuse family members on behalf of a narcissist. For example, an adult child of a narcissist might eliminate contact with an abusive parent. But then a sibling acting as a “flying monkey” might guilt that person for cutting contact.
Scapegoat: The scapegoat is a person, usually a child, blamed for all that goes wrong with the narcissist and within the family. Scapegoats are often family members who identify narcissistic behavior for what it is, instead of lavishing a person with NPD with praise.
Golden child: A narcissist projects their own image onto a golden child. The golden child may receive special rewards, affection, or praise that other children and family members don’t get. This can create conflict between family members, and be used as a way to gaslight scapegoats and others who aren’t idealized. Sometimes the role of the golden child shifts. When golden children deviate from the idealized role their parents assign to them, the parent may become abusive or scapegoat the child.
Roles can shift with time and circumstances. People often fall into specific roles as a way to survive painful circumstances, not as a conscious decision.
Miller argues that children raised in narcissistic families who do not get a developmentally appropriate narcissistic supply may grow up to become narcissists.
In other cases, children of narcissistic parents become unusually attuned and sensitive to the needs of others. This allows the child to give the narcissistic parent the admiration and attention they desire, but at the expense of the child’s development. These children may grow into adults who seek parent figures from whom to receive love. This makes them vulnerable to further narcissistic abuse.
People with narcissism fear rejection and continually seek outside validation. They struggle to sustain a sense of self-esteem independent of input from others. This can cause them to mistreat others. NPD can cause a person to prioritize trivial needs—such as the desire to get attention on social media—over another person’s most significant needs, such as the desire to feel safe or loved.
People with NPD can provide love and admiration to others only when it serves their own narcissistic needs to do so. So a person with NPD might be friendly and supportive to someone whose respect they desire, but abusive or negligent to someone who offers them nothing. This can make it difficult to have close, intimate relationships.
A common theme in relationships with narcissists is that the narcissist demands things they are not willing to give. They may also gaslight the other person. For example, a narcissistic husband might insist that his wife be prepared to entertain his friends and maintain the house in a perfect state of order. He may also continually demand praise. When she requests help with household chores or more praise, he might tell her that doing so is abusive or that she “owes” him because of something he once did for her. Over time, this distorted sense of reality can wear down a person’s self-esteem and even convince them that narcissistic abuse is normal.