Narcissists are desperately addicted to validation and need a source of emotional supply. What they really want is for others to give them admiration, adulation, and adoration. Unfortunately for them, they cannot communicate their needs because it would make them look bad. This makes life incredibly difficult for them. When they don’t get their emotional supply, they may lash out at the person denying them their supply. That person may be incredibly confused as to what the narcissist wants because narcissists do not communicate their twisted needs. Narcissists rarely keep any of their close friendships because they inevitably destroy their relationships. They cannot explain their toxic needs and begin to devalue their friends and allies when the toxic needs are not met. This often leaves the narcissist alone in the barren wasteland that is their life.
Enter the nanny
Every once in a while, the narcissist will run into the rare individual who will supply them. That individual is often somebody who was raised by narcissist parents and therefore learned to be codependent; the codependent learned during childhood that they will be rewarded for supplying their narcissist parents with validation. In the workplace, narcissists and their codependent minions tend to form an informal alliance where the codependents act as the narcissist’s emotional nannies. Narcissists may act as codependents towards their fellow narcissists, with an unspoken understanding that they should groom each other’s emotional needs and avoid criticism of each other. This is how incompetent people fail upwards in large corporations.
Enterprising employees can take advantage of this dynamic. If they too babysit the narcissist boss, they can work the situation to their advantage. Normal individuals tend to have advantages over codependents because they do not have emotional baggage that gets in the way. They have the potential to develop far superior social skills because they do not have weird emotional hangups that they can’t turn off when they need to. Whereas a codependent might be uncomfortable at intentionally withholding validation from a narcissist (e.g. their parents would have been unhappy at them for doing so when they were children), normal people don’t have that fear.
Enter the drug dealer
The withholding of validation can be a powerful tool when used strategically:
- It makes the validation seem harder to obtain and therefore more valuable.
- It makes the narcissist a little insecure. When the narcissist has doubts about themself, they will automatically go into their validation seeking mode. They will be willing to sacrifice their own self-interest to feed the emotional black hole inside them. This creates an opportunity for the withholder to get what they want. The “drug dealer” will have the narcissist’s full attention and can name their price.
Supplying others with validation can be a profitable activity.
If your workplace does not seem like a well-functioning business, pay attention to the social dynamics. Does your boss keep incompetent people around? Do those lackeys have weird personalities from growing up with a narcissist or sociopath parent? Is your boss secretly a covert narcissist? Answering these questions can be key to managing upwards and advancing your career.