If you have a narcissistic boss, you know how demanding, critical, and rigid they can be. Many people who work for such a boss make the decision to look for a different job. They find themselves in a difficult position, given that narcissistic bosses are notoriously unpredictable. If you’re hoping for a letter of recommendation from them to get your new position, it can be very tricky to let them know you’re moving on. That’s a big part of why resigning from a narcissistic boss is difficult to do.
To resign from a narcissistic boss, you need to have your plan in place before you make a move. You might try to appeal to your boss’s narcissism if you need a recommendation from them, but the truth is you might not get one. Still, you should stay calm and firm when giving your resignation.
You need to think about exactly how to resign if your boss is a narcissist. It’s critical to go about this with a strategy in mind so that it will go smoothly and if you are to have any hope of getting a good recommendation from your toxic boss. Read on to learn more about what you need to think about before handing in that resignation.
Have a Job in Place Before You Resign
You likely know if you have a narcissistic boss, but if you don’t, check out this video that identifies the top 5 signs you got this kind of toxic leader. If your boss is a narcissist, you’ll definitely want to make a plan to eventually move on.
When you’re ready, it will likely be very difficult to get a good recommendation for your narcissistic boss. What’s worse, you won’t necessarily know what they have said about you. You might just not get the job you’re trying to get. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a job in place before you resign.
If possible, ask another colleague or supervisor to provide you with a recommendation rather than your narcissistic boss, or better yet, have a job in place before you tender your resignation. Narcissists see everything as a reflection on them.
Your narcissistic boss is quite likely to take your resignation personally. They will see it as some kind of criticism of them. They might also fear that their own supervisors will see it as an indication they are not a good leader.
This isn’t necessarily true, of course, since companies cycle through employees all the time. They understand that new job opportunities come along all the time, and some of their employees will naturally move on to bigger and better things.
But your narcissistic boss won’t see it like that, and they are likely to undermine your efforts to get a new job if you have to rely on them for a recommendation. They don’t want anyone to think they have done something wrong, and they also feel a sense of power knowing that you need their recommendation. That’s why it’s better to get a job without their recommendation, if possible.
Appeal to Your Boss’s Narcissism
If you must have that recommendation, you can try to appeal to your boss’s narcissism. Narcissists love it when you stroke their ego, and that might work.
You might try, for example, to say something like, “You have taught me so much, and I feel as though you have really prepared me to take the next step in my career.” Let them know how much you value what they have taught you and that you only hope you can make them proud in the new position you’re seeking.
Express your gratitude for the expertise they have shared with you, and be sure to tell them that you couldn’t have learned that from anyone else. Make them feel like you’re carrying on their legacy.
Tell them you hope to implement the same leadership style they have shown you in this job. You want them to feel like you will be following in their footsteps. Toward that end, you might also ask them if you can contact them in your new position if you have a particularly difficult problem.
That can make them feel like you need them, which will play to their ego. Narcissists fear abandonment, so you want to make them feel like you’re not abandoning them, and you hope to stay in contact after you’ve moved on.
Appealing to their ego might be enough to get them to give you the good recommendation you deserve, but be careful that it doesn’t backfire. They will try to convince you not to leave, but you’ll stand firm in your decision. They might also erupt in a narcissistic rage, so be prepared for almost any response.
Get Your Ducks in a Row
Narcissists are notoriously poor leaders, as the following video demonstrates. As part of being prepared for almost anything when you tell your narcissistic boss you’re leaving, you want to have any documentation you can get on their bad behavior. You don’t know for sure how this will go, which is why it’s wise to have proof of how they’ve treated you.
When you decide you want to look for another job, start accumulating evidence of any bad treatment by your narcissistic boss. Even if you’re not leaving, it’s a good idea. The more you can accumulate, the better your chances of keeping them civil as you go through this process.
Narcissists often rise to positions of power in a company because they do care about their image. When you have evidence that could undermine that image, they will be very reticent to cause problems.
Document every instance of bad behavior on the part of your boss. If they have yelled at you, write down the date, time, and place of the incident as well as the circumstances around it. Note any witnesses to the event, and record it if possible.
The more evidence you can accumulate, the better your position will be when you’re ready to resign. As Gee Trip, who worked for a narcissist, explains, “He was very scared that I would go to the HR if he went any further with my resignation as I had facts and evidence. He acted nice to me during the notice period.”
The fact that they had evidence made a big difference in their experience during that final two weeks at their job. You don’t threaten to use this evidence unless they become abusive, but having it might be key to getting out smoothly.
Write a Letter and Keep Others in the Loop
Writing a brief letter of resignation is another good way to go about resigning from a narcissistic boss. Even if this is not the only way you tender your resignation, it can be an important way to keep your boss from flying off the handle.
If you write a letter, copy it to your HR department. It’s easier to control a narcissistic boss’s behavior when other people are looking, and so by notifying HR of your intent, you might be able to keep your narcissistic boss from abusing you during the transition.
Keep the letter brief, and don’t say anything bad about your narcissistic boss. If you make yourself into their enemy, they’ll go the extra mile to get you back. It’s better to hold your tongue, knowing that you won’t have to put up with them for much longer, than to speak up and make more problems for yourself.
If you are asked to do an exit interview with HR, you should also avoid talking badly about your boss. It’s important to remember that many narcissists do well in their professions, and often companies are reticent to let them go.
They also don’t want to hear about their bad behavior if they are good at their job. If you feel a need to let them know about your narcissistic boss’s abusive behavior, do so in a professional manner. You don’t want to sound like a disgruntled soon-to-be ex-employee.
Just tell them that you have a disagreement with your boss about the way certain things should be handled and leave it at that. While bringing down a narcissist might give you momentary satisfaction, you’ll make more trouble for yourself in the long run.
Devise a Strategy and Be Very Careful
Before you hand in your resignation, you want to be sure you have a plan for how and when you will leave. Narcissists aren’t like normal people, and they don’t react in conventional ways. Because they are so obsessed with their own self-image, they often become belligerent when they feel someone is abandoning them.
They don’t care about the truth, and they are very vengeful. If they feel you have crossed them, they will go to extremes to get back at you. Their thinking is very binary – you’re either with them, or you’re against them, and you’re leaving, so you’re against them.
Plan out how you will deliver your resignation, exactly what you will say, and how much notice you will give. Don’t tell coworkers about your real feelings or your plans since that kind of gossip has a tendency to get around.
Narcissists often have what are referred to as flying monkeys in the office. These people are the narcissistic boss’s sycophants. They have decided to do whatever the narcissist tells them so they can advance within the company. That’s not likely to happen, but they are the ones who will tell your narcissistic boss the truth if they find out.
Keeping your plans to yourself is key to engineering a smooth exit from the company. It’s always important not to ‘burn bridges behind you,’ as the saying goes so that you don’t make powerful enemies. Like it or not, successful narcissists can be powerful enemies.
Follow Your Company’s Policy Precisely
You also want to make sure you follow your company’s policy for giving notice precisely. You don’t want to gain a bad reputation as a result of this transition. That can follow you to other jobs.
If your company requires two weeks’ notice, make sure to give them that notice. You want to keep both the company and your narcissistic boss as good references should you need them in the future.
Executives of any company talk to one another, and they pass on information about employees they think treated them poorly. While it’s hard, it’s better to keep your real opinion to yourself so that your boss can’t undermine your future.
You need to realize that you might need to use this company as a reference in the future. You don’t when you might need to at least rely on them to accurately report your performance to anyone who might ask.
Whatever your company requires of you before leaving, make sure to follow their policies precisely. That shows you are a professional and not someone prone to rash behavior. It also shows that you respect your company even if you don’t have respect for your narcissistic boss.
When you make the decision to leave, and you have another job offer, act quickly and decisively to turn in your notice. Any hesitation on your part will signal weakness to your narcissistic boss. Narcissists are also known to try to charm their victims into staying.
It gives a narcissist a sense of power to think they can manipulate and control your decisions. Narcissists are also capable of being very charming when they feel they need to be. They will try to charm you into changing your mind.
They might promise you a raise, a better office, or some other benefit, but that’s likely a promise they can’t deliver on or won’t. Narcissists have no compunction about lying or gaslighting you. When it comes time to give you that raise or whatever other benefit they promised, they’re likely to say you misinterpreted their offer.
If you have another job lined up and are ready to leave, you want to go through with it, and the quicker, the better. Stay resolute in your decision. Even when your narcissistic boss makes offers, simply let them know that you appreciate it, but you’ve made up your mind.
Keep Your Cards Close to Your Vest
Once you give your notice, it’s likely you’ll be approached by other colleagues who are curious about your reasons for leaving and your plans. It’s better to keep your criticisms and your plans to yourself.
Whatever you might say will likely get around the office, and it’s just something that can make more trouble than any good it might do. You’re getting out, and some of your coworkers might be jealous of that fact. They could make trouble for you if you’re not careful.
That’s why it’s just better to let everyone know that you’ve received an offer you can’t refuse, and it’s the best move for your career going forward. Keep your complaints to yourself and downplay your plans while you are serving out the notice period.
Your narcissistic boss will never approve of your plans, and while you might be able to avoid their rageful response if you act carefully, they will still likely resent you on some level for leaving. If they find out that you have complaints about them, it will be a more difficult time for you.
Don’t engage in company gossip, and keep your plans to yourself. You’ll be happy you did after you’ve left. Telling other people about your plans or your complaints will just make matters worse.
Keep Your Narcissistic Boss’s Boss in the Loop
It’s also important to keep your boss’s boss in the loop regarding your plans. You can show your professionalism and likely prevent any vengeful behavior on the part of your narcissistic boss.
When you inform your narcissistic boss and your HR department about your plans to leave, you can also cc your boss’s boss that you’re giving notice. This keeps them in the loop and lets them know that you intend to follow the procedure as you leave.
You have to remember that the company executives are concerned with their bottom line. They want to know that any transitions will be smooth and without incident. If you create problems, you become that disgruntled employee.
Then, if it becomes necessary to eventually let someone know of your narcissistic boss’s abusive behavior, it’s less likely you will be believed. It becomes easier for your narcissistic boss to paint you as a problem employee.
This can have grave implications for your career. Even if you have a job lined up, you might have difficulties finding other jobs in the future should you need to. That’s not something you want to bring on yourself because of a narcissistic boss.
Don’t Tell Your Boss to “Take This Job and Shove It!”
As a part of making the best moves for your future, you want to be sure to always stay professional. While it might be satisfying to tell your boss off and tell them to ‘take this job and shove it,’ as the song says, it really reflects badly on you.
You want to be the consummate professional as this is the best way for you to leave any job. It reflects well on your ability to handle a difficult situation with grace.
Your narcissistic boss is staying, and so anything you do to try to call out their bad behavior will likely fall on deaf ears. You’ll seem like the vengeful person, while your narcissistic boss will seem like your victim.
Narcissists are good at playing the victim when they have to, so don’t give them that opportunity. Just stay professional in every way that you interact with them, and you’ll come away with your dignity and your future intact.
Develop a Plan B in Case You Need to Leave Early
If your narcissistic boss does make leaving a nightmare, as they often do, then you need to have a Plan B. When you develop your exit strategy, you can also put together this backup plan in case you feel like you need to leave early.
For example, when you give your notice, you might also tell them that you are planning on serving out your two weeks’ notice, but you might need to leave early if your partner is required to go sooner. You could also let them know that your new job requires a move, and you may have to leave early for that reason.
It’s also okay to simply tell your abusive boss that you aren’t comfortable with the way they are treating you, and it might just be best if you left now. People do quit their jobs all the time, and sometimes they leave immediately.
The important thing is to think about what you’ll do if the situation becomes abusive so that you can take the best care of yourself. You just want to be resolved in whatever your plans are so that you can take decisive action when it becomes necessary.
Believe it or not, leaving a narcissistic boss can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll make in your career. But it’s also likely one of the best. Narcissistic bosses will work you to death and never give you credit for your work. They will also steal your ideas and prevent you from getting promotions or moving on. When you give your notice, however, you’ll need to have a plan and think carefully about how you will do it. No matter how well you carry out your resignation plan, you will still likely face devaluation, and your narcissistic boss will do anything they can to trigger you, including using your own emotions against you.
My 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you avoid being triggered. You can use this free guide for identifying and defusing your emotional triggers so your toxic boss can’t use them against you. You can keep your cool and move on in style no matter what your narcissistic boss does or says. Just click here and I’ll send this handy guide directly to your inbox.
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