Beware the stealthy emotional predator in the workplace

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Quick summary                                                                                                

Narcissistic abuse is so prevalent in our culture that it’s often difficult to recognise when we fall victim to it. 

There is, however, nothing normal about abuse. It can come in many shapes and forms:

·        People who use passive aggressive gestures

·        Emotional predators

·        Manipulators and their flying monkeys

·        People who turn you into a clown

Abusers normally target empaths, highly sensitive persons (HSPs and intelligent people – not weak people.

Just as abuse comes in many forms, it also attracts many labels. Sometimes they’re called narcissists, sometimes emotional predators, energy vampires or just bullies.

Emotional predators

One type of predator that management won’t stop is the emotional predator.These perpetrators are often charismatic and personable and well-connected.

However, this likeable veneer is merely a projection of a false self. Underneath, these people are predators who target kind, empathetic people and drain their energy. So why would they target this group? Basically, it’s because the target has many terrific qualities that the predator lacks. And because predators are envious, wounded or damaged people, they decide to bring down their victim.

 While dealing with this behaviour requires being able to stand up for yourself, doing this requires confidence. It also requires preparation and practice.

Unfortunately, we come from a culture that assumes that a target is weak if they can’t stand up for themselves. Why is this a problem? While some thrive in this adversarial environment, others struggle to stand up for themselves. Contrary to common belief, standing up for oneself  – in a healthy way – is not an innate skill.

So why is standing up for yourself important? Let’s say your work colleague has singled you out. Let’s say they are nice to everyone else, but not you. Understandably, you’re upset and so you tell work colleagues.  Unfortunately for you, they only see this person’s good side. You, on the other hand, have only seen their bad side. Therefore, be careful about complaining about a work colleague to others. They may think you are the problem.

And that’s not the only way they may target you.


Another way emotional predators can target their victims is by projecting their stuff onto victims. They love blaming others and shaming them, for some misdemeanour committed by the emotional predator.

So if they have lied about something, they will then claim that their target was the one who lied. When you are the victim, understandably, you get upset and enraged at this crazy behaviour, but know this behaviour is NOT about you.

While telling someone off is understandable, it’s also a MISTAKE.

Hence, any manipulations reported to management are likely to be hotly disputed, and you’ll be written off as the person with the problem. You’ll also become the target of a smear campaign.

Bait and switch

But sometimes everyday forms of manipulation just aren’t enough. Sometimes manipulators like to take things to the next level. For instance, some manipulators put out bait. They know you may want something from them, let’s say, a romantic relationship. Initially, these manipulators will use words or non-verbal communication to suggest there’s a possibility of a relationship, then they will CRUSH your expectations. Victims are understandably hurt by these tactics.

These covert tactics are most common with female manipulators but are also sometimes used by men.

Let’s say a man or woman has been taken in by one of these manipulators. Let’s also say the manipulator has no intention of engaging in an intimate relationship. There’s no point in complaining because if the perpetrators were questioned, they would deny everything. Most likely, the perpetrator would refer disparagingly to their victim, saying: “It’s all in their head.”

As for the motivation behind this type of manipulation, it’s solely about boosting the manipulator’s ego, never about forming an intimate relationship.

This is a manipulator down to a T.

You can’t trust this person – keep away from them. If you have to deal with them, try to confine your communications to writing. Always be polite and professional!

Bottom line: These types are stealthy opponents – any disputes will probably boil down to he/she said.

Manipulators and their flying monkeys

These perpetrators also love to outsource their dirty work. These people send out their flying monkeys to gossip about a target. Lies, half-truths, it’s all grist for the mill. Negative people love this stuff – it makes their day.

So why do they do this? It allows them to control how different people see one another. It also satisfies the manipulator’s addiction to power and control.

But sometimes gossip isn’t enough for these people. Another method manipulators use is to have one person accuse another of not doing a good job when the opposite is the case. This person is looking for some type of reaction, so just ignore it.

They know that they can’t prove that you’re incompetent by going to your boss, so they’re choosing to undermine you in a way that tampers with your psyche.

You’ve become the office clown

Another type of manipulator to avoid that is probably familiar to many is the person who turns others into a joke. No-one likes being treated like a joke. It’s cruel and unnecessary.

How to deal with this person

Don’t offer people like this the benefit of the doubt. Avoid them, preferably altogether, if you can. If you must be in contact, communicate only in writing and keep it professional at all times!

You did nothing to cause this person to treat you like the office clown. You can’t earn respect with these people because their whole modus operandi is abuse.

Even if you think you might have said something that might have caused them to treat you with contempt, the way this person reacted is their choice. In other words, they chose their own behaviour – not you. 

They will never change their mind about you. You can’t change anyone. So don’t waste your most precious resource – that is, your time.

Asked to do something and then they don’t remember

Any incident where someone asks you to do something or invites you to something, they can turn around and say they never asked for that thing. This is another form of BAIT and SWITCH. Don’t trust people like this because they can’t be relied on.

Targeted by narcissistic women

Another well-known manipulator is the female narcissist who likes to one up their targets. These women are sometimes referred to as an alpha woman. These types are:

They also truly believe they are inherently superior to others.

They are also incredibly jealous and will target anyone they see as a threat.

They often love being associated with good causes. They like cornering people at parties and boasting about their altruistic streak. And while there are many caring and committed people in the world, with some people, causes are used to make them (gossipy women) look good.

Don’t personalise their behaviour and hold your head up high – you’ve nothing to be ashamed of. All their blame-shifting and bitching is signalling that they are envious and jealous.

If they launch a smear campaign, you must learn how to validate yourself, it’s in this period you’ll find out who all your false friends really are. The female narcissist will need to spend the rest of her life trying to protect her false image.


Another closely related cousin of bitchy women is gossips. In fact, to many people, they are one and the same. These are the people who love to lurk around corridors, listen into conversations, and then grossly distort those conversations.

These people are incredibly hypocritical—they can say whatever they like about whoever they like and that’s okay, but others have to meet standards way out of a gossip’s league. 

As for the person whose conversation was overheard, we may write them off as weak because they put the other person down.

Solution: You can’t control what others say; find a neutral location where you can have a confidential conversation.If you can’t convince a colleague that these conversations are being overheard, you may have to censor all conversations that could be construed as gossip.

Pair bullying

Sometimes gossips also take part in pair bullying. This is where two bullies, who are usually in an intimate relationship, join forces.  They bully another party for power and control and to hurt their victim.

One or sometimes BOTH are chronic bullies. Their lives are shallow and empty. They seriously relish being at the centre of a drama. These are the types who have a lot of time on their hands who lurk around in dark spaces and then ambush others in the lift.

Watch both pairs, particularly the one who says nothing.

Don’t give them a reaction – that’s what they are looking for.

Am I a victim of narcissistic abuse?

If you’ve been targeted by any of these sorts of people, getting upset is understandable, but it’s just about the worst thing you can do. Not only will you be the target of a smear campaign, you’ll be classified as needy or emotional. You’re unlikely to get the sympathy of HR or senior management. Quite the reverse (see emotional predators).

In fact, in some organisations, hazing, bullying or mobbing appears to be tacitly endorsed by senior management. Even if you’re lucky enough to have an enlightened boss, they can’t change a terrible organisational culture infested with manipulators, predators and gossips.

Ultimately, the buck stops with senior management, who are the ones allowing forms of abuse to flourish. Ending this form of abuse does not mean that management needs to name or shame people. Shame doesn’t work with anyone, FULL STOP.

Management needs to outline a standard of behaviour that it expects employees to follow and then enforce that standard. Management should also be promoting cooperation and communal care – not an adversarial workplace.

Does Mediation work?

Because it’s so costly to take legal action, the legislature has encouraged mediation between warring parties. There’s just one huge problem with that – mediation doesn’t work where a power imbalance exists. It doesn’t work because alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is aimed at addressing individual conflicts. Why is this a problem? Workplace bullying (abuse) isn’t really about conflict. It’s a harm that transcends a dispute between two people. Disputes act as a broader metaphor for the failure of management to halt workplace abuse

How to deal with these types                                                                                                                                          

If you have low self-confidence, work on building your confidence; believing in yourself makes it a lot easier to deal with these types.

You need to be doing a few things to raise your confidence. 

  • One, practice deep breathing; calm your emotional reactivity.
  • Two, speak to a counsellor. Be careful about selecting a counsellor, a coach or therapist. They should be some who understands the nature of narcissistic abuse.
  • You’ll risk becoming re-traumatised if that person DOES NOT understand what you’ve been through.
  • Three, learn to observe your thoughts; you are not your thoughts.
  • Fourth, learn to parent yourself in a healthy way.
  • Fifth, monitor how you’re speaking to yourself.

One way to heal from narcissistic abuse is to change your self-talk and focus on looking after yourself.You can buy books or watch YouTube videos. However, these approaches won’t work for everyone. Some may need counselling to help them recover.

Another way to heal is to look at your past. We’re often told that the past doesn’t matter. While this is probably true most times, it’s not true with childhood abuse. Analysing your childhood provides the key to understanding why you might be attracted to a narcissist. For instance, were you abused, abandoned, humiliated or invalidated by one or both of your primary caregivers. Many victims of narabuse are drawn to people similar to those that abused them during childhood.

There’s no overnight fix. In recovery, you’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days.  Try to see this negative experience as a way of turning yourself into a healthier version of yourself.

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