Covert malignant narcissist
When we think of malignant narcissists, we think of someone who may be extroverted. Some of the more unwary of us may think that it must be easy to detect these individuals because they have such a disturbing label. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. Often these people present as perhaps a little shy. Unlike their overt buddies, covert malignant narcissists tend to be quite introverted.
Also, covert malignant narcissists may come across as depressed. Their depression is reminiscent of people with persistent depressive disorder. It’s like they have this negativity-seeking cloud hanging over them. Unfortunately, this can make it easy to mistake them for normal empathetic people who are depressed.
Unlike empathetic, caring people who also happen to be depressed, they should never be mistaken for someone who is just depressed. Sure, narcissists experience depression, but they don’t care about others in the way that empathetic people do. The cold reality is that they don’t care about anyone but themselves.
This doesn’t stop them from projecting the most favourable of public personas. They are the nice person hiding in plain sight. They may be described as shy by some people (Spoiler alert: they’re not!). Everyone who knows them will probably speak warmly about them. Only family members and others that get close to them see the real person.
So what are some of the signs you may be dealing with a covert malignant narcissist?
They like yes people, co-dependents, and empaths
The covert malignant narcissist wants a yes person to listen to all of their stories. They want to hog your attention. They gossip incessantly and may unexpectedly interrupt when you’re in the middle of a critical piece of work.
Or they may hog your attention with outlandish stories about how the company’s finances are circling the drain, even though that isn’t true. They will gossip about anything that promotes their narrative; it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not; they’ll happily slide the dagger into their opponents’ backs if that furthers their insidious aims.
They don’t like revealing much about themselves.
Have you ever met someone who reveals little about themselves? This can be because they don’t want anyone to know anything about them. Their attitude is the “less people know about you, the better.”
However, don’t expect them to apply this attitude to others. They think nothing of gossiping about others, spreading entirely false rumours, slandering others, or just being dishonest. Whatever bit of juicy gossip that helps them support their narrative is no problem to them; it’s grist for the gossip mill.
They’re not just victims; the world is also out to get them!
It’s well known that covert narcissists see themselves as victims among narcissistic abuse sufferers and survivors. Covert malignant narcissists take it a step further; they’re actively seeking clues that people are out to get them. They really and truly believe this even if there is not a shred of evidence to support such an assertion.
Covert malignant narcissists have a chip on their shoulders. They believe that someone is out to deprive them of something they cherish, like their job. So if covert malignant narcissists believe a senior manager is trying to push them out of their job, they will do anything to ensure that they stick it to the senior manager first.
They could be legally or morally sketchy or an astute identifier of legal and organisational loopholes.
This is why covert malignant narcissists also like to keep their scheming or plans very much to themselves. You can be sure that these sly plans have been percolating away in the back of their minds for months before they do their dastardly deeds. The wickedest of covert malignant narcissist’s will suck up to management before doing the dirty act. They could identify critical legal requirements that the organisation must comply with if that law is not adhered to, the company or organisation risks being sued. This will look proactive to those management and HR because it’s in their interests not to get sued.
Then, they will look for some opportunity to hang on and strengthen their position of power. After all, the covert malignant is driven by the cold desire to win. They truly believe that the world is out to get them (even when it isn’t!), so their philosophy is to get them before they get me.
Once they’ve achieved their aims, they need to have a false narrative lined up to cover their tracks. If they are generally well regarded in the organisation, they will help their cause immeasurably. However, they will also buttress those arguments with some pure baloney laid on thick.
They like data mining information from you so that they can secure a scoop on you.
This is why they will use an opportunity to get a scoop on you. Did you share something with them? Did you say something you now regret? Bingo, you’ve provided them with a honey pot of data gold. They will happily twist and turn what you told them into something that strengthens their case.
They’re intolerant of others’ beliefs.
Not only are they hypocrites, but they’re also profoundly ignorant and intolerant as well. Their attitude is that if you express a different view to me, not only are you wrong; you are loathsome and despicable as well. This isn’t the attitude of a normal person. A normal person will say that you’re entitled to your opinion, even though I don’t agree with you (or words to that effect).
The malignant narcissist doesn’t want to engage in a rational argument. In their mind, they are right and their words are the expression of truth (even if it isn’t!).
They are superior, the smartest, and the best; they are rigid in their beliefs.
Not only are they profoundly intolerant, but they also very genuinely see themselves as the smartest in the room. It’s like they think there’s stupid, and then there’s you. That’s just how covert malignant narcissists think.
They are openly cruel, and they will rip you to shreds if and when it suits them.
There are a variety of ways in which you may experience their cruelty. They could tell you to your face that you don’t know what you’re talking about, even though they may refer to a specific thing you’ve learned to be a fact for years. If you then contradict them, they will oppose you, and if you keep telling them they have that fact wrong, they will refuse to back down.
They don’t like hearing alternative points of view, and you cannot argue persuasively with these people. Their attitude is: This is how things are and have to be.
They could subject you to the silent treatment or choose to stonewall you. For example, if you need to request information that you are legally entitled to, they may refuse to provide it, or large portions of the requested text would be blacked out.
Covert malignant narcissists lie with ease. Lies spew out of their mouth, usually to further some narrative they’re trying to push.
They develop hard feelings towards you.
Over time, as you get to know people, your opinion of those you don’t particularly like at the outset may soften over time. This isn’t the case with covert malignant narcissists. Their view of you will worsen over time.
They will start by idealising you, and as you get to know them, the first clues of their true nature emerge. If you confront them about something (not a great idea), they may at first seem nervous about blaming someone else rather than accept responsibility for what they did. Throughout the conversation, they may become increasingly emboldened. They may keep you hooked into the conversation so they can data mine you for information.
And if they appear to take accountability over something, this is only a manipulative trick to suck you in.
Get away from them as soon as you can.
These people can’t reach their humanity. They’re bad news.
Don’t ever consider using one of these people as a referee. They are self-serving, sneaky individuals and pathological liars. You can bet that any referee report would be used as a weapon to categorise you as a problematic employee.
One possible solution could be to use a client, a sympathetic boss or a coworker from a previous workplace. If you’re in a job where a portfolio of work is critical, you will need to keep an impressive record of your work.
On the other hand, if you have to use someone who works in the same office as the narcissist, ask potential employers to contact them on their smartphone or email. You don’t want the narcissist picking up the call and ruining your chances of future employment.
Of course, before using a colleague as a referee, consider if other colleagues have a favourable view of the narcissist. Narcissists are very adept at impression management. Interpersonal interactions in organisations are often superficial and transient. Many others won’t care if someone else’s behaviour has negatively affected you if they’ve not had the same experience with the narcissist themselves.
Many people these days do not know their work colleagues that well. Most people assume that if someone is charming, friendly and good company, they must be okay, right?
This is doubly so in member-based organisations, where affection for others often blooms over the years. So while members may have known an organisational employee for decades, they don’t really know them. This allows covert malignant narcissists and other narcissists to disguise their true identity skillfully. As Dr George Simon says:
‘These individuals are not openly aggressive in their interpersonal style. They do their best to keep their aggressive intentions and behaviours carefully masked. They can often appear quite charming and amiable, but underneath their civil facade, they are just as ruthless as any other aggressive personality. They are very actively aggressive personalities who know how to keep their aggressive agendas carefully cloaked.’
By the time you’ve left, you’ll be hoping that there will be some form of justice in the world. You’ll be more prone to lash out at other people. You’ll be hoping that they will get their comeuppance, but here is the raw truth: they may not get their comeuppance. Meanwhile, you’re suffering from depression, adrenal fatigue and narcissistic abuse. You may also be experiencing unprocessed trauma, irritability, loneliness, and learned helplessness.
With an unenviable list of battle wounds like that, you’ll be desperately hoping that things will turn sour for your archnemesis. And you might be right; maybe they will, or perhaps they won’t. Unfortunately, people who backstab have low or non-existent levels of empathy and little to no ability yet often flourish in corporate and governmental safe houses for decades. And years after excellent employees are relegated to the scrap heap—the narcissistic self-promoter is still there!
So much for the idea of a meritocracy!
And then, the victim experiences flashbacks, they start gaslighting themselves, and there is the narcissist’s voice that you can’t seem to get out of your head. Meanwhile, everyday tasks are ridiculously hard when your anxiety is out of control.
Eventually, you think there must be some name for this thing you went through. Then you google the symptoms. It’s then, slowly but surely, that you make the most troubling and dark discovery about what you were dealing with. As Dr George Simon said, “Dealing with them is like getting whiplash. You don’t know how badly you’ve been taken advantage of until long after the damage is done.”
More alarmingly, this trauma can’t be shaken off like dandruff. Trauma lives in both the brain and the body. Many people spend years trying to recover. They do yoga, meditate, join support groups and jump down the YouTube rabbit warren.
In conclusion, covert malignant narcissists aren’t some troubled soul that you can rescue with empathy or sympathy. Indeed, the only way difficult personalities can be reformed is if they want to change. Unfortunately, nothing will change with a malignant narcissist because their sly and cunning approach to life often gets rewarded in today’s topsy-turvy world.