You can’t help but notice how charming the guy, 5 cubicles down from you, happens to be. He’s been flirting with you for a while now, brought you the muffin that you liked from the coffee place downstairs. He’s sweet, good looking, and smart, why shouldn’t I go out with him? You ask yourself.
Your mom and your friends keep telling you it’s not a good idea. They use the crude old adage, ‘Don’t s**t where you eat.’ But they don’t know Kevin. You’ve done some research, looked up, ‘dating your co-worker,’ online and think, that won’t happen to us. You look at Bev and Rob in accounting and think, they met at work and look at them. Bev’s about to have her second baby, so the next time Kevin asks you to go for a drink after work, you decide to accept and the romance begins.
Initially things are fantastic. He is literally sweeping you off your feet. He sends you naughty little emails at work and you exchange quick glances at each other over top your cubicles. Things are moving really fast. You’ve never felt so special – cherished even. You think this is what love feels like. Finally it’s my turn.
After a few months of bliss, things suddenly change without warning. His hot pursuit has grown stone cold. He’s not texting you all the time like he used to. Your 5 hour phone conversations are now barely 5 minutes, that’s if he picks up at all and you can feel him pulling away. You are at a loss to figure out what you did to turn him off. You aren’t having lunch together like you used to. He doesn’t even bring you your muffin anymore and you’ve noticed him staring at Angela in marketing. Damn her and her tight skirts. You’ve caught him in a number of lies and his treatment of you has been far below respectful.
Your inner detective is working overtime because you don’t trust what you’re seeing and you need proof. You over hear him on the phone flirting and making plans with someone else. You’re so angry and trying to focus on your job, but your every thought keeps coming back to him. You’re fighting with your emotions and they keep bouncing back from anger to heart break. You watch him walk toward the photo copy room. This is your chance for a little privacy and to have it out with him, so you follow him in.
“What’s going on Kevin?” You ask, your anger is palpable.
“What?” He says, paying strict attention to what he’s doing, being sure not to make eye contact with you.
You can feel your anger bubbling over now and know you can’t control it. “You’re a piece of work. You know that? Don’t call me, don’t text me. Just stay the hell away from me.” You feel pretty good and make your exit. You feel like crying, but manage to keep it together. You get back to your desk and for the first time you can focus on your work.
A couple of weeks or so after the break-up, you manage to ignore and keep your distance from each other, but not too long after, you notice him hanging around your area. You look up and notice he’s starting right at you. The anger you were grasping at had turned back into heartbreak a few days ago and you had begun to miss him. You had replayed every scene the two of you had together, looking for the spot where you made your critical error and you’re still at a loss. Your heart flutters.
Half an hour later your cell phone goes off. It’s him. The text reads, “I miss you,” and you feel relief and respond.
This cycle plays out a few more times and finally you’ve reached your breaking point. In a very heated exchange you make it more than clear that you are done and just like before he leaves you alone… for a while. You are trying very hard to maintain you stance, but just like before he eventually tries to weasel his way back in. At this point he knows you. He knows what you want to hear, what you’re afraid of and he’s not afraid to use it. But something has changed in you, though your resolve isn’t as strong as you’d like it, you are determined that this is the end. The more distant you become the more persistent he becomes.
He walks passed your cubical constantly, trying to unnerve you with his presence. You find your favorite muffin sitting on your desk in the morning. He’s pulling out all the stops, texting you at home and at the office. “Stop being mean Chris. I can’t stop thinking about you.” You want to go no contact, but how can you when you work together?
Just then there’s a staff meeting and he takes the seat next to yours. You’re trying to pay attention, but he keeps whispering, in your ear. You tell him to stop it. Your colleagues have noticed something has been strange between you two and look over hearing your harsh whisper. The meeting is over and he walks with you to the parking garage. “Look Kevin,” you say. “I have asked you to leave me alone. What part of that are you not getting?” “I know you don’t mean it Chris,” he says. “You and I have something special and you know it.”
You get in your car and drive off. You’re trying to be strong, but his constant pursuit is wearing you down. You start to question whether or not you’ve misjudged him. Would he pursue me like that if he didn’t care? All those things that you have been dying to hear are flowing from his lips so easily. Could they be true? Could he mean them? Why is he trying so hard? You get home and pour yourself some wine and realize that you’ve been here before, this is just another attempt to break your resolve, so you hold firm.
At work you tell him if he doesn’t stop harassing you, you are going to complain to management. He seems angry and a little smug. “You can try,” he says and walks off. You know he’s pretty buddy-buddy with the boss and the HR person as well. Crap, they will probably believe him. You know him well enough to know that he will spin some kind of tale to them that paints you in a bad light, that is – if he hasn’t already
You feel trapped. You’re starting to really hate going in to work. The past week you’ve completely ignored him and you’ve noticed his demeanor has changed, now his amorous pursuit has turned nasty. He’s clever enough not to send you anymore emails or texts that you can show to anyone, but he still looks for any reason to get close to you, this time though, it’s to berate you, or insult you. He feigns work reasons to email you and talk to you. You know he’s saying things to other people about you. The men on his side of the office look at you funny now and you wonder what he has told them. This has become a nightmare. You decide that this harassment has got to end and you make a formal complaint to management. You get hauled into the manager’s office. This is really the last thing you wanted. You feel so foolish and so uncomfortable and wonder if you’ve just committed career suicide.
After they’re done with you, you see them take Kevin into the office and when he walks out, he is looking daggers at you and you wonder what will come next. When you get home that night you update your resume and start looking for another job.
This story is typical of a lot of people’s experience once they try to end a relationship with their ex-Narcissist co-worker. The best approach to ending the relationship would be to go no contact, but in a work setting it’s just not possible. A Narcissist will go out of his/her way to make sure they get some type of reaction out of you. Their persistence will at times make you question whether or not you’re making the right decision. In every romantic movie the prince always chases the princess, so we’ve been conditioned to think that this is someone’s way of showing us how much they really love us.
In a normal, healthy relationship if you’ve made it clear to someone that you no longer want the relationship, then they will come to terms with your decision and eventually move on. A Narcissist has a great deal of difficulty accepting rejection and relinquishing control.
Make no mistake if you do go relent and give in, the relationship will be exactly as it was before, with just a brief stint of good behavior, to make sure you’re under their spell again. There is no desire to change. Any promise to the contrary is nothing more than manipulation. They will use the Spaghetti technique and throw everything at you to try to get some kind of a hook into you. They will try to appeal to your kind heartedness and say things like, “I need you to help me and show me what I’m supposed to do.” Or, “My mom is sick I really wish you would talk to me I’m so sad.” They will love bomb you, “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. You know we have something special.” You will see some frustration and blame, “I don’t know why you’re being this way. Stop being so mean.” Or, “You’ve got problems. I didn’t do anything to make you hate me so much. Maybe you’re the one who’s got issues.” “You don’t’ know what you’re doing do you? You are so f**cked up. I never should have gone out with you.” They will throw everything at you to get some kind of reaction. If nice doesn’t work and love bombing doesn’t work, they will get nasty. Any reaction, good or bad, lets them know that they can still affect you.
If this was not a work-related relationship you could file a restraining order and have him arrested, but at work it gets very complicated. For one, it paints you in a bad light with management, because you showed poor judgement by getting involved with a colleague in the first place and furthermore, the fact that you can’t control the situation and need management to intervene, does show a lack of maturity and a lack of problem solving skills on your part, to those who don’t understand what dealing with a Narcissist is like. For this reason many men and women have to keep silent and endure the never-ending harassment by their former Narcissist.
Whether or not you do step forward, eventually the amorous pursuit will stop and it will get nasty. If this happens, expect there to be character assassination, slander, name calling and an all-out war. Once a Narcissist knows that they cannot control you and that you are no longer a source of supply and have evidence that they are less than stellar individuals, you have become the enemy and they will do everything within their power to discredit you and make you look like the one with the problem. On top of that, they will do whatever they can to make your life a living nightmare.
Sav’s Suggestions for Dealing with an Ex-Narcissist Co-worker
- Keep it professional. Make sure all necessary contact is about work.
- If they keep lingering at your desk, keep repeating the same phrases. Stop harassing me. I am working. Go back to your desk. Stop harassing me. I am working. Go back to your desk.
- Use the word harass a lot. It’s a company buzz word and all companies have a policy for dealing with harassment in the work place.
- Keep calm. Do not raise your voice and do not let your emotions get out of hand. To do so will show them that they can still affect you. Do not give them the payoff (supply) they are seeking.
- Keep copies of harassing emails or text messages. You may need them to show management.
- Do not waver in your decision to end the relationship, what you teach them by giving in is that your no doesn’t mean no – it means try harder.
- If and when you do decide to seek the aid of management, again, use the word harassment frequently. Indicate the steps that you have taken to try to end this peacefully and without involving them. Explain that you suspect he is a Narcissist and briefly explain what you have discovered and that you cannot stop this without their involvement. Provide them with emails or text messages that prove the harassment. Make sure you understand what the company procedure is. Does he/she first get a verbal warning – then if it persists a written warning – then suspension or dismissal.
- Utilize the power of Indifference as discussed in the blog post of the same name. Allow no person, place or thing to affect your inner peace.
If none of these suggestions help, or gets the Narcissist out of your immediate vicinity, then you may have to start looking for another job. Breaking up with a Narcissist on a personal level is tough enough, but having to deal with them every day at work has the potential to make your life a living nightmare, that you can’t escape. If your every day is filled with torment and negativity, you may want to consider seeking other employment. Yes it would be unfair that you’re the one that has to quit, but when the alternative is to constantly be harassed, insulted, and feel like you are at war, then the choice is an easy one. Leave.
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net
It amazes me how much they are all the same. We don’t work in an office but in the open out doors on a golf course. He is suppose to be my supervisor but he has blocked me from his phone, won’t tell be the days schedule and does everything in his power to make me look and feel completely stupid. I thought my job was really important to me but I am seriously considering quitting and going no contact…..but doesn’t that make him the natcissistic winner after all?
My ex narc whom I work with has now started dating another girl we work with. He knows my schedule so he takes breaks with her at the same time I do and they sit where he knows I have to walk by so I’ll see them. It’s not getting easier. It’s like taking a bullet to see them together.
My ex just discarded me last week and we work together. Actually, we work on top of each other, as in directly with him all shift (bartenders and servers, so cliche). He hasn’t made any attempts to even talk to me since I started ignoring him completely. It’s extremely disconcerting because everything else he has done in our relationship is textbook overwhelmingly Narc, and of course my damaged insides are wondering why he doesn’t try to get me back since I’ve shown indifference to him on the surface. I know I should feel like I’m lucky and dodging a bullet but the truth is it is killing me inside that he’s not trying to hook me back in.
I have to see my narc ex at work tomorrow for the first time since I started no contact, we broke up in February and she got another girl at work in March, they seem so inlove but I know the narcissist is just using her as a source of supply. I’ve been working on a different department for almost 3 months now so I haven’t been seeing them and I’ve been quite happy. I’m a bit bummed that I have to work with them tomorrow
I was involved with a married Narc I worked with for 2 1/2 years before I broke things off. Because he is a Class 1 Narc, he did everything you have stated here. He even used these phrases 100% verbatim: “I don’t know why you’re being this way. Stop being so mean.” Or, “You’ve got problems. I didn’t do anything to make you hate me so much. Maybe you’re the one who’s got issues.” “You don’t’ know what you’re doing do you? You are so f**cked up.” when I tried to tell him WHY I wanted nothing more to do with him.
After giving in to his love-bombing 3 times very briefly (each time got shorter and shorter because I was wiser and saw through the BS quicker) I ended it for once and for all by telling his wife what he had been doing. He was FURIOUS at the time and threatened to go to management until he realized he could probably get into trouble as well, so then he just dropped it. It’s been almost a year now. He has tried to talk to me a little bit now and then but has kept it mostly work related. He did attempt to have a conversation about how we ‘can all just get along’ and ‘be friends’ since we work together, but I threatened if he stepped one foot over the professional line, I wouldn’t hesitate to contact his wife again. He got angry and asked why I brought that up, but stopped trying to to talk to me. If he needs anything he just emails me and doesn’t even speak to me when he has to come to my area. I feel very confident if I opened the door a 1/2″, he’d barrel right through and start things back up if I allowed it. I refuse to give him that opportunity and continue NC.
Narc’s are slimeballs no matter where you meet them, but yeah working with one you’ve been involved with isn’t easy!
Sav – What you described is exactly what has been happening to me. In my case, I hired a lawyer and issued a “cease a desist” letter before going for a restraining order. The threat of the restraining order seems to have worked (for now). Narcs are afraid of the truth, it’s their Kryptonite! If the behavior starts again, I would go for the restraining order and get a new job! So not worth it to live this way.
Yes, it is very difficult to date a person, especially a boss at work. I found myself very attracted to my boss but when I evaluated his behavior, I concluded that he is a narcissist. He goes from one woman to another and I am older so it would not work. I have no contact with him now. I was texting and emailing him but now nothing. I am happy I never went out with him as he would only hurt me as I’m sure he had done with a lot of women.
That old crude adage is right. I am begging everyone to please, please PLEASE do not date someone that you work with, whether they are a Narc or not. I know that as we get older it becomes harder to meet people and many of our social contacts will be developed through work, but do NOT do it! I don’t care how good looking or wonderful he might be! It makes you look bad regardless of your position in the company and unfortunately it’s even worse for your professional reputation if you are a woman. As much as I can’t stand this double standard, the double standard exists for us. We already have to work harder as is just to get an equal footing with men in many fields. Don’t throw all your hard work away.
Also, you never know how people are going to react to break ups. And most humans just generally don’t react to them well.
I made this mistake and paid dearly for it. Although the man in my case was not a Narc, he made my life a living hell at the office and it nearly tarnished my reputation at that company after I ended things. I wasn’t able to redeem myself until he relocated.
If your social circle is small, It’s better to date someone who is in the same industry but who works at an entirely company (and not a rival firm).
Please forgive the typos as I’m typing this on my phone.
Best descision I made is to come forward. N don’t like truth. More importantly it stops them in their tracks and they can’t continue with their behaviour. I’m at the point of dealing with the aftermath. I have good days bad days. But hey I’m learning making progress every day. Even the worst day now is better than any day before when they could be at my desk and harass me. They can no longer engage in this behaviour. Savannah thank you
Excellent. I think that no matter how long we feel like we have been “healed” it will give us strength to read your column and remember what he was (and still is) like and to stay away. Thanks.
Thank God I didn’t get my meat where I got my bread. My meat has been showing up lately and I’m not answering the door. One of your posters said your blog is their AA and that’s what your blog is to me too. Thank you so much Savannah. Getting out of a relationship like this is so hard.