Like Dracula, workplace narcissists have reason to fear the sunlight

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)

Bela Lugosi as Dracula (1931)

Retired English professor Linda Labin brings Dracula and narcissism together in a thought-provoking blog post, “Dracula is The Iconic Toxic Narcissist“:

When I speak or write about toxic narcissism, which is, I believe, the source of all evil in the world, I often mention that toxic narcissists are like ‘psychic vampires,’ in that they suck the souls out of good, compassionate people in the same fashion as mythical (I hope) vampires suck the life blood out of trusting victims. That construct leads me to examine here the idea that Dracula, the epitome of vampirism, is also a perfect icon of toxic narcissism.

How apt a connection for this blog! At work, it’s not unusual to find Dracula a narcissist in a position of power, influence, and responsibility. After all, some of the very qualities that give more decent folks the shivers have helped the narcissist climb up the greasy pole.

Like Dracula, workplace narcissists work best in the dark and in the shadows. Operating in stealth mode, they strive to ensure that their targets are left to defend themselves alone. They can quietly pick off these victims that way, one-by-one.

Also like Dracula, pouring sunlight onto a workplace narcissist is one of the best ways to diminish him. This process of illumination is very rarely a grand public gesture. Rather, it’s typically done through the grapevine, via an expanding circle of private conversations — mostly in-person, sometimes via e-mail or social media — where people share their stories and those of others. The clinical term may not enter the stream of dialogue immediately — livelier, often profane descriptors tend to be used — but at some point someone will mention that they “read an article about narcissists and so-and-so fits the description to a T.” Hey, you don’t always need training in clinical psychology to connect those dots.

So here’s the thing with workplace narcissists: Prolonged exposure to them is revealing. They may charm you at first, but eventually the manipulations, lies, bullying, gaslighting, and other lovely behaviors show themselves.

What counts is the potential impact of being outed. When the twisted practices of a workplace narcissist become well known throughout an organization, said narcissist may lose a chunk of his perverse power, because people are on to him and can sometimes neutralize him. It doesn’t mean that his power is completely dissipated, nor does it guarantee that all are now protected from his actions. But potentially, at least, it’s the beginning of the end for him, or at least a partial de-fanging. Bite on that, Drac.

5 responses

  1. I certainly agree with this post. The only catch is that it could take many years for any kind of grapevine chat to catch up with the toxic boss/worker. If the Drac is in a position of power, most people will not want to take the risk of joining a campaign against that person – even psychologically, because they will feel the psychic threat just as much as the physical one to their job.
    I have witnessed a powerful ‘light’ senior staff member, newly recruited, start to ‘melt’ a Drac in just a few days, which was something no lower level member of staff had been able to do. Until such an event, though, victimised workers will probably have to work alone.
    I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that it is a spiritual battle they would be undertaking.
    I personally recommend anyone in such a position to either get out of the workplace, or take protection by being very sincere in their spiritual practice and study, and have faith that the outcome will be as it should be according to your Faith. For example, as a Christian, I was very much assisted by John Bevere’s book: “How to respond when you feel mistreated”. However, this kind of support is likely to also need back up from supportive family members, and/or a very close friend (a spouse is usually the only one who would be able to undertake this role, which is bound to require years of patient listening, advice, etc).

  2. Such an interesting commentary and metaphor. I would, however, be careful about the outing process. If it doesn’t work, revenge will be strong, including deeper bites.

    From a psychological standpoint, the way to try to manipulate a narcissistic leader (and the way to try to treat that in psychotherapy) is to continue to support and mirror their narcissism, then find alternative ways and places for that narcissism that are less destructive, at least until the narcissism can be slowly reduced. I think informally that can sometimes be called “buttering up” one’s boss in order to achieve a goal the narcissist would otherwise not desire.

    Steve Moffic, M.D.

    • Hi Steve, thank you for sharing your insights here!

      I agree that dealing with a workplace narcissist, especially one in a superior position, is treacherous, and your points about the outing process are well taken. I see that process as an educative one that ideally should never include the narcissist in the loop. To the degree that “buttering up” is part of the response, it should be for the purpose of manipulation and mutual protection. I also have seen instances where bureaucratic structures can be leveraged to block the workplace narcissist from achieving his objective, which may have included hurting more people.

  3. “If she live on, Un-Dead, more and more lose their blood and by her power over them they come to her. But if she die in truth, then all cease; the tiny wounds of the throats disappear, and they go back to their plays unknowing of whatever has been.”
    —Prof. A. Van Helsing
    ch.18 of Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897

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