How to Reduce Stress at Work: Avoid Toxic Social Narcissists  

Summary: We live with fake news, general rancor, sizzle and sparkle, slander, and superficiality. As leaders, you must look at the information you receive more intently. Here are ways to judge if someone is here to help or hinder long-term success. 

Dear Dr. Sylvia, 

I watched a recent 60 Minutes segment that was chilling. It showed deep fakes computer-generated video and audio, often of real people that are made to look natural but are not! 

Moreover, this is now a new term. It is “real fakes.” 

That is what is called an “oxymoron.” 

For example, something is seriously funny, deeply superficial, or awfully good. The definition is “a figure of speech with contradictory terms.” 

That is to say, spinning words and images out of thin air are now endless. 

In the segment, Tom Cruise was talking and playing the guitar. 

Yet, it wasn’t him. Or was it? No, it wasn’t. 

Then there was the CBS reporter, Bill Whitaker, talking. Nope, computer generated. 

As a leader, who do you listen to, and who do you trust? 

Therefore, it got me thinking about who to listen to and trust. 

Everyone is talking about those self-absorbed people they know who are labeled narcissists.  

I bet you know some. I sure do. 

Social narcissists can cause extensive damage to leaders’ ability to lead effectively. 

Yet, social narcissists are different. They spin tales that can bring down governments. 

I am more concerned about how they can bring down my company. 

What thoughts do you have on what to be aware of and what to do next? 


Won’t Be Fooled 

Dear WBF, 

A big part of today’s world is led by some of the world’s best social narcissists. There is so much spin that it’s hard to know the truth from fake news.  

Is this new?  

Not hardly, just more apparent. Check out the 1997 Barry Levinson Film “Wag the Dog starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, or tune into any recent Saturday Night Live program.  

It’s one thing to watch others come up against the banter of master manipulators. However, they also show up at work. Maybe even at your workplace.  

Social narcissism is epic and epidemic these days. 

Check out the empty promises such as “Write your best-selling book in two weeks” or “Become a great leader in two months with the program.” Here is one more, “Make a seven-figure income in a month.” 

Learn how to spot it so you won’t get caught in the undertow.  

Pay attention to the core communication at the heart of what is said.  

Social narcissists make promises they never intend to keep.  

For instance, they over-promise and under-deliver built into their deep psyches. They say, “You are amazing, great, fabulous, and I can instantly help you fulfill your most important dreams.” Of course, they never say that they are scamming you. 

It sounds so good and even comforting. 

I’m usually considered a good listener and always thought I had a great bullshit detector. However, years ago, I had the wool pulled over my eyes and lost a chunk of change because a social narcissist seduced me. 

He purported to be the social media maven of the century and know all the trade tricks. He used all the words that had my radar buzzing. 

For instance, words such as important (talking about me being vital as a leadership expert)), powerful (talking about my work is powerful for all executives), and life-changing (what it would do for the world). 

Listen to your inner leadership expert residing in your gut. 

My inner voice kept hearing Shakespeare warning me to be careful, that I focused on “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”  

I didn’t listen to my gut.  

Instead, I decided to take a swig of this man’s fantastic cool-aid. Initially, it tasted great, like a vitamin tonic. It was “awfully good.” 

I felt inspired, ignited, and invigorated.  

However, soon the tonic became “bittersweet.”  

All in all, it soon wore off, and there were no significant, unique, fabulous results, just a queasy feeling, a bonafide hangover. 

So, I did a deep dive into the characteristics of social narcissists,  

Here is what I found. 

Above all, they appear to be high achievers and are on the fast track to success. They have tons of stamina and never seem to get tired. They love to work, and time off is considered time wasted. They will guarantee to lead you up that mountain of success since they have climbed that route and know the shortcuts.  

Leaders must learn to pay attention to the clues of social narcissists. 

They appear to be compassionate and filled with empathy. These men and women are great at mirroring your emotions and taking you past your fears and concerns. 

They fan the ego flames and entice you to envision a better you, a better business, and a better world. 

Empathy feels good. However, it’s not just like the newest deep fakes you saw on 60 Minutes. 

These social narcissists look good, compassionate, and empathetic. That is until you say “no.”  

Leaders who learn to resist the temptation of social narcissists are the real winners 

They will fight you with their confidence and charisma until you disagree with their ideas and want to trick you into thinking your ideas are old-fashioned.  

In fact, they and only they are on the cutting edge. That is until you look at your bank account; you see no ROI for the investment. 

Listen to the words, and especially, listen to your gut.  

Look, we all have weak spots. It’s essential to become aware of them, so when you feel that queasy feeling or your BS detector is ringing loud and clear, you can quickly find the way OUT by observing yourself, understanding where the weakness started, and then transforming that weakness into a strength. Once I saw how my teacher of social narcissism had seduced me, I became a detective and helped many others bypass the trap. 

I need to warn you. 

We live in an instant world, or so we think. Don’t buy the simple one or two-step plan. Mastery takes time and diligence. Mixed messages and empty promises are the products of the social narcissist. If it feels like a seduction, you can bet it is! 

It’s your leadership responsibility to do more than a simple background check.  

Follow the dots and ask questions. Watch the Steven Spielberg film with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio, “Catch Me If You Can.”  

Find a coach who can help you dig into how to handle a social narcissist.  

Pay attention to those scammed on the Netflix series The Tinder Swindler about Simon Leviev, who knew how to entice many women to give him money, or watch Inventing Anna about Anna Delvey (nee Sorokin) who stole the heart and money of the New York elite. 

Guess they didn’t learn how to listen to their gut or ask probing questions. 

I end with a statement from the ever-popular Broadway show “Into the Woods by masterful James Lapine and brilliant Steven Sondheim.  

There is a scene where Cinderella confronts her Prince about an affair, “If this is the way you behave as a prince, what kind of king will you be?’ 

He responds, “I was born to be charming, not sincere.” 

And there you have it. 

Here’s to your success, 


P.S. Becoming a leader who makes a significant difference means doing deep inner work. And, yes, considerable changes do take time. My book Don’t Bring It To Work will help steer you in the right direction. However, it’s not an easy fix! 

PSS. Get the four-module STRESS BUSTERS online program at the half-price summer “hot discount” of $297 by clicking here. It will guide you, not prevent, just direct you to handle stress more effectively.  

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options