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How do you deal with a narcissist business partner?

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I feel badly for you! Narcissists are difficult to work with and they feel their way is the best way and seldom take the advice from others as I'm sure you have found out by now. They (in their own mind) stand on a white tower above all others and in their own minds think they are much more intelligent and "put up with the rest of us." The only way you can beat this business partner is to gauge the important things you need to have done in your business and be one step ahead. Re-read the contract between the both of you and see what decisions you can make without your business partner. Hope you left a few loop holes in that contract. If this doesn't work and is too stressful on you it's best to try to get out of the contract with this partner. You can also sell out half the business if it's profitable for you to do so. Narcissists take such a great deal of energy away from people, so really think about this and if it's worth you remaining with this business partner. Good luck Marcy


Lessons From My Personal Experience... It depends on what you mean by "deal with". What do you want to happen? He/she leaves the partnership and business? He/she continues to work in the partnership? You leave the partnership? What is the current state of your relationship with your business partner? If there is no open hostility between you (ie everything is "good") then consider:
  • Actively manage his/her ego to stay under their radar and buy yourself peace and time to think, plan and mitigate their damage to the business.
  • Seriously plan for the end of the relationship. It will end. One day, it is inevitable that you will disagree on several things in a row - and that will spark the end. Life is too short to work with a narcissist. My ex-business partner nearly drove me to suicide. Several years after leaving him, I am still recovering from the damage to my self belief, esteem and confidence.
  • Review all your contractual agreements, client and supplier relationships. What are the areas of movement available to you?
  • Start building relationships with all your clients and suppliers so he/she is not the only person they are connecting with. This can minimise the manipulation and any misrepresentation. It can even identify bad/illegal practices. My ex-business partner was sexually harassing a client's staff member, and I did not find out until after I left him.
  • Narcissists can delude themselves into believing some action is legal when it isn't. My ex-business partner once tried to give clients kick-back payments in order to secure large contracts. He thought it was perfectly legal.
  • Make sure you have the power of veto on critical decisions. Exercising this of course, will cause him/her to explode and the relationship to rapidly deteriorate. They see all disagreement as personal attacks. My ex-business partner wanted to spend all our profits on large billboard ads and complex information systems because they appealed to his ego, not because they were relevant to the business.
  • Make sure your profit sharing agreement is water tight AND you are receiving regular payment. If/when the relationship breaks up, you may get nothing, even if you have an agreement in place. My ex-business partner not only did not pay me a cent (despite an agreement), but went further to construct all manner of petty reasons why I was lucky he was not demanding I pay him to leave the business!
  • Make sure you physically have in your possession what is rightfully yours. Including payments, salary, reimbursements, and property (intellectual and physical). Possession is 9/10th the law - use it. If/when the relationship breaks up, and he/she finds themselves in charge of property that is yours, they will be able to justify not returning those property to you.
  • If the business produces intellectual property, make sure you have your name as the author on things you have created. The first thing a narcissist will do will be to claim ownership AND authorship on everything. This happened to me. My ex-business partner suddenly became the sole author of everything I produced.
  • Make sure your responsibilities to the business are clearly defined on paper, and are evenly divided and acknowledged in payment etc. When I left my business partner, he point-blank refused to acknowledge any of the extra work I put in to the businesses.
  • Use a qualified therapist who knows about narcissism. This may or may not improve the relationship. But it will give you a knowledgeable third party to fall back on should you need to provide evidence of bullying or how his/her narcissism has damaged the business to shareholders.
  • Using loads of ego strokes and praises, you may be able to cajole him/her into a graceful and calm exit of the business. I know of at least one company who went as far as setting up a completely separate company so as to move a narcissistic partner into. Once he is ensconced in the new company (because he was such a brilliant strategist etc etc etc), and when he has happily handed across all the existing client accounts, the parent company then quietly cut all contact with the new company and left it to its own devices. Needless to say, the new company soon collapsed through sheer incompetence.
If you are in open conflict with him/her, this makes the situation much harder. This was the situation I found myself in. By the time I realised I was stuck with a narcissist, he had done me so much psychological damage I could no longer think clearly. What is your current emotional state/health? Are you feeling strong and confident? Or are you feeling devastated and depressed? If you did not pick up on his/her narcissism soon enough, he/she may already have done some damage to your confidence. Remember that narcissists are very good at transferring all blame to you, undermining your self belief and self confidence, and making sure that you take full responsibility for everything bad. If you are still strong and confident, it makes taking steps to deal with him/her easier. If you have taken significant psychological damage, I would strongly suggest you get out of the relationship ASAP to protect yourself. At the end of the day, nothing is worth being the continual victim of a narcissist. How to leave (or what I would do if I had my time again):
  • If you are in control of the finances, pay out all salaries, reimbursements and entitlements ASAP. Don't do anything illegal of course. Left undone, the narcissist could delay everything as a power-play, or maybe left everything undone because work is usually beneath them.
  • Tell all your clients. File all the requisite paperwork with your regulatory agencies. Don't wait. He/she won't do it. Denial is something they do very well. As soon as I left, my ex-business partner disappeared overseas for a long holiday. He told no one. Not even clients. A year after I left, I still had government agencies chasing me for paperwork and payments!
  • Take everything that belongs to you home. Now. Don't leave anything you are not prepared to lose in the office, or in locations he/she could get to. Take computer files as well (but treat these ethically of course).
  • Do a proper handover to him/her. At least one of you can do things properly and in a mature fashion. But don't expect him/her to read or follow your instructions.
  • Cut off phone or face to face contact. Use emails only. I found it far less stressful. You do not want to put up with someone screaming at your, or calling you demeaning names in public or on the phone.
  • Get an ethical accountant and lawyer. My ex-business partner tried to get our accountant and IT provider to do unethical and illegal things post my departure. He tried to get my shares signed over to him, and copies of my emails without my consent! A narcissist is ALWAYS right in his own mind. And when he is right, he is also acting perfectly legally.
  • Document all emails and phone conversations. Keep a time-stamped diary of everything he/she says and does. If you choose to sue him/her, or if the regulatory agency comes down on something he/she has done, you need to be able to produce evidence to protect yourself.
  • Get a good therapist. Seriously. It is one way to take care of yourself. Don't expect a narcissist to give you closure on the matter. The matter may remain unsettled for years because they will only act when they are ready. And in the meantime they will continue to project blame and responsibility on you, and play they self grandising, self righteous games.
  • Know when to cut and run. Sure you may lose some money. But you do not want a matter to remain unresolved for years. My supposedly simple exit (according to our reasonable and ethical accountant) was supposed to take 2 weeks. He managed to drag it on for almost 2 years by constantly changing his demands and ignoring communications. And this was after I had left him with a profitable viable company! He was acting as if I owed him. Such is the mental state of a narcissist.
  • Don't expect him/her to understand or see or care about your point of view. They are incapable of doing so. It is a mental defect. They are also amoral, so there is no point in expecting them to act morally.
  • Don't expect any thanks or acknowledgment. They are the true genius begin the business and they did all the hard work. You should be lucky they let you help a little!
I lost a lot in that business. It was my dream business. It worked. But the partnership did not. It was defective because he was a narcissist. He got everything in the business. And within 6 months, decided to shut it down. Supposedly he had always intended to do this. Go figure. A narcissist does not operate rationally. They are totally self-obsessed. They don't care for anyone or anything else. Don't expect them to behave like normal people because they are not. I hope sharing this experience can help someone out there. I really do.
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