By Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.
As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.
In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender. Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker, Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, and Ellery the Yeller.
This week it is Sandy the Snob. I’m using an androgynous name because snobs can be male as well as female and how they play it is all in the lethality of their game.
Sandy the Snob is usually a narcissistic personality. Sandy has a great deal in common with Nancy the Narcissist, Wade the One Upper, and Phoebe the Phony, so please read those three past columns to help you understand Sandy better and what you’re dealing with. Sandy may be different than Wade because Sandy’s snobbery can be silent, while Wade’s is very verbal – he needs to tell you how important he is by one upping you.
Sandy is a snob – she thinks she’s better than you. Her exalted and sometimes delusional thinking makes her believe that being a boss makes her better, smarter, richer, or morally superior to you. And that assumption may be wrong. It’s only a job title and a label that can signify nothing but the right connections, being at the right place at the right time, and not merited at all.
Her snobbery can be about status, money, clothes, job titles, or business and/or intellectual achievements. When Sandy looks you up and down, you see her eyes and brain acting as a cash register and calculator, totaling up how much your outfit, hair cut, shoes, purse, and jewelry costs. Sandy can also be an intellectual snob as well and does her snide one-upsmanship remarks and will put you down with nasty, vicious repartee. She can be an intellectual bully. She will name drop, use twenty dollar words, and make you feel like you’re in nursery school.
It’s always a power and control trip with her. She likes to feel better than you and she let’s you know it in subtle and not so subtle ways.
The Chinese expression, “Some people feel taller by cutting other people’s heads off,” captures her essence.
She will mention her college and advanced degrees, IQ points, places she has traveled, famous people she knows, her achievements – all to make you feel insecure, unaccomplished, and inferior. Whatever there is to feel superior about, Sandy can do that and so you feel so inadequate in a look, a word, or a gesture. This is a way to control you, put you down, and make you submissive to her. It’s a scare tactic motivated by her fear of being dependent on anyone or owing anything to someone.
It’s her body language that is laden with distain, snobbery, and put downs.
Think of Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” and how she treated Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs.
Her tone is haughty and condescending. She sighs, rolls her eyes, has a thin smile that belies her power, and when she unleashes her venom — watch out! However, she knows that inside, she’s an empty vessel with shallow values so externals are all she has.
Positive narcissism is taking care of yourself, eating nutritious and healthy food, getting enough sleep, taking vitamins, exercising, and having a spiritual core of gratitude to Higher Power – call it God, Buddha, Allah, Jesus, Yaweh, Krishna, or George Lucas’s The Force. Looking your best, being well groomed, having an appreciation of what you look best in – the style, cut, and color of your clothes, hair, shoes – are important in making an impression. It makes each of us stand out and be noticed.
Studies have shown that 90% of what a person thinks of you is from how you look and resent yourself. It can also be a way to promotions and raises, feeling good about yourself, and getting compliments. The best combination is to have a happy blend of style and substance – the foundation of true self esteem.
Narcissists base their shallow and fragile identities on externals – money, clothes, cars, jewelry, trips, homes, status, who they know – and other thin and meaningless affirmations.
You need to have compassion for Sandy because inside she is so fragile – she really has no inner strength, no courage of her convictions, and no real self –esteem. When you take away her money, power, connections, status, and external validations of wealth, she is NOTHING and has no identity whatsoever. She doesn’t even know who she is. Put her in a challenging situation without all of that, and most likely she would crumble like a cookie.
Sandy does her snob act with you because it’s her way of making you feel powerless, less than, unworthy, poor, ashamed, humiliated, and frightened. It’s her way to keep control and power over you. It’s a mind game.
Sometimes it’s so subtle that when you confront her on it, she will deny it. Other people might say, “Don’t be silly. She’s not doing that,” when in reality she really is. So rely on your intuition and trust your gut instincts.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior unless you let them.”
Be very tactful when and if you confront her because revenge from narcissists like Sandy can be nasty. You probably should ignore her, which may be the best way to handle her. Just unhook from her snob trips and have compassion for her. She’s really an insecure, unhappy person inside.
If she gives you advice about your outfit or job performance, take it with a grain of salt – it may not be valid at all and just a way to hurt you. On the other hand, she may be telling you important things to improve your appearance and/or productivity, so listen and then make a decision, but know her intentions may be less than honest and above board.
If and when to deal with her directly, say something like this to her. Tailor make it to your needs and say it the way you want that will get her to stop:
“Sandy, I observe how you size up the cost of my outfit, haircut, shoes, purse, and manicure. I thought my job performance depended on my competency, skills, and meeting deadlines. I didn’t think this job would be a fashion show. After all, you’re not Anna Wintour and this isn’t Vogue Magazine. I find your snobbery to be judgmental and it’s getting in the way of my work here. Your critical remarks seem to be a way to put me down, to try to scare me in an attempt to control me and make me submissive to you. I can see through that. Judge me on my work and my productivity. If you feel I can benefit from your feedback, please tell me. I like this job ad working here and I find my position challenging. I’d like to get along with you. Let’s see how we can do that!”
I hope these tips will help you in dealing with Sandy the Snob.
—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, international speaker, and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com Her book interviews include Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Investors Business Daily, Inc Magazine, Monster, AOL, Yahoo, and others.
She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW. She has written for Forbes, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting or speaking, contact her at Linnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620 or 323-333-1393.