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  • Writer's pictureMatt Torrens

Do you know a pain-in-the-arse?

Sometimes in life, we cross paths with an enormous pain in the arse.

  • Someone with a grandiose sense of self-importance.

  • Someone with delusions of grandeur.

  • Someone who needs constant praise and admiration.

  • Someone with an overinflated sense of entitlement.

  • Someone who frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies, or belittles.

Ideally, we would simply remove this toxic person from our lives, but we often meet this person in the workplace. Sometimes they are even our boss. And that's a problem because you will interact with them - a lot.

Sound familiar? Do you know someone like this?


First and foremost, take nothing personally. It really is 'them, not you'. More often than not, the pain-in-the-arse is projecting their own fears and inadequacies onto others.

Secondly, please don't fall into the trap of thinking they will change. They Won't. Or that you can coach them to positive change. You can't.

Thirdly, learn to defy your instinct to argue with them when attacked. It won't help.

Instead, let's quickly explore a way to snuff out the fire. It's called The Grey Rock Method.


The "Gray Rock Method" was first coined by blogger Skylar on her website: - the basis of the method is to help you to be unresponsive to toxic behaviour. To snuff it out. To be plain (grey) and still (rock).

Grey Rock is a technique used to divert a toxic person's behaviour by avoiding direct responses wherever possible; for example, being careful not to display emotions during a conversation where the pain-in-the-arse is being narcissistic.

There's an awful lot of reading to be done if you want to become an expert but, for anyone who needs help more quickly, here are some tips:

  1. Stay neutral and disengaged

    1. Maintain a level tone of voice - calm and detached

    2. Keep still - minimise body language (facial expressions, waving of hands)

    3. Avoid prolonged eye contact

    4. Remain unemotional - keep a clear head and provide facts, not emotions

  2. Don't feed the monster

    1. Avoid unnecessary conversation with them

    2. Keep your personal life private from them

    3. Do not ask them about their personal life

    4. Converse only on work topics, where you have to

  3. Keep interactions short and sweet

    1. Stick to the facts - 'yes', 'no', without any elaboration further than required by your job.

  4. Don't tell them what you are doing

    1. Do not let them know you are a Grey Rock ninja!

    2. Please keep it to yourself.

If you can employ these tips, you are starving them of the responses they crave. Eventually, they will move on to someone or somewhere else.

It's not a perfect fix to their issues, but it does mean the problem is no longer yours.


Grey Rock may not be enough - you may be better off changing jobs altogether. Of course, no one should feel forced into that decision, but sometimes, it's the reality.

If the narcissism crosses a line (e.g. discrimination, abuse or threats), then Grey Rocking is probably not enough.

Report the pain-in-the-arse to HR and/or a trusted authority.


Taking Grey Rock on (actually, taking on a pain-in-the-arse narcissist) can be hard work and a lonely experience.

If you decide it is for you, you must commit to it fully. Why? Because Grey Rocking flows against your instincts to engage and seek validation from others.

But practice makes perfect, and if you can make it work, you just got yourself a short-term fix.

Longer term, you will need something more permanent (change job role, move employer), because you won't be able to (or want to) Grey Rock forever.


If you need to Grey Rock a pain-in-the-arse narcissist, then I wish you the very best of luck.

No one deserves someone like that at work!



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