Egos. They’re everywhere. Whether of not they’re attached to a particularly talented or productive person, egos have the potential to cause some serious damage at work.
When they clash, sparks fly. Colleagues may tiptoe around these egos, careful not to set them off but all the while resenting the fact they can’t simply speak up and make what needs to be done happen.
Indeed, it’s true that having to navigate egos at work is a significant cause of work dissatisfaction. What’s there to feel accomplished about if your greatest achievement of the day was sucking up to the individual who always has to be right and get his or her own way?
Thankfully, it is possible to manage egos at work. The following guide will help.
Ask yourself, is the problem you? This is the first step to navigating the egos in your office. Your own ego could be more of a problem than you think and could be shifting your perspective of others and what’s really causing the drama. Do you feel the need to always be right? Are you continually challenging the opinions and decisions of others? Can you take constructive criticism? You can’t expect to be able to deal with the egos of others unless you know how to manage your own.
Validate their worth. Sometimes, the big egos are just desperate for some love. That may just involve showing some appreciation for what they do and the effort they put in. It’s not difficult to offer a kind word from time to time, as long as such attention doesn’t mean the quieter, less egotistical team members go ignored.
Know the limits. It’s a fine balance figuring out how much to give in to an ego and when to push back. Getting the best out of people often requires appealing to their ego, but give too much and it’ll be continually expected. Set your boundaries and limitations in advance so you enter conversations prepared and ready for how far you’re willing to go.
Avoid/ignore/forget them. This may or may not be possible, depending on the relationship. But if it is possible then forget trying to compete or work with the egomaniacs in your office and ignore them. This means leaving your own ego at the door, and ignoring that underlying feeling to compete with them.
Cut them down to size, privately. This isn’t a nice thing to do, but if the big egos in your workplace are continually talking themselves up, sprouting bullshit and annoying everyone in the office, it’d be kind to just take them aside and try offering a few words of advice. Let them know that while they bring great experience and energy to their work, they might want to lay off the self talk a little and help encourage others in the team to speak up.
Speak up. There’s only so much you can take. When the egos in your office or team cross the line, pull them up on it. Tell all those involved to focus on the work, rather the personalities behind the work. Take them aside and ask what’s behind the behaviour and whether there are steps that can be taken to end it.
Celebrate collaboration. Acknowledging the outcomes of a team effort, rather than the individual contributions of the work such outcomes involved, can be a great trick for managing multiple egos in the office. From there, individuals can be privately acknowledged. While it’s important that colleagues and team members receive their own personalised feedback, celebrating the big picture is great for encouraging everyone to support and enjoy working with each other.
This is an edited version of advice that first appeared in May 2014.