by Megan Howard
Juggling your everyday tasks and responsibilities is enough to keep you busy at work. Toss in some delicate egos, and suddenly your job just got stressful at best and emotionally exhausting at worst.
If fact, tiptoeing around egos can lead to high levels of dissatisfaction and disengagement. If left unaddressed, it’s enough to sow discord throughout the workplace and lead to even bigger issues.
We can all agree that allowing the problem to blossom is the last thing everyone wants. The difficult part is handling this delicate, complicated issue before it has a chance to cause damage throughout the company.
Luckily, there are several ways to approach things diplomatically before jumping to drastic measures – even if the ego that’s causing trouble is yours.
Draw Your Boundaries & Stick to Them
If you’re about to start a new job, this is an ideal opportunity to figure out what you do and don’t tolerate when it comes to egos at work. A mental list of what you are willing to ignore and what you’ll have issues with will help prepare your reactions if you ever encounter ego problems.
Designing these personal rules on the fly can cause you to second guess yourself or question if you’re being reasonable. You don’t have to be the new guy or gal at work to come up with boundaries. If you’re actively dealing with a challenging ego, it’s helpful to take a step back until you can think about what your boundaries are. This doesn’t mean being a doormat. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to continue putting up with unacceptable behavior just because you have in the past. The most important thing is deciding upon your boundaries when you have a clear head, and not in the heat of the moment when lashing out is more likely.
Once you are confident in the lines you’ve drawn in the sand, it will be less stressful to hold true to them. Limits regarding egos can mean not tolerating “playful” jabs about your work. It can mean not groveling or appealing to egos every day.
The beauty of boundaries is that they’re yours to set. As long as you’re reasonable and fair, you can have confidence in your boundaries and enforcing them.
There’s No “I” in “Team”
It’s interesting how those with big egos tend to warp the meaning of the words “team” and “teamwork.” To some, those definitions are flexible and can come to mean things like “I, me,” and “mine.” Which is why it’s good practice to emphasize group efforts and not individual victories.
Congratulating the team as a whole and celebrating successes rather than calling out individuals on their contributions, is a great way to take down big egos a notch or two. It’s a powerful and humble reminder that everyone’s efforts are vital to the success of the project, company, or overall success of the workplace. Especially as a workforce may consist of individuals with different backgrounds and from different generations, it’s important to focus on creating a community with a common purpose.
Now, it’s natural to want to be recognized for your effort in a project. Those individual pats on the back are okay, and often well-deserved. Saving them for one-on-one conversations is a way to keep egos in check, you’ll avoid putting certain people on a pedestal in front of the whole team.
Stand Up for Yourself
When boundaries are crossed, it’s up to you to say something about it. Sometimes, the situation allows you to handle it on your own. A few polite yet firm words can often squash an inflated ego. Other cases require you to stand your ground, but there’s only so much one can take.
When calling out egotistical behavior doesn’t cut it, it’s time to have a private conversation and provide feedback to the individual. Find out if they fully appreciate how their words and actions are affecting you or other coworkers. Ask if they’re willing to put effort into changing in the interest of the team. Try to figure out if there’s a way to end egotistical behavior.
If you’re not in a position to do this, make the people who are in that position well aware of the issue. Allowing a big ego to throw their weight around the office will only cause the problem to snowball. Most people deserve a chance to correct their behavior – but a lot of them won’t recognize the problem until you have a decent discussion about it.
Mind Your Ego
It can happen to anyone, your ego gets a little too out of hand, and the problem in the workplace is suddenly you. The good news is, if you recognize your issue is potentially causing problems, you’re already on the path to making things right. The best thing you can do as an employee, leader and good manager, and coworker is not to take negative feedback too personally. Sure, it’s not pleasant to know you’ve made a misstep or caused someone stress.
However, don’t forget that someone talking to you about it is trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and the chance to fix things. Leaving your ego at the door is, of course, the ideal scenario. There are plenty of ways to achieve this and avoid complications.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get into that mindset and have your ego inflated as a side-effect. If you find yourself getting into this mood, think instead: What would happen to this place without everyone else?
Dealing with big egos can feel like the end of the world, especially when you’re unsure of how to tackle the problem.
The best strategy is to address it before it actually does become unbearable – it might feel uncomfortable, but your future self will thank you. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with having boundaries and enforcing them, and no one should make you feel bad for doing so.
If the problem is with your own ego, then you’re the best person to be tasked with simmering it down. Don’t take negative (constructive) feedback too personally. Consider it a sign that everyone would rather give you a chance to adjust some less than desirable behaviors, than show you the door.