How often have you heard that our favorite topic is ourself? This is certainly true but a few people go overboard. We call them egocentric. At a neurotic level, they become narcissistic. This comes from the Greek character Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and remained there, mesmerized by his image.
But we are managers, not therapists, so let’s stay with the egotist.
These individuals make terrible managers. They hog all the credit for themselves, overlooking the contributions of their staff. So consumed with their own self-importance and self-interest, they fail to develop their employees. How could they? It would require them to pay attention to someone else. They make poor employees too, especially wherever teamwork and collaboration is needed for high performance.
The problem with egocentrics in the workplace is that they are disconnected. Yes, they are physically there in the room, in the meeting, on the shop floor, but they are not tuned in to the interests, needs, opinions, or the very value of their co-workers.
What can the manager do to coach an egocentric employee toward a more healthy ego state? Here are a couple of ideas.
- Invite them to start taking a genuine interest in others around them. Ask them questions like:
- “Where might your colleagues disagree with you about this? What merit does their opinion have?”
- What interests you about Sally’s point-of-view?”
- “I understand now what you think. Would you be interested in hearing my take on the subject?”
- “Yes, you did a fine job on that project. Who else contributed to its success?
- Give them some direct behavioral feedback, owning your message with the pronoun “I”, for example:
- “In my experience, I find you talk a lot about what you have done and how well you do your job. I rarely hear you speak about what other people think or what they have done to help you.”
- “I would like to see you shift some of your focus off of your own concerns and onto those of others you interact with. This is key for your success on this team. Furthermore, I think not making this shift will hurt your longer term career, wherever you work.”
- If they are struggling in an area of their job or with an important working relationship, get them to come up with a possible reason. For example:
- “You say Fred and his group seem to be avoiding you. Why do you think this is? Is there anything about the way you deal with them that might explain their reluctance to engage with you?”
- (complains that people don’t share their ideas with him/her or offer to help) “Well, what do you do to make them feel their suggestions are valued and respected? Have you asked them what they think? When they make a suggestion, how do you typically respond?”
Until an overblown ego employee realizes the impact that his (or her) attitude is having on fellow employees, you have no hope of getting him to begin the change he needs to make.