Ego Problem #1
You’ve seen this individual many times. The employee who regularly shares with you how great he (she) is, what a terrific job he is doing (“I just made an awesome presentation.”), how much he knows (“Sorry to correct you but the research on this says…”). He refutes or deflects constructive feedback (“No, you’ve got it wrong. People actually do like to work with me. I have an expertise they need.”)
The sad reality is that these people are often really smart. They have a lot to give your organization. They have the intelligence and drive to become star performers. If only they weren’t so full of themselves. As it is, no one wants to work with them. No one wants them as their boss. People feel put down and belittled in their presence.
Ego Problem #2
Now let’s look at another type of employee. She (he) works for you and is not living up to what she could potentially bring to the job. You have been trying to grow her abilities and stretch her comfort zone by suggesting she take on a special project or be assigned to a project team or fill in on an acting basis for you when you take your vacation. Presented with these opportunities her standard response is a version of “Oh no, I don’t think I could do that” or “I’m not ready for that.” When you press the case further, she expresses her negative self-talk more specifically, “No, I’m not good working with people” or “You have to give presentations on that team, don’t you. I’m terrible at public speaking.”
An overblown ego can dampen an employee’s effectiveness…and ability to contribute his/her best performance.
An underdeveloped ego can dampen an employee’s effectiveness…and ability to contribute his/her best performance.
What can you, their manager, do with these two types of employees? How do you get #1 to dial down his sense of self importance? And how do you get #2 to dial up her sense of self-esteem?
Here are two quick answers.
- Ego #1. The individual needs to come to understand how he is perceived by others. He must “get” how his self-centered behavior is affecting how others work (or don’t work) with him. And, he needs to see how his style is actually hindering his effectiveness in his current job and, by extension, his prospects for promotion.
- Ego #2. The individual needs to realize her strengths and to “own” the possibility that, in fact, she could do what she currently assumes she can’t. She must test the truth of her assumptions about herself.
I will go deeper into each case in my next two blog posts.