Five Strategies for Dealing with the Egocentric
JW Way Fundamental #9: Leave your ego at the door. "At all times, stay focused on serving the needs of our client and our firm, rather than on serving your ego. Remember – it’s about the client and our firm, not you!"
Adolescence is hard. Many teens struggle with leading with their ego. Rather than being open to learning, they respond with “I know”. They argue points and are not always open to opposing views. Teens typically enter a room with their ego as their shield. We all have egos. Without them we would not be highly functioning professionals. There are times that we want to be right, to get credit for work that we have done, get the gold star, or simply be seen and appreciated. These are times when it can be easier to lead with your ego or even use it as a shield.
In our professional lives, most of us have dealt with a very egocentric person. Perhaps it is the teen waiting for emotional intelligence to develop or maybe it is an adult who navigates through life by leading - and sometimes - intimidating others with their ego. Being on the receiving end of an egocentric person creates challenges. Frequently it creates frustration and anger. It may create a passive-aggressive dynamic. None of these outcomes help the client, a co-worker, our firm, or you.
If you find yourself leaning into ego a bit too much or facing an egocentric person, these are five strategies that may help:
Depersonalize it – It is not about you. This runs both ways. If you are on the receiving end of an egocentric individual wanting their way or if you may be leading with your ego, an effective strategy is to depersonalize it. Your ego doesn’t need validation nor do you need to take personally any of the arrows that the egocentric person is launching at you. Conversely, if you are the person leading with your ego, look at the reasons why and then make it not about you.
What is my, the company’s, or the client’s goal? Behavior should drive you towards reaching the goal. At times leading with your ego will damage your client’s position, fracture a relationship, or cause additional work. Question if it is really about what’s best for you or what is best for the client and/or your work team.
Do you need to count to five, take a deep centering breath or do something else to allow yourself time? Again, this concept flows both ways. If you find yourself jumping right into the fray, potentially getting defensive or see that behavior displayed from an egocentric person, take five. Responding immediately may create an escalation which frequently creates resolution delay.
Because the pandemic created a distributed work force, there is less face time and potentially less opportunities for work, or an individual, to shine. Has the need to lead with ego increased with the pandemic and work from home? Is there more egocentric behavior now? And, if you are facing someone who is ego escalated, what can you do? Be human, be humble, have empathy and seek understanding. This does not mean that the person leading from ego has permission to step on the other person. It simply means we need more humility and understanding in our human relationships.
If you found that you’ve led with your ego, clean up the damage that you’ve done to keep the relationship intact. If you are faced with an egocentric person, try one of the coping strategies. And, if you’re the parent of a teen – there is hope that someday you might be the smartest person in the room.
About the Author: Brenda Edwards is the Executive Director of the law firm of Jaburg Wilk. She frequently writes on management topics.