Thursday, 22 January 2009

Leggo your ego!

Leggo your ego!

Handling egos in the workplace well can spell the difference between havoc and healthy relationships, says Surekha Guptan

   Egos – we all have them! It is what gives us confidence. The overwhelming majority of us don't have inflated egos, but we're all capable of letting our egos run riot on occasion. Behavioral science experts believe that getting along with coworkers directly correlates with checking your ego at the door. From poor communication to failed negotiations, ego can lay a dangerous path of destruction. The obnoxious and overbearing behaviour that comes with it can damage creativity, undermine effective problem solving and cause stress. "Our creative director is a jerk," says Sambavi Suri, a visualiser. "He demands the credit for every idea, uses a lot of 'I' instead of 'we" during team efforts and dominates conversations and meetings. He does not miss a chance to criticize our ideas. His behaviour has had an adverse impact on our team morale." Egotistical people also feel that they have to be the center of attention to validate themselves. They often neglect the needs of those around them and think only in terms of what will suit them. "When we travel on projects, it's all about our manager and his needs," says Venkatesh Varsi, a marketing executive. "He makes sure he has the best room in the guest house, meals are ordered according to his tastes. He keeps us busy in the evenings so that we are unable to contact our families. This works well with him as he is single. I am sure given the size of his ego; there is no room for a partner." Research has found that more than onethird of all failed business decisions are driven by ego. An egotistical person often believes that another's success means they've failed. They feel better when people around them achieve and earn less. "While I can recognise the sign of a big ego in others, I did not realise that I too was operating on an out-of-control ego," shares Kamini Sarathy, head, overseas operations. "I was willing to do just about anything to gain power, grab the spotlight and undermine people. Taking an ego test on the internet was an eye-opener. I was behaving in a way that I would find disgusting in others." It is tempting to fight ego with an even bigger ego of your own. But that is just not the way to win the battle. The wear and tear of dealing with someone who's demanding and self-absorbed can be stressful. "Ego monsters can be bullies," says Aparna Sharma, Head, Human Resources. "A big ego is a sign of deeper personal insecurity so it calls for sensitive and compassionate handling. Rewarding teamwork instead of individual performance reduces the incentive for egotistic behaviour." If we are able to use our ego effectively, we can turn it into a positive asset. Driving away insecurity, it can be a powerful predictor of success.

QUESTIONS FOR self reflection

Do you find yourself:

Feeling the need to be the center of attention? Manipulating or dominating your co workers? Feeling recognised only if you are better than the team? Feeling the need for an 'I' instead of 'we' in the team? Ignoring your team's needs? Criticising other people's ideas? Objecting to most suggestions by the team? 'Using' people to move ahead in your career? Having meaningful relationships at work?

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