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How to deal with big egos

Working in a company means collaborating with all kinds of colleagues, who all have different characteristics and qualities.

Having a vision, aspirational goals, willingness to take risks, but also persuasiveness and a high level of self-confidence are often associated with a successful manager or leader.

However, this is one side of the coin, these qualities could also be marked by impulsiveness, not willing to listen, not being open for any advice and incompetence when recklessness prevail.

If that is the case, co-workers will call this a person with a big ego. And many people find it difficult or demotivating to work with such a “big ego person”.

Why is that?

People with big egos love themselves too much. If they worry at all, it is about themselves and not thinking about anyone else. They do not have empathy and there is no question of showing any kind of interest towards others.

They must be the centre of attention and all eyes should be on them. They feel important, even superior, they are convinced that they are better, stronger, more beautiful or more intelligent than others. And on top of that they have an intrinsic believe that their colleagues consider them important too.

Simply said: they know everything best, they consider themselves perfect, and everything they do is perfect and that is because they consider their own qualities to be very special and unique. And so, they claim the credits for all good ideas (and the bad ideas come from other people).

As a result, they cannot tolerate criticism. They see this as an attack on the image they have of themselves. They always want to be proven right, no matter what it takes, as long as it is done their way and that is one of the reasons they often behave arrogantly, sometimes even tyrannical.

The problem is that people with a big ego do not dare to acknowledge their mistakes and rather continue saving failed projects, even if it costs a lot of money and time.

The fact that they are overconfident and cannot see beyond their own beliefs (their perspective is the only correct one) causes a lot of conflict with other people.

So, big egos believe they are the centre of the universe. And if this doesn't happen, they feel ignored and get angry. They want you to always follow them blindly and that is clearly visible in their communication style: they command and control, manage by fear, give orders and does not listen.

Why is having a big ego not always bad?

The above summary does not paint a very nice picture of a big ego. People with a big ego also often become leaders of a group. And especially when a company is in a crisis, it is good to have a general manager with a big ego. S/he will take decisions that someone else doesn’t dare. Many companies have grown successfully because of a leader with a strong drive.

How to deal with big egos?

  • Know how you to keep yourself going and that starts by being aware of your own qualities. Make a list of your capabilities, skills, successes and accomplishments.

  • Tell your narcissistic boss loud and clear about what you find difficult and what you would like to see differently. There is a fair chance that your boss will take this into account.

  • Don’t decide for him or her. Better to give 3 options to choose from. If you do that cleverly, the big ego will take your preferred option.

  • Consciously try to show own leadership behaviour by e.g. proposing alternatives. If it is a good plan, you will come across as a leader and people will follow you. (See also my blog about the Rose of Leary).

  • If you are in a situation you do not feel comfortable with, dare to take a stand and choose your own path.

  • Arrange a 1-on-1 conversation, for example having lunch in a restaurant. These “private” conversations are excellent moments to ask good empathic questions, because it is possible to get through to "the person" behind the ego.

  • Be careful with compliments. Too much praise inflates a person’s ego and makes them careless.

  • If you have a team meeting, focus on the others, give them (also) compliments. By doing that the attention is taken away from the person with the big ego.

  • When having a discussion, be prepared by showing facts and figures and ask questions that stimulate logical and structural thinking.

THE GOLDEN NUGGET IS ……. The behavior of a big ego may arise from fear or doubt. Deep down they are terrified of not being good or strong enough. Therefore, they constantly intimidate their colleagues in order to feel superior. These are often noisy “black-white” thinking people. There is no link between a person's level of determination and the likelihood of being right. Keep that in mind.

There is much more to tell you about dealing with BIG EGOS. Please contact me if you would like to get more information or you would like to be coached to either create strong relationships with big egos or to manage your own ego.


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