Dealing with the ego in the workplace

With the increasing demands in the workplace, many individuals resort to ego-based behaviour to land themselves professionally, but why do we fall into this trap and how does the person on the receiving end deal with an ego on a daily basis?

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There have been many experiences over the years, where I have witnessed and endured the ego in the workplace:

  • Individuals who believe their importance was greater than mine or another's
  • They are too busy to help you out with a task because it's way down the priority list
  • They don't make or take the time to speak with you when you are seeking guidance or answers for a work task displaying that it’s not important to them

I can remember how these behaviours would impact me in the workplace; I’d generate and process a series of questions equating to self-worth, confidence and beliefs, which quite frankly were nothing whatsoever to do with me.

See, more often than not, the individual behaving in this fashion is more than likely unaware of their behaviour.

  • Caught up in the daily grind of their work position, it can often be a behaviour that is being reflected on them by their own boss or another colleague, or their ego is taking the lead as a consequence of stress or other pressures.
  • In some instances, they feel powerless in their personal situation, that the ego takes over in their work life to boost their self worth or confidence.
  • The lack of self-belief in their own ability can also contribute to behaviour; the fear of being found out.

In all these instances the option to provoke or belittle someone else will provide the upper hand – this is all ego-based behaviour.

This is something that can be difficult to digest when on the receiving end of this behaviour. Remember, it’s not personal nor is it an attack on you. As humans, we display fears and insecurities in a number of ways; the ego behaviour is one of those ways. Think of it like a wall going up around that person, that protects them and stops anyone getting close on matters that make them feel uncomfortable or fearful.

I’ve found that when individuals were confronted about their behaviour, they are shocked and embarrassed that they have behaved in such a way and are quickly apologetic and mindful in the future.

When faced with this situation, the best way to respond is to remain calm and inform them of how their demeanour has made you feel.

Of course, there will be instances where this is not the case and even after speaking with an individual the situation hasn’t improved. In the small instances where this is the case there are practical actions that can be taken.

  • Be sure to capture the conversation in writing and to maintain a record of any further conversations with the individual. Escalate through the appropriate channels in your workplace and decide on the best course of action mutually.
  • Keep reminding yourself that it’s not personal and explore all other options that are available to you. Perhaps its time to evaluate where you are and think about what your next step professionally should be if things do not improve.
  • Remember your value and self-worth in all of this, I recall times where I felt I wasn’t good enough or that I did something wrong. This was not the case and actually, different people have different values and expectations – we are individual and unique in our own way.

It’s important to embrace who you are and not succumb to the pressure of the workplace ego, if something doesn’t feel right then trust what you feel you should do over what you think you should do. The answers are already within.

Josie Copsey

Life Change Expert, Author, Mentor, Josie Copsey Ltd

Career changes, figuring out the perfect job, building incredible leaders and wellbeing are my jam. But before all of this, there was a corporate girl who had to go through quite a few setbacks, lessons and experiences. Ambitious, driven and focused I built a very successful change and training career that spanned over two decades. Helping leadership teams of large companies to transform their business. But back in 2013 I had enough. I was lost and didn’t recognise who I was anymore. A combination of being professionally bullied, suffering with burnout from working 12-hour days and zero personal life had done me in. My corporate work life had taken over me, I was selling my soul to a job and my health was suffering as a result. I took action and quit the job. Getting clear on my career was the ultimate light-bulb moment for me. But, there had been no definitive path in how I go about making this career change happen; all I knew was what I wanted to do and my determination and focus guided me through. I’m a gal who loves to plan and organise – a couple of my superpowers – so I documented every step and action I took knowing that one day, this would help others just like me. Those who have an idea on what they want to do, but unsure how to make it happen. Those who feel lost and hate their job, but don’t know what to do. Those who are stuck and looking for direction. I teach what I’ve done personally to build a career doing what I love and living the life I want. I’m all about taking action; you tell me what you want and I’ll show you how to make it happen. It is absolutely possible and achievable to be in a job you love; a job that brings you purpose and job satisfaction. You’re here for a reason. Your talents, your heart, your passion – you are one of a kind.


Go to the profile of Misti Bliss
over 4 years ago
Too true, work place bullying has its roots in playground bullying, where often those that are bullied become the bully without consciously making that decision.