MT Expert - People: Dealing with egos in the workplace

Is one of your employees a bit of a Tevez? Christopher Barrat explains how to keep big personalities under control.

by Christopher Barrat
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Do you have a Tevez on your team? Do some of your high performers see themselves as so good that it is beneath them to get off the bench and help their teammates with their task?

Workplace egos can be tricky things to handle. On the one hand you want strong characters on your team who are self-motivated and who have a  desire to win, but what happens when this goes to their already big heads and makes them tough to deal with?

A popular way to handle this is to hope that one day they have a spectacular fall from grace and you can all enjoy seeing them crash and burn. This may be a fun thought, but it is not usually a good one. Firstly they can often create a lot of collateral damage on the way down and sometimes their egos are so big that they develop a Teflon coating – the disaster happens and they don’t even feel/realise that it was anything to do with them: it must have been someone else’s fault.

There are three ways to tackle these types of people and it depends on your level in the hierarchy compared to them.

If you are their boss

This is your key responsibility – so don’t shirk it, even if they are your star performer. It is rare in business today that one person can do everything; you need the whole team to succeed. Tackle them directly, and in private. The key message is ‘You are great, and you could be even better’.  Focus on the fact that this type of behaviour is hindering their promotion prospects.

If you are their colleague

Remember to have the right mindset – you are not trying to put them down, you are trying to help them to be more effective. Tackle them in private, and if you can get another colleague to come along too then that helps. You need to show them that it’s not just ‘you versus them’ but that there is a wider consensus within the team that things need to change. Focus on giving them alternative behaviour strategies.

If you are an underling

This isn’t your responsibility – but you can transform the working environment and your own reputation positively if you choose to tackle the big egos – remember David and Goliath. Strange as it may seem, it’s best to tackle them in a very public forum: our culture does not allow egotists to crush the little people, so you will get back up from others. Focus on how their behaviour is demoralising you and others – so the emphasis is not on them, but the effect it has on you. Try and have a word with one of their work colleagues beforehand so you know you have an instant ally.

We all want great strikers on our team who can get the ball in the back of the net at the critical time. We all accept that with some of these skills is bound to come a good dollop of personal ego, and we can cope with it most of the time. We also all have a duty to stand up to these egos when they get too big for their boots

- Christopher Barrat is a motivational speaker and communications expert to those in the public eye. He can be contacted at www.greystone.co.uk

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