Destructive ego traits can negatively impact team-working

To create great team-working, you need to leave your ego at home each day.  People talk about the ego and mean many different things.  Some people say we need a healthy ego in order to be able to function in this world.  “Healthy” could mean, for example, having a healthy sense of self, respecting healthy boundaries, or knowing your own likes and dislikes.

Commonly the ego is seen as a flawed entity, to which is attributed many distasteful character traits which we all believe everyone else demonstrates while amazingly we are squeaky clean.  I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, because, unfortunately, we all have both a healthy and an unhealthy ego at times, and I would challenge anyone to deny it. When it comes to team-working though these traits can be destructive.

Below I outline 5 destructive ego traits which I am sure we all demonstrate at times, not only in the workplace, but they can have a significant impact in that arena.  My hope is to raise awareness not beat people up.  If you find you sometimes fall into the ego trap and display some of these behaviours, then try if you can to give yourself an inward smile, realise it’s simply a ploy of the ego to suck you in, and learn from it and try to do better next time.

The 5 traits are:

1.  The need to be right

We all have different perspectives and quite often there are a number of possibilities whatever the problem.  The ego is definitely in play when we make ourselves right and others wrong.  Win/win thinking and behaviour to create better team-working is the alternative.

2.  A sense of entitlement, or specialness

A sense of entitlement and a need to be special makes the workplace competitive and self-serving, with little regard for team-working.  Individuals will have expectations about what they “deserve” and this usually means they believe others don’t deserve the same benefits, praise, salary etc. The alternative is to understand everyone makes a unique, albeit different contribution and everyone are part of the team and, therefore, valuable.

3.  Gossip

The problem with gossip is that it is mostly speculation about what might be rather than facts.   Unfortunately, speculation can grow and cause fear and discontent unnecessarily.  Not only is gossip negative energy but it is also a waste of time.   Hearing someone gossip about someone else does little to endear a person to them, it actually creates a wedge of distrust because if they can talk about others behind their backs: they might they be doing the same to you.  The alternative is to create great conversations about our own experiences, inviting others to contribute their own.  Sticking to facts and not getting personal about others.  Discussing your own thoughts, feelings etc., without attributing or assuming what other people’s motives, thoughts or feelings might be, is a way to create better team-working

4.  “Yes person” mentality, not being one’s true self

People pleasing, especially in a hierarchical team-working structure, results in a lack of growth and a denial of unique talents and contribution.  A result of a need to be liked stemming from a fear of not being good enough, or of being rejected for speaking up; some leaders encourage this trait in team members because it makes them feel secure.  The alternative is to speak your own truth but to do it in a way which respects everyone else’s too.

5.  Complaining

Complaining about others is a method we use to assert the wrongness of others and the rightness of ourselves.  It is an ego tool to distract us from trying to understand and be forgiving of others, and instead use blame to protect our own image of ourselves.  The alternative is to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to try to understand their perspective.  Stick with the facts and not take or make things personal.

So there you have the five ego traits you should leave at home.  Easier said than done, and we all fall into the trap at some time.  Do you have any other ego traits you think should be left at home?  Do you think the ego has a place in the workplace, and in generating great team-working?  I’d love to hear your views.

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