How to Manage Egos in Tech
Working with a big ego is the woooooorst.
Egotistical people can derail conversations, slow projects, and make you feel unworthy. This unworthiness quickly leads to frustration and shame which increases stress, anxiety, and burnout.
In other words, you can’t perform your best when you’re consistently dealing with egotistical jerks.
The worst part? Big egos are typically in positions of power so you have little ammo in fighting back.
However, not all hope is lost. Here are a few workplace weapons you can discharge.
Why the ego?
If you’re going to tango with an ego, it’s important to understand why they are the way they are.
Here are some possible reasons.
Being “right” and “smart” is a part of their personal value. Unfortunately, people who get their value from being perceived as smart are often attracted to STEM/technology careers.
There is tough competition at tech companies. Accomplishing a lot–at all costs–is a great way to get noticed and rise above the rest.
Dogma can debilitate compromise. In technology fields, there are many rules and processes, some of which are followed religiously. Bending a rule can trigger some personalities and cause friction.
“Take what’s yours” mantra. Many people worship success and success-at-all-costs. This messaging is pervasive in school, sports, entertainment, and the workplace.
They had an egotistical boss. It’s always possible that they had an egotistical manager and have learned communication and management skills from them.
Ways to Manage Egos in the Tech World
If you feel like you’re in an inequitable work relationship with an oversized ego, try the following tips.
Know your stuff
It’s always important to know your stuff, but even more so when dealing with ego.
Be on top of long-term and short-term goals, time and scope of your project, and what the HIPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion) care about. Being confident in your priorities, tasks, and timelines will allow you to be direct, logical, and confident when interacting with them
In a lot of cases, it comes down to the age-old philosophy of making people feel heard. That doesn’t always mean the answer is yes to what they’re asking (most often it’s no…for now.)
Manage these requests or changes by keeping a list of “next phase” options. If you have that on hand, then you can easily accomplish their priorities if you’re in limbo.
Keeping communications lines open to what you and your team are working on ensures transparency. This may include displaying your notes during stakeholder calls, communicating recent accomplishments, or adjusting your status to what you’re currently working on.
And then never trade your future happiness for today. If something is not feasible, clearly communicate that. If your response is meant to make them happy in the moment, but ultimately isn’t feasible, it sets everyone up for failure and breaks the goodwill you’ve created.
When managing egos, it’s usually best to get to the point and be assertive. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, so here are some tips.
1. Make eye contact
2. Practice good posture
3. Keep your cool – communicate in a calm manner
If you find yourself boiling over, take a deep breath and reset
Ask the right questions
There is also the case where a new ego comes in and wants to re-do something that has already been developed or designed. Learn to ask the right questions and determine if a redo is going to improve the code or if it’s a personal preference.
Lead by example
Taking the high road isn’t as satisfying as a jab-back, but in the long run, it pays off.
You can help break the cycle of egos, especially if leaders before you fed the flames and helped create this culture. Killing them with kindness may iron out the unpleasant habits that your team has found themselves in.
A few more tips
Beyond the advice mentioned above, here’s are a few additional things you can tap into:
Don’t create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Try to start each interaction with a blank slate.
Don’t try to rationalize their behavior. Sometimes it won’t make any sense and spending time on this is a waste of energy.
Don’t take it personally. This is difficult because people with huge egos can say and do hurtful things. Personal pep talks are advised.
For most of us, it’s not possible to disengage from someone you work with besides finding a new job. So learning how to deal with and compartmentalize the egos you encounter is a crucial skill.
Overall, be direct, calm, and logical. Create work-life boundaries so you don’t take anxiety home. And don’t take it personally.
By leveraging these tools you can mitigate the negativity that egos bring and thrive in your career.
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