How to Deal With Egocentric Coworkers and Bosses

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Egocentric people at work can make your life miserable and even ruin your career. However, by understanding why they behave the way they do and following these steps, you will feel better about yourself and be able to deal with their unacceptable behavior more confidently and efficiently.

  • Accept that wherever you go, there will always be people in your workplace who are egocentric and difficult. You cannot change them, but you can change your reactions to their behavior in a positive and constructive way.

  • Research this type of behavior. Understanding where it comes from will help you realize no matter how badly a colleague treats you and how bad you are made to feel about yourself, it is not your fault. Egocentric people try to make others look small so they can feel big, usually because they have been treated badly and have low self-esteem as a result.

  • Take positive action as soon as possible. Allowing the situation to fester will make it much worse. Accepting the situation is not a solution as it will eventually affect your health, work and reputation.

  • Keep a diary of the behavior including details of who, what, where and when.

  • Read your organization's policies on bullying, harassment, grievances and discipline. Hopefully you will not need to use them, but having the information puts you in a stronger position. Many egocentric people have low self-esteem, possibly owing to being bullied in the past, and in order to compensate and make themselves feel better, they will put others down and become the bully. Your organization will have formal procedures to follow should it become necessary.

  • Investigate who the people in your organization are who can officially help you and enlist their support. It may be someone in human resources or an outsourced counselling service. If you are a member of a union, speak to your representative. This is especially important if your boss is the problem and you feel you cannot confront him about it. Speaking to friendly colleagues may feel safe at the time; however, there is no guarantee they will treat your situation confidentially and you could be accused of gossip yourself or labelled as a "moaner."

  • Approach the person directly in a conciliatory, nonconfrontational manner. Remain calm and use open, relaxed body language and maintain eye contact without staring. Explain you want the behavior to stop so you can work together in an environment of mutual respect. Be clear it is the behavior you don't like, not the person. Hold the conversation somewhere private. Prepare what you want to say in advance and practice beforehand. Do not react emotionally to an angry outburst or talk over each other. Stay calm, or leave if necessary.

  • Follow your organization's formal procedures if the behavior does not improve, or recurs after a period of time.

  • Maintain confidentiality and professionalism throughout and you will be beyond reproach if formal proceedings take place.

References

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