How to Deal with EGOs

There are many behaviours that can get in the way of effective communication. Some of them are easy to manage while others are more difficult.

The “Big Ego” is one I hear about frequently. We all have an ego, but there are times when we perceive that the size of another’s can get in the way of effective communication and resolving conflict.

People struggle with ways to overcome this, especially when managing up. Why? The fear factor, of course.

There are many specific behaviours that get in the way of productive communication. I am often approached by participants after a workshop who ask how to best deal with specific behavioural situations perceived as risky.

I undertook an initiative based on several inquiries and polled my fellow Kwelans for their input on ways to deal with them:


Observe the Impact on Others. Evaluate whether it is truly disruptive or just a personal judgment. If it is impacting others, discuss the specific behaviour(s) that are getting in the way and the impact they have.

Speak Privately. Create an opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation in order to minimize the ego. Big egos are energized when surrounded by others.

Be Assertive. Insist on being treated the right way and that you will not stand for their behaviours. Be calm, polite, firm and decisive. Egos admire confidence.

Find Neutral Ground. Don’t one-up a big ego as they may feel threatened. Instead, reach common ground.

Build Awareness. Be courageous and provide the needed feedback. They may react, but eventually may become grateful that you had the guts to let them know. Many don’t have the necessary self awareness.

Change your Behaviours: Consider doing something differently on your end. At times, our behaviours may be getting in the way such as focusing on what is not working versus what is.  Try something fresh or different and see what happens on other side.


Don’t Take it Personally: Micro-managing can be frustrating as the more focus we get, the more critical we may be of ourselves. Be mindful that they likely do the same with others and try to appreciate the root causes of their behaviour; for example, they may be a perfectionist or have fear of rejection.

Evaluate Yourself: We may be the root cause of micro-managing.  The manager may feel we need to be managed that way. Reflect on past behaviours, attitudes, work ethic, etc. that might have contributed.

Do Your Best: Demonstrate you take your work seriously and that you are doing your best.

Anticipate Their Wants: If they monitor deadlines, get things done early and let them know. Be assertive and ask them to trust you on completing tasks. Thank them for trusting you.

Ask for Feedback: Be proactive and solicit feedback ahead of them providing it.

Teach them How to Delegate: Have a conversation on what tasks they may pass over to you and what you and they would need to ensure the right support, monitoring and decision making.


Understand their Motivations: Find out what motivates them and what is important to them. By understanding how the world works through their eyes, you will better know how to work with them.

Control Your Emotions:  Be calm and professional and don’t participate in any rippling negativity. Try to improve the work environment for all as best you can.

Seek Support:  Speak with Human Resources, fellow colleagues and others to find out if your boss is the problem and how to possibly deal with it. Perhaps your perception is incorrect. If it is correct, schedule a meeting to discuss what you are observing and the impact to your work. Rehearse in advance what you will say, being mindful of their potential motivations.

Set Boundaries: Don’t be taken advantage of. Set clear boundaries. Don’t avoid this needed conversation; stand up for what’s right.


Build Awareness: Describe the behaviour that is leading you to believe they are insecure and determine the root cause; is it possible job loss, a skills gap, or fear of failure?

Overcome Constraints: Support them by identifying needed behaviours, resources or training. Listen to their needs and assure them that you will help them in the long-term by empowering them through accountability, support and accepting failure.

NEGATIVE EMPLOYEES (or waiting for retirement)

Involve Them: Work with them to identify ways they can contribute to improve the organization. Show them you value their experience. Ask them about what their legacy could be.

Identify the Root Cause: Don’t take their negativity personally. Find out if something outside of work may be impacting them or what else might be going on – what is the root cause? Coach them through this process.

Recognition: Help them understand and reinforce the good things they do.

Performance Management: Provide constructive feedback and set expectations. If they don’t change, apply consequences as their actions may be impacting the whole.

I heard once from a leader, “Everyone wants to be valued and do something of value.”

If you look at people with this filter on, you are more likely to reduce conflict, build self awareness and improve employee performance. It means, you may have to drop the ego!