How to Deal With Male Egos in the Workplace

A little bit of ego can encourage competition; too much can be counterproductive.

A little bit of ego can encourage competition; too much can be counterproductive.

The workplace can be a minefield of conflicting personalities; the jealous co-worker, the angry boss, the overblown male ego. When you're a lowly employee, you may have to learn to live with these people, for better or worse -- either ignoring them, learning to accept their differences or moving on to a new job. If you're a manager and the male egos are starting to affect the productivity of the workplace, it may be time for a sit-down.

Observe the situation for a few days, to determine whether the male ego problem you're seeing is affecting workplace productivity or morale. Observe how other people react to the male egoism in the room; if it causes others to shy away or vacate the premises, it could be a sign that the behavior is disruptive. Also observe the times you're seeing the behavior; some "bro time" during lunch break is not a big deal; but "bro time" during a serious meeting is counterproductive. Try to separate your personal feelings about the behavior from the facts; determine whether you're just personally against that behavior, or whether it's negatively affecting business. If it's the latter, it's time to have a talk.

Invite the guy in for a meeting during a quiet moment. The moment he's yukking it up with the boys in the conference room is not the time to call him out and demand a meeting; that leads to humiliation which may cause him to shut down. Instead, send him a note via email or talk to him when he's alone at his desk, asking him to meet you privately. If you're constantly seeing this male ego behavior pop up, resist the urge to blow up or reprimand him in front of others; stay calm and save your remarks for private time. While you may be trying to temper that male ego, it's going to be tougher to reach him if you bruise that ego in the meantime.

Stroke his ego a bit at the start of the meeting, letting the guy know you appreciate the work he's already doing. You may need to dig deep to find something to praise him about, but do it -- male egos need acceptance and recognition to thrive, advises psychologist Dr. Savita Date Menon -- so stroke it a bit to help him stay motivated to do the work.

Focus on solutions when you move on to discussing the problem with his performance. Guys don't generally want to linger on what they're doing wrong or spend a lot of time getting emotionally attached to how they've screwed up. They tend to want to move on to fixing the problem. Come to the meeting armed with a few ideas to track his progress or fix the issues. If he's spending too much time chatting with his buddies during work hours, set up a mechanism to track the time he's spending at his desk. If the problem stems from his interactions with other employees, ask him to observe his behavior and find ways to be more sensitive to others. Try to keep this part short and sweet and hold his feet to the fire to do the work. He's not likely to enjoy working through this with you, but may take it to heart on his own time.

Give him a deadline to work on his goals for change and to track his progress over a matter of weeks or months, leaving the majority of work in his court. Set up a meeting several weeks in the future so you can check back about the problem. Let him know that not complying or not making an effort to change may result in you issuing him a verbal or written warning. Stay firm yet friendly. Now is the time to work on the problem together. If he still doesn't comply when you do your check-in, take a tougher stance and follow through with any warnings you promised to issue.

Tip

  • If you have more than one male ego problem in the workplace, go through the same process for each of the men you identify to be the problem.

Warning

  • Whatever you do, avoid making the mistake of mixing business with pleasure. The male ego may tell him that every woman he meets is interested in him -- even his boss -- but you may create an even bigger ego-maniac if you affirm that thought in the workplace.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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