Types of Ego In The Workplace That Gotta Go
Sorry Beyonce, ego isn’t confidence
In her 2008 banger “Ego,” Beyonce implies that Kanye West isn’t arrogant but confident. Okay, maybe she’s insinuating something else, but could you imagine if you had a coworker with Kanye’s “confidence?”
Big red flag 🚩
The truth is, you’ve probably encountered colleagues with Kanye's big ego. While it’s easy to dismiss their behavior with a scoff and an accompanying eye-roll, these ego-driven habits manifest burnout, quiet quitting, and toxic leadership practices that negatively affect your team and overall organization.
In this blog, we’ve curated a list of scenarios that embody egotistical behavior in the workplace to help you detect the early signs of these developments. Because when big ego energy is caught early, you can continue supporting a happy human-centric workplace.
What is ego?
At its core, the ego is the part of your identity that you consider “self” or “I.” The ego operates on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy immediate desires in a realistic and socially appropriate way. For example, say you’re in a meeting that’s running 30 minutes over. It’s lunchtime, and your stomach starts to twist and growl. Your human instinct tells you to get up and grab a snack, but your ego reminds you to wait for the meeting to end. So the ego can give you a strong sense of self-awareness.
Why is a big ego in the workplace bad?
The ego is very particular about your identity and will reject anything that threatens your self-worth, forming an inflated or big ego. For instance, if your ego detects that your self-worth has been endangered, aspects of your personality shift to protect that part of your “self,” resulting in conceited or boastful tendencies and behavior. Big egos can damage the workplace because it introduces risks to teams, such as creating silos, echo chambers, discrimination, bullying, and inequality. Ego also:
- Ruins company culture by destroying morale. A poll conducted by Monster found that 76% of employees have suffered from a toxic boss, with the most repulsive traits cited as power-hungry (26%), micromanager (18%), and incompetency (17%).
- Creates tension within the team by hindering civility in the workplace, as well as slowing productive communication and collaboration.
- Discourages strong and trusting relationships. People are less inclined to trust leaders and colleagues that are overly self-focused.
Types of big ego in the workplace
So how do you know if you’re dealing with Kanye's ego and not just a healthy dose of confidence? Watch out for these common types of ego:
👑 The pompous self-promoter
As the most common example of big ego energy, the pompous self-promoter is someone who has no problem standing by his own importance. They seem to do really great work, which is why they’re the ones to always present the data, fulfilled OKRs, and team success - even if they didn’t have anything to do with actually getting there.
Telltale signs of the self-promoter:
- Using “I” and “me” most exclusively (instead of “we” and “us”).
- Reminding teammates of their position and excellence.
- Rewarding those who support them, possibly punishing those who don’t.
- Receiving feedback and feedforward is a challenge.
- Leaving their coffee mugs in the sink for someone else to put in the dishwasher.
🐺 The lone wolf
A more lowkey type of ego is the lone wolf, or someone who prefers to exclusively work alone. You’ll see them running for the hills if assigned to a bigger project requiring cross-departmental collaboration. Since the lone wolf insists on maintaining independence, they fail to synchronize with their team, leading them to often work in the wrong direction.
Telltale signs of the lone wolf:
- Committing to team efforts is challenging.
- Having an exaggerated view of their capabilities.
- Taking control of a project because they think they can do it better alone.
- Going MIA and nobody knows what they’re working on.
- Taking home office supplies and toilet paper.
👉👈 The shy guy/gal/gang
You know what they say…silent but deadly. The shy gang is the most subtle of the types of ego. When asked for their view on something, they always say something like “my opinion isn’t relevant, but…” and then spend the next 20 minutes telling you why their opinion actually is applicable. Not only that, but they also speak in a whisper. Since you can hardly hear a word they say, you lean in further and further. This cultivates a perfect petri dish for the shy gang to thrive: a space to inflate their own ego without resorting to traditional gestures of power.
Telltale signs of the shy gang:
- Looking disinterested in others' ideas and opinions.
- Providing space for discussion is unheard of. It’s all about them.
- Talking excessively about their own achievements and ability under the guise of humility.
- Using their phone or slacking someone during meetings.
🦸 The altruistic hero
The most seemingly contradictive form of ego is the altruistic hero, the selfless and self-sacrificing colleague. They stay overtime, organize events, and always have a hand in everything. While this seems like a good problem to have, the altruistic hero will always prioritize your work over their own, meaning that you’ll get uninvited feedback and suggestions on how to do your job better.
Telltale signs of the altruistic hero:
- Resenting the people being helped.
- Ignoring personal responsibilities to help others do their job.
- Having an unrealistic or exaggerated sense of their own worth or importance.
- Thinking they are inherently better than others. Hello, superiority complex.
🦹 The vain villain
Okay, maybe “villain” is a bit extreme, but this type of ego refers to the self-loving and selfish narcissist. The sound of their own voice is the source of their power, and they have no problem being the center of attention - is this work or Broadway? The vain villain wouldn’t know.
Telltale signs of the vain villain:
- Dominating conversations. You won’t get a word in.
- Focusing on their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences to the exclusion of others.
- Wanting credit for every idea.
- Watching themselves in a zoom call.
😰 The insecure ego
Since the beginning of time, the insecure ego was told that they need to work hard for what they have. They never learned to endure rejection or acknowledge their privilege. If someone is less successful, younger, or different from the insecure ego, they lack the empathy to see the potential in the person. The insecure ego would say things like, “young people can use the internet better than me?” which translates to, “wow, young people could take my power from me?”
Telltale signs of the insecure ego:
- Believing they are entitled to certain privileges, status, or treatment.
- Seeking validation to confirm their self-worth.
- Putting other people down to feel better about themselves.
- Hoarding information from teammates to ensure their position.
So how do you forgo Kanye-like egotistical behaviors? Think about this: If a person is confident (the opposite of egotistic), they know themselves and have the humility to accept the truth. In turn, they can help others become more confident too. That makes a great leader and coworker!
Tl;dr (rather listen)
Whether from a leader or a colleague, egotistic tendencies can significantly negatively affect your workplace culture. To find out how to combat ego and take the “I” out of leadership, listen to Collato’s podcast episode “How to Save Yourself From Big Ego Energy.” We’ll give you all the tips and tricks to lead yourself and your team better.