Career Advice

Tame Your Ego

A truly savvy boss will not hire you if you have a big ego. If somehow you got the job, you’ll lose it eventually when your boss wakes up. Because, when your ego is in charge, you suck as an employee, teammate, job seeker, parent, friend, partner, lover or whatever it is you’re doing.

A big ego makes you defend, justify or rationalize when you shouldn’t. It makes you fight, manipulate or hide from challenges. It makes you arrogant and erratic. It prevents you from hearing and recognizing the truth — and from learning.

Bosses have been on the lookout for bad behavior ever since a Stanford professor wrote a popular essay for Harvard business review about The No Asshole Rule and followed it up with a book on the same topic. Other bosses set the bar higher with ‘the hallway test‘. We ask ourselves “Will I enjoy bumping into this person in the hallway or want to pretend I’m too busy to chat?”

A wise boss will know a big ego is a symptom of low self-esteem – that your real issue is fear. Fear that you will be discovered to be weak, incompetent, unlikeable, unreliable or anything else you were taught as a child. But, your parents are only partly to blame. They may have planted the seeds long ago, but it’s negative self-talk that perpetuates fear.

Taming your ego is difficult to do, but it can be done. You can start by talking to yourself in healthy ways – calming, supportive and loving ways (also called affirmations).  You can tell yourself things like:

  • I do my best and that’s good enough
  • I have what I need and I’m okay
  • I can handle this, I’ll figure it out
  • I accept what I can’t control and accept things as they are already
  • I’ve always benefited from overcoming a challenge
  • I’ll learn something valuable from this
  • I love myself and take good care of myself
  • I’m proud of myself for _________

Sound corny? So be it! I’ll take corny any day over negative self-talk like this:

  • I’m such an idiot
  • he’s such an idiot
  • this is horrible, I can’t cope
  • I always screw up
  • I can’t believe this is happening to me
  • people don’t like me
  • I’ll never get better
  • I never get things right
  • I’m not bright enough

Talk like that and you sow the seeds of your eventual destruction (or just a dysfunctional life and career). So next time you hear one of those, tell yourself “STOP”, picture a big red stop sign, and replace it with something healthy and nurturing. Be good to yourself! Your boss will notice the difference.

For comprehensive advice on the entire job search process, read our complete guide to landing a job at a great company or visit our career advice hub.

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