Stop Worrying About Being Right to Start Solving Problems

Julie Shenkman
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It’s not uncommon for professionals to come up against an ego every now and then when problem solving. Because most employees and managers are required to have some college education to apply, the business world is more educated than ever — which can lead to irritating problems when things go wrong in the office. Blaming others and refusing to self-reflect are two very common traits of an employee who is too smart to problem solve.

Some studies have found that educated individuals, or those who have above-average intelligence, can have a harder time learning and digesting new information than someone who is not as educated or intelligent. In simpler terms, it means that someone can in fact be too smart to learn. These individuals have a tendency to become more abrasive in the face of mistakes or wrong-doings. Rather than reflect within, they point all responsibility and blame outwards and on to others.

So how do others work around or with big egos in the office? How can one diffuse egos in order to get work done and problem solve without hurting feelings or discrediting the intelligence of others?

There are a number of things both employees and managers can do to tone down an ego without seeming like a jerk. As a co-worker, recognizing an ego in other employees is an essential task to problem solving and creating a cohesive and peaceful workplace. Once the ego has been spotted, empathy is one of the best and most effective ways to interact with that person.

Avoid being defensive with employees or co-workers who have big egos. Defensiveness is much more likely to evolve into an argument later. Acting calm and peaceful around an egotistical person is a better way to create a positive and collaborative work environment.

With all of these things in mind, it’s okay to tell an egotistical co-worker or manager that he’s hurting the workplace environment or the problem solving process with his attitude and ego. Be sure, however, that this is done in private to avoid any confrontation in front of other employees and managers. Be civil and polite, and remember that even though an ego can really hurt problem solving in the office, it is rarely ever personal. Professionals with an egotistical attitude affect everyone around them.

Remember that professionals with bigger egos may have a harder time learning new information or facing mistakes because of their intelligence and bravado. It can be difficult for them to admit fault, especially if a project or task failed because of their actions. It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to change, but if a manager makes an effort to change the attitude of employees, they can also encourage leaving egos at the door.

(Image courtesy of john curley at



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