There are many occupations where people are consistently demeaning and nasty to each other, especially people in positions of power. Founders of companies are more likely to behave like egocentrics. There are some famous people too who qualify as egocentrics.
But how acute is this problem and why should organizations so worried about egocentrics? The presence of egocentrics drains organizations of energy, de-motivates people and when you look at it carefully, causes severe financial loss. The other problem about having egocentrics in your organization is that jerks breed more jerks. They multiply like rabbits. What this means is simple. They force others also to behave badly. And also hire more people who are egocentrics.
One of the problems of egocentrics is that of shooting the messenger. People are afraid of giving bad news because they will be shot for it. Just a few months after they announced that they were going to do the Compaq-Hewlett-Packard merger but before it was completed, HP commissioned a study on consumer responses to Compaq products. It was largely a negative story. CEO ended up criticizing this person as opposed to criticizing anything to do with the decision. CEO Carly was on some ways very good at many things. But a lot of the evidence is that she wasnâ€™t very nice to people around her. The employee attitude surveys made it very clear that employees had a very low opinion of her.
Take the case of Ethan, a star salesman in a Silicon Valley company. He was great at his work but had a temper that few could stand, was known to routinely insult his colleagues, so much so that people refused to work with him. His assistants rarely lasted long. Senior HR officials often forced to intervene and play referee in his many disputes. The HR management finally enrolled Ethan in anger management classes and counseling. It didnâ€™t work.
Fed up of having to deal with all this for five years, the companyâ€™s HR department finally calculated the financial damage Ethan was inflicting to the company. They factored in the time spent by Ethanâ€™s direct managers, HR people and senior executives in dealing with his quirks, the cost of anger management and counseling sessions, the cost of recruiting and training a new secretary, and overtime costs associated with Ethanâ€™s last minute demands.
They toted up a cost of $160,000 a year. And then they deducted that sum from Ethanâ€™s bonus.
The anatomy of egocentrics:
But what really prompts people to behave like egocentrics? For one, some personalities are likely to be more abrasive than others. Some personalities are guilty of crimes like manipulation and taking credit for others work.
The case of one such personality is he tends to put people down personally, and make them cry. He has temper tantrums. He thinks that he is always right. For others it may be a matter of trying to reassert their presence and proving a point.
For a large part, egocentric behavior is like a contagious disease and it gets to other people. If you enter an organization where everybody behaves like a jerk, the odds are that you are going to become like them and they are not going to become like you. Oracle is notorious for this and it is something that trickles down from big boss Ellisonâ€™s behavior.
A CEO of one of Oracleâ€™s competitor, who had hired some Oracle employees, said that one of the things that they do is basically lay out their cultural patterns and help new employees adapting to the culture. It is surprising to note that people who are really nasty at Oracle become reasonable after they go elsewhere.