Man seated in a leather arm chair with an ego

Three Signs of an unhealthy ego in business

You must recognise the traits of an unhealthy ego.  They are the warning signs to let you know that something needs your attention.  Spotting these telltale signs as early as possible gives you a better chance of preventing the issue from becoming more serious. Of course, red flags don’t always translate into problems, but it is better to be safety-first and spot a problem before it manifests itself into a costly situation.

The Ego of Too Much Confidence and Not Enough Skill

We can all share a story over a glass of something tasty about that one person who was all mouth and no trousers.  Their confidence is off the charts, but not an ounce of skill.  They are usually the person who gets the position because of their ideas of grandeur—selling their vision in the recruitment process.  Those interviewing are sold on the idea, not even realising that means tearing down what already exists. 

To have someone come into the business or have them promoted through the ranks with their plan is proof that you don’t hold the mission of your business dear.  To be sold on a dream that has a fundamentally negative impact on the existing team means one of two things.  First, you have no substantial HouseRules within your business.  You are hiring for direction and the leadership of others who can sell you on their story.  However, you may see that as the appropriate direction for the business, but what about your existing team? 

The existing team is not adverse to a new manager per se.  The problem arises when that manager comes in and rips out everything with no attempt at consultation.  Quite often, their reckless behaviour and refusal to acknowledge their limitations negatively impact the work culture and, ultimately, the business—others who attempt to question or have similar ambitions of success become their inconvenient rivals.  Please beware of the know-it-alls who find it impossible to ask for help.  Anyone beneath them in rank can’t possibly have anything of value to add.  Any great ideas are the merit of their leadership.

An Unhealthy Ego bring about Stagnation

It’s frustrating when a manager is reluctant to give their team members autonomy to complete a project.  When team members are not given the freedom to use their expertise, frustration will eventually lead to infuriation.  It becomes tiresome and time consuming having to report back at every stage.  Especially when the job could get done a whole lot quicker if the team member was not being micromanaged.

Stop missing out on potential opportunities because your manager has their attention focused on spoon-feeding the team rather than doing their duties.  Setting out clear procedures helps to clarify who should be doing what.  If an individual is unable to execute their part of the puzzle, are they really someone you want to continue to carry on the journey?

Whilst the growth may vary, there will be changes. Failure to see any improvements or, worse still, regression is a sign that there is an unhealthy ego nearby. The goal must surely be a completely independent team that can think outside the box. The whole point of having a team is for support. Therefore, when your manager has broken the team’s spirits to the point where the only autonomy they exercise is to arrive at work, there is a significant problem. Like a loyal canine, the successful training of your team to be completely reliant on management is complete.

Man with a bald head wearing dark framed glasses appearing to be yelling angrily.

It’s not to overlook that it is a surefire way of driving out the talent. Whenever an individual realises they are not doing great in their job, it is time to start looking for other opportunities. It’s rare for an unhealthy ego to motivate others to do more within that setting. The best of the team, the ones who recognise their worth, will be encouraged to find somewhere else to feel valued to reach their potential.

However, a person too deep in the unhealthy ego phase will see all of the above as a personal attack!

This manager is never available, regardless of how much you try to contact them. If you are essential to them, they will hound you into submission to have the meeting or take the call. They see themselves as the most incredible boss. That would be the person responsible for walking around yelling at people and pointing out their mistakes in shrieking tones.


They thrive on always having a scapegoat to hand for everything that goes wrong. If a deadline is missed, it is because an inadequate person in the team did not do their job correctly and gave incorrect information. They view everyone else as incompetent and not worth having on the team. It is such a sacrifice that has to be made for the good of the business.

Rear view of a business sat back head resting in his hands behind. With his feet up on the desk looking out into the world through a very large window

The Centre of the Universe Ego

This is the manager who is never available.  Regardless of how much you try to contact them.  However, they will hound you into submission when you become important to them.  They see themselves as the most incredible boss.

This is the person stalking the workplace, yelling at the team, pointing out their mistakes in shrieking tones.  All to maintain a firm grasp of control and to instil fear for any to deviate from their status quo.

They thrive on having a scapegoat to hand for everything that goes wrong.  Missing a deadline is because an inadequate person in the team did not do their job correctly and gave incorrect information.  They view everyone else as incompetent and not worth having on the team.  It’s a perfect justification for why constant checks and team monitoring are necessary.  The ego tells them they are a martyr because they are making sacrifices for the business’s good.

This is where the birth of hostility and the lowered glass ceiling come into play.  This boss can climb the preverbal ladder by jumping from company to company on the success of others.  You will also notice that no one will be promoted on their watch (if they can help).  They have rules supporting their plan to succeed at all costs.  Having solid policies and ensuring all adopt them will help build a trusted internal community.

Be mindful that having and not utilising is like not having any HouseRules.  If you fail to take control, that person with an unhealthy ego and reasonable prospect of gaining a position of power will exert their authority.

Forget following the norm. So what if everyone else is doing it?  This is not basic maths so there is no one correct solution.  The possibilities are countless and your way can work just as well.  So why not strive to set your own HouseRules and show others how it can be done?  

Although most organisations will have a  formal mission and values statement for the business; these are often framed and mounted on a wall for all to see.  Yet the management and staff alike struggle to remember what promises are being made.

It’s not enough to believe that these values on the wall are enough for them to be adopted.  It is not and it calls for a true leader of the business to recognise and take appropriate action.  The policies and procedures embody the core values and purpose of the business and therefore it is imperative that every individual is held accountable. 

For those involved in the recruitment and managing the internal community (the soul of the business) monitoring and enforcing the HouseRules are a daily occurrence.  As important as it is for the phones to be answered, emails to be responded to and the doors to be open for business; an ego check of individuals is also necessary.  

Lead by example and the most effective way of doing so is to ensure they are your rules not borrowed from elsewhere.  Failing to understand and fully subscribe to what you expect others to follow when they are not relatable or you are trying to work it out as you go along is a big mistake.  Go beyond the ordinary. Put as much strategic planning into how you would like to form your internal community as you would your sales or customer funnel.

Feel that you need to have that discussion yesterday book a Humming Session and let’s get to work.   P.S. Only healthy egos are allowed!


Let me not keep you because I know your time is precious.  Especially if you’re trying to determine my value and whether to work with me.   Look out for the following Ethical Insight, but if you cannot wait any longer, go ahead and book a Sip & Chat.

The Ethical Strategist - Cas Johnson

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