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  • Kim Meninger

The Mindset Shift From Ego to Service at Work—and Why it Matters

When ego threatens to undermine success at work, a shift to service is the answer.

: The Mindset Shift From Ego to Service at Work—and Why it Matters

Work life is complicated. With nuanced interactions coming at you from all directions, it can be easy to let your ego unintentionally drive your behavior.

The ego is your sense of self-esteem or self-importance, which can show up in many ways at work. You might realize you asked a question in a meeting to show off (an ego boost). Or, you may respond defensively to feedback to protect your ego.

While ego isn't inherently bad (you want to maintain a sense of self, of course!), it can cause a lot of trouble in the workplace. Left unchecked, ego-driven behavior can stifle innovation, prevent the flow of information, and create challenging interpersonal dynamics.

So, how do we keep the ego from causing trouble? We focus on operating from a place of service instead. Once you get used to pausing and shifting your motivation to serve the team, you'll unlock the door to greater collaboration, innovation, and overall success.

Here’s why a service-oriented mindset is best.

When you act with service as your motivation, you'll discover that much of the friction that ego may have caused suddenly dissipates. You can build your confidence, visibility, and influence in ways that feel good to you, are well-received by colleagues, and promote the best work outcomes.

In this post, you'll see how ego-driven and service-oriented approaches differ in five common workplace scenarios. Building your awareness can help you adjust what you say and do to maximize your impact while fostering relationships.

1) Sharing Accomplishments

You need those around you to see how you contribute to success at work. Still, the idea of self-promotion often makes people uncomfortable. That's because bragging with the primary purpose of receiving recognition is ego-driven.

However, when you share your skills and wins from a place of service, you can shed light on all the excellent work you are doing without coming across as obnoxious. Share information that others can leverage to serve the team's goals. Doing this might look like sending a project update email that calls out impressive data, encouraging colleagues to use it to support their work. Or, it might look like offering to mentor colleagues in your area of expertise.

2) Asking (Or Not Asking) a Question

You’ve likely been in a meeting where someone asked an inauthentic question to stump the presenter or show off their knowledge. You may have also had moments where you didn’t ask a question for fear of being judged. Even though these behaviors differ, they both are ego-driven. Showboating is an ego boost. Meanwhile, holding back can be a strategy to protect your ego.

My advice? Ensure your question has a genuine purpose; if it does, ask it! These kinds of questions serve the group. They unlock information to help you and others better understand the business and achieve optimal outcomes. And they give permission to others who may be reluctant to ask their own questions.

3) Responding to Confrontation

It's tempting to take the bait when someone says something mildly confrontational. It may feel satisfying to come back with aggression or put the speaker in their place, but if it doesn't serve a goal, let it go.

Instead, consider taking the high road in service of your professionalism and the overall work environment. Of course, if someone says or does something truly problematic or offensive, the opposite advice holds. Speaking up, whether to the individual directly or human resources, can help preserve a safe work environment for you and your colleagues.

4) Receiving Feedback

Receiving feedback requires vulnerability and openness, which can feel like a threat to the ego. For this reason, it can be easy to reply defensively. This reaction stifles your growth and discourages your team members from coming to you with their thoughts.

A service mindset allows you to take in feedback with an appreciation for how it can improve you and the entire workplace. When someone approaches you with feedback, try pausing and reminding yourself that they have good intent. Then appreciate the input, whether or not you agree.

For instance, imagine your direct report comes to you with the complaint that the weekly meetings you've been holding aren't a good use of everyone's time. Instead of changing everything or responding defensively, thank them for coming to you, confirm that their thoughts are always welcome and heard, and then explain why you have decided to leave the meetings in place.

5) Speaking in a Meeting

In addition to asking questions in a meeting, it also helps to pay attention to the amount of time you take up speaking. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to contribute more or less. When you notice you're taking up much of the air time, ask yourself why. Is it for a valid business reason? Or do you want to demonstrate your importance by being a prominent voice or having the final word?

Calibrate your contributions so that they are always offering value. Beyond that, find opportunities to yield the floor to help marginalized voices have more chances to speak.

Remember, adopting a service-focused mindset is the key to keeping your ego from taking over your interactions. Being mindful of your motivation can go a long way in your professional success and the outcomes for your team!

Want more strategies for self-promoting from a place of service?

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