We’ve all had colleagues who love to be the center of attention. They love the limelight and like to receive credit, perhaps sometimes even when it isn’t entirely due. They are Self-Oriented i.e. concerned primarily with themselves, their desires, needs, or interests. Such people are typically charismatic and attract many admirers. They also happen to be the kind of people that colleagues and peers find hardest to trust, due to their self-centered attitude.

 The trick to working with such people is to figure out if those with high Self-Oriented behavior, who have their attention focused on themselves, are selfish or not. The difference between selfishness and high Self-Orientation is distinct, although it might be confusing and hard to identify.

At work, high Self-Orientation is when you fail to listen to, or fully comprehend the needs of others. You push on in the name of benefitting the team, and believe you are acting in their interest. Selfishness anywhere is knowingly acting only in your own interest. 

Think of a blind man standing at a crossing. A selfish person would walk right past them. A highly Self-Oriented person might guide them across the road, but without asking if they wanted to cross the road in the first place.

Let’s take an example from Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Tony Stark is the very definition of high Self-Orientation. He always does what he thinks is right and doesn’t care about the opinion of others, even though he’s trying to be helpful. That’s where his voice of reason, Captain America, steps in. The Captain helps Iron Man see things from a different perspective, realigning his methods so the whole Avengers team can function better.

So, if you want to collaborate well with a highly self-centered person at work, invest time in making them see things from the team’s perspective. Try and shift their attention from themselves and to the problem at hand. In doing so, you might see surprising results.

Vrinda Prahladka is a graduate of the University of Southern California and the London School of Economics. A curriculum specialist at Harappa Education, her claim to fame is that she’s met the Kardashians!


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