This past week I was reminded of a situation that I had to deal with a while ago. I helped on a small project, just fixing some bugs and finishing up some functions while the head developer was busy doing  more important things. Everything was going fine till I started getting emails from the owner telling me several functions I had worked on don’t function as expected. I swore up and down that they did but then after checking out the code I noticed that several of the pages had been changed. Looking deeper, I notice a lot of the original code was back in. Which would explain why the functions didn’t work as expected. The original code didn’t work as expected. Looking through the code I noticed some nasty comments from the head developer about the changes I made.

We had clashed before on several changes I’ve made. It was clear the head developer didn’t understand the user side. All he saw was that the functions worked in some fashion, he didn’t care if the function was user friendly or not. Once again, I had to bring the matter to the attention of the owner because now they have to pay me or someone else to fix the issue or have the head developer reverse his changes. A total waste of time.

The head developer’s ego constantly got in the way. He would throw a fit over any major changes to his code, whether the changes improved his code or not. I made it clear to him and the company that I wasn’t there to be all buddy-buddy with the head developer and appease his coding ways. Obviously there are issues that need to be fixed. I’m here to fix those issues and make sure the company has the best function site possible.

But the head developer could never let my changes go. He always felt like I was there to make him look bad. Which he did all by himself with how he acted. He couldn’t set aside his ego. Which to keep it short it impeded doing business and making the business money.

So how can you deal with someone who won’t set their ego aside (granting that you have set yours aside)?

  • First talk to them. In my case, even after talking to the head developer and letting him know I was there for the company and the users, he still didn’t believe me. Even though I expressed that I wanted to work with him to create a better product, he still saw me as a threat.
  • Find a way to incorporate your ideas into theirs but make it seem like is all their ideas. Sneaky I know, but it works. Point out ideas that the ego driven had or similar ideas, making it seem like they thought of what you are trying to achieve.
  • Ask for the ego-driven’s advice on specific things. Slightly dangerous because this can backfire but if they feel that they got to be the driver on several major pieces. They are less likely to complain when not everything is done exactly how they wanted. But be careful because it can backfire, as it does feed their ego a bit.
  • Praise, then play yourself down. Slightly sneaky again but if it works, why not. The head developer wasn’t a bad developer, he just wasn’t the best user interface designer. I finally learned that if I praised how good his back-end programming was (which it was), then suggested I do the front-end and hope that it comes out half as good, then the function would be great.

Personally I hate ego driven company politics. It does nothing but ruin morale and causes the business to lose focus on what matters. If my first suggestion didn’t work. I might resort to the next three. Personally I don’t have time to waste on feeding any one’s ego. And if a person’s ego is more important than creating the best business, that ego driven person needs to change or leave, especially if they can’t prove their way is better. If that is the case.

  • Bring the matter to a higher power. When you know your way is the right way or at least there is a better way, not just the ego-driven’s way, sometimes you need to have someone deal out some tough love. I hate to watch other people burn but sometimes, that is what it takes to get through to them. That the boss/owner shows confidence in you and the ego driven should to. It’s not always about them, it’s about what is best for the business, period. If not, their ideas will be shot down time and time again.

Share some of your tips on how to deal with those ego driven people that make business life difficult. We would love to hear from you!