Any time I interview for a job, I am always very clear that my ego does not come to work with me when creating the designs and messaging for an organization. What does that mean?
When I work for an organization I am a conduit for their vision. While I have the tools and skills and knowledge to bring their vision to life, it is ultimately what they design that is produced through my labor. To me, this is an important distinction because when the client makes changes, I will make recommendations based on my education and years of training, but I will design to their request. Too often I see designers, or people in general, who put so much of their ego into their work and cause so much unnecessary stress and drama.
I understand there are some professions where your ego is interwoven in your career, and those are not the professions I speak of. But if you work in an office for an organization that is ultimately not created by or led by you, your ego should take a back seat to the decisions you make. Corporations bank off your devotion to your tasks and your ego investment to squeeze you for everything you are worth, but the problem is often it squeezes you towards the last inch of your sanity. Ask yourself, is it worth it?
Companies will replace you if you are unable to perform. That is a fact of life, a fact of capitalism, a simple and true fact. So while you should use your knowledge and education and skills to earn a living within either the private or public sector, bear in mind the fact that while companies are looking out for themselves, you should take a page from their book and do the same. Use your skills and squeeze them for every penny you can, but there is not enough money in the world to give them your heart and soul.
Mental health is one of the leading issues amongst us today, even before the pandemic. The truth is that ego that you use to defend a menial decision at work, and start wars with your coworkers, is the same ego that will betray you if you let it take the lead. It will tear apart the balance of your well-being and can lead to unstable grounds that quickly turn to quicksand into mental illness.
I used to lead with my ego. I was passionate and invested and determined to do things my way. I wanted to be seen and heard and respected. It almost destroyed me. When I left the organization I was with that I had driven all of my ego, heart, and soul into the mission and the people, there was nothing left but an empty desk and a faint memory that I was there – which I am sure will fade in due time.
So if you work for an organization – you can have passion, you can have heart, but make your ego take a back seat. Lead with your skills and glow with your knowledge, but the most valuable asset is the one willing to pivot and reconfigure at a moments notice. We know that now more than ever since the pandemic started.
It is a tricky balancing act – keeping your ego in check whilst putting in your best foot forward. It takes practice and a conscious effort to check oneself. One way that helps me is to watch those around me. I am currently working on a few projects where it is abundantly clear that there are some egos fully rooted in their decisions, and I am tasked with the challenge of navigating those waters carefully. Stroking egos and gently guiding them in the direction that brings us closer to a compromise.
This was just a quick note to work healthy – keep your head up, shoulder’s back, and egos at home. Deep breathes. You got this.