The human ego is so big that it has its own manifest destiny: it wants to spread from sea to shining sea…from one’s conscience throughout the universe.  The overwhelming majority of human egos are like this.  

As such, we humans tend to worry more often than we should that we will either not get what we want or that we will lose what we already have.  Some call it evolutionary instinct and others simply call it selfishness. The truth is, if we don’t keep our ego in check, we will see it wreak havoc at work and throughout our lives.

Think about the most unpleasant boss or co-worker you’ve ever met.  How did he make you feel? (Pause: really think about it………………………….)

How did he make others feel? (Pause………..)

How did he feel, deep down in his gut? 

When we encounter unpleasant people, we tend to vent our frustrations about them, but how often do we really look into the causes and conditions of such behavior from a caring perspective?  I would offer this thought experiment: ask yourself whether that person acted in a way that suggested he or she would lose something he wanted or not gain something he wanted…In almost every situation, it’s clear: that unpleasant person is full of fear, fueled by his ego. And fear is the #1 characteristic of toxic behavior.

Considering the feelings of unpleasant people is a difficult exercise.  It’s easier said than done. I can’t say I’ve done it as much as I should.  But I know that, anytime I really consider the plight of someone I can’t stand, I end up happier.  I am reminded that unpleasant people are unpleasant because they are driven by ego and fear.

Fear of the future, of the present, of the past, and of the unknown is the primary cause of workplace and corporate unrest, both at the individual and collective level.

The antithesis to fear and ego, however, is quite simple: service to others.  In the Air Force our second core value is Service before Self, but I wouldn’t try to claim that all Airmen live out this core value to its fullest intent on a daily basis.  In most cases, and on most days, we are concerned with ourselves. Our own progress. Our own image and perception in the eyes of others. Our own reputation. Our stratifications.  I’m guilty of the same! After all, who isn’t?

For those who wish to rid their workplace and their lives of unpleasant behavior, I offer the most effective solution I’ve ever found, which proves to work every single time: I must get out of myself and turn my thoughts to helping someone else.  This isn’t a charity plea or a religious decree. I’m not suggesting we give handouts to homeless or sign up for the soup kitchen to make ourselves feel better…A more practical and productive approach would be speaking with someone at work who seems to be struggling.  Those people exist, but we’re often too concerned with out own daily tasks and projects to really reach out and listen to someone else, or to ask what they’re got going on in their lives.  

The more we engage in this kind of service to others, the more it becomes a habit. And with this habit comes the most productive performance out of yourself and others, accompanied by a tremendous lack of fear.

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