Dealing With Self-Absorbed Coworkers

By Louise Bauer Davoli

Is a self-absorbed or self-centered co-worker driving you nuts? When you have a co-worker who is self-centered they have a tendency of centering on their own issues, problems and stories to the detriment of themselves and others. The self-centered coworker tends to blow all problems out of proportion, create unnecessary drama, dominate conversations with their stories, and push people away with a constant need for attention. Does this sound like your cubeymate or co-worker?

The Random House College Dictionary defines self-centered as engrossed in self; selfish; egotistical. Centered in oneself or itself. Self-absorbed is defined as preoccupied with one's own thoughts and interest. Narcissistic is defined as excessive love or admiration of oneself also a psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem. Carried to extremes that include disruption in thinking and feeling about oneself and others that significantly and adversely affect how an individual functions in many aspects of life is categorized as a personality disorder.

The term narcissist gets tossed around our everyday vocabulary and frequently is misused to describe someone who is self-centered or self-absorbed. A narcissist is quite difficult to work with sometimes charming, but definitely challenging. Instead of arguing with the narcissist or getting frustrated by their behavior, make it your goal to better understand them without falling into an enabler trap.

-- If possible avoid the offender

-- Develop talking points and stick to them

-- Head down

-- Don't fall for the flattery

Stay in a group when interacting with a self-absorbed co-worker. There is safety in numbers and in a group setting there is bound to be an exchange of conversation that will prevent the self-absorbed person from having all the attention. Considering that there is some sort of approval and attention needs underneath the self-absorbed behavior can help you understand their conduct. You may want to fill this person's need so they can relax in when you're interacting with them.

It's important to your own well-being at work to establish clear boundaries with the self-centered co-worker. Self-centered folks have a tendency to ask for favors and expect others to bend over backwards for them. Commit to what you can deliver and resist the urge to take responsibility for their neediness. You can tell them how you are affected by their self-focused behavior and what you need from them.

-- Learn to focus on others

-- Listen and Ask questions

-- Check your motives

-- Empathy

-- Awareness outside yourself

Dominating discussions with stories, drama and problems is a behavioral habit for self-absorbed people. It is essential that self-absorbed folks find ways to look at their circumstances in a more balanced way while learning to listen and pay attention to others at the same time. For example, when talking with others, spend as much time listening and asking questions of others as you do talking. Notice the urge to jump in with your own story and instead re-focus on what the other is saying.