Egos in the office.
When Kevin encounters other cats, he begins to observe their behaviour. He will sit and stare, slightly prepared to attack or submit, to determine who will be the boss - the top dog or cat - the Alpha.
Walking into a start-up meeting, joining a conference call for the first time, or meeting with a new client, is the same as Kevin's encounter with another feline. We assess the individuals involved and make our initial judgement to fight or flight.
The societal expectations of first impressions have been discussed at length over the past years. Acceptance of different physical attributes and unique personal attire has increased in the office since the 50's & 60's. However, we still scan the meeting table to see who is wearing jeans instead of a suit, or who looks nervous instead of calmly composed. We are also looking for confidence, and emotional status. Confidence isn't easily detected during first encounters. A quiet individual with a slight stature can still be confident. Confidence isn't about knowing that you are right, but that you can survive the consequences to your actions or the actions of others upon you. When you are confident, you are able to allow yourself to appear vulnerable or submissive when it is required to avoid useless conflicts. Those with an abundance of confidence can be perceived as an Alpha - a leader, a decision maker, and an instigator. The Alpha can be big or small, short or tall, girl or guy. Like the wolf pack leader, the Alpha can be angered when challenged and vindictive when hurt. The ego is a large motivator for the Alpha.
Alpha's can smell fear. Fear is what our ego uses to hold us back from exploring new things, joining an inner quest for achievement, or surrendering desire. The fear protects the ego from failure, reprimand, hurt, or negative perception of others.
Keeping our ego's and Alpha's content at work can be challenging. It is very easy to retaliate with malicious words to a consultant, contractor, or client in an email or during a phone call when we feel that someone is being unjust with a task or questioning our abilities. Parking our fear, anger, and thus ego in the back alley is difficult. It is not realistic to expect that everyone can comfortably park their ego outside before walking into the office.
Blatantly confronting the Alpha can result in a fight. The Alpha is not scared to fight so be prepared if you wish to challenge them. When two Alpha's go head-to-head, the infamous yardstick in the sky is ready to gather measurements and see who will be declared the winner. This game will stall the project. The time it takes for the Alpha's to fight can be minutes, days, or months, not allowing anything in the office to progress. This is where the Beta - second to lead who is confident, and does not need to be Alpha - steps-in and assists the Alpha in their reasoning to keep the project or office moving forward.
Machu is a big, strong Husky. His kingdom is the inside of the house and the outside. Most critters at the dog park fear being his snack, yet, he can be goofy and cuddly and oddly cautious of fragile creatures. Our advantage as humans over Huskies, should be our ability to control our basic emotions in order to make good decisions and use our awareness to understand how we impact others. That is the global project we are all currently working on. This project has a hard time with the relationships of our co-workers and the allusion of self - it may never be completed.
Perhaps each office should have a booth at the front door of the office with a sign before you start your day: "Park Your Ego Here. If Not, You May Be Rear-ended."
Kevin slips on the floor while playing with his toy mouse and runs into the wall. He is not concerned with feeling that the wall is purposely out to ruin him or that the toy mouse is plotting his demise. He has his ego parked therefore, he can enjoy his play.
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.