Do Work and Psychology Mix?

Although I don’t need a new book to put on my list, Guy Kawasaki points me to one that looks very interesting: Egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (and Most Expensive Liability), by David Marcum and Steven Smith. Guy does an interview with Steven Smith. Here’s a quote from Smith that caught my attention:

The reason ego stays invisible is because we don’t talk about it—we talk about everything else—like numbers. It’s also easier to talk about lighter topics like “communication,” “decision-making,” “leadership,” or “teamwork.” But the most sensitive, yet most powerful topic, is ego.…

There are other important elements on the leadership “table,” but ego has the most weight—in large part because of the affect it has on everything else. And yet it’s the most avoided. People have been afraid to talk about ego because they don’t understand how it works, especially at work. And the conversations they do have about it are usually at the water cooler and in private. More importantly, it’s almost always seen as someone else’s problem, and that needs to change.

I find it interesting that communication, decision-making, leadership, and teamwork are now considered “light” topics. I guess they are certainly in the realm of “acceptable” as topics (particularly compared to “ego”), but personally I think conversations about those topics are woefully oversimplified in organizations. I agree ego is a heavy one, but I would at least like to assert that these light topics still need our attention!

And the bigger point for me is that we will always be expanding what is “appropriate” for workplace discussions. The reason is simple: the evolving world requires us to continuously improve our effectiveness, so we naturally turn to areas that have previously been ignored—that’s where the margins are, so to speak. We used to say that anything about human dynamics or relationships was too “touchy-feely” for work. Then people wrote books about productivity gains when those issues were addressed, so now we pay attention to them. The same is now becoming true with psychology. My bet is the same will be true (eventually) with spirituality.


  1. 12.09.2007 at 11:05 am

    Good Morning Jaime – I just about flipped when I saw this post. Just the other day I was reading an article on pay for performance in healthcare. I was blown away at the same “known unknown” issue – that underneath all of this ‘pay for performance’ that we’re seeing are conversations about ego that need to take place. It sort of has a feeling like the elephant in the middle of the living room that no one is talking about – or maybe it’s ‘doesn’t know how’ to talk about.
    …the shot…SCORE!