I’ve recently heard from a number of people who’ve had the misfortune of working with self-absorbed co-workers. These are the narcissistic, me-first types of individuals who passionately embrace the credo: “look out for number one.” The politically correct term for them might be “teamwork challenged.”
Self-absorbed co-workers aren’t much fun to be around at the best of times, but they can really begin to push your buttons when you’re working in a highly dynamic, give-and-take team environment. In their minds, the concept of ‘taking one for the team,’ or ‘going the extra mile’ is for suckers only. If there’s not something obviously in it for them, they want no part of it.
It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get the Self-Absorbed co-worker to change his attitude. His acute short-term thinking prevents him from understanding how teamwork builds goodwill and coworker loyalty, or why these things might be remotely important to him. Because you can’t change him, your best bet is to distance yourself from him – if not physically, then at least perceptually.
The best way to distance yourself is to create a sharp contrast between his behavior and yours. Make it your mission to be a great team player. The positive contrast will not go unnoticed. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of behaving the same way he does, with an attitude of “Why should I make an extra effort, when he’s not doing it?” This will only have the effect of bringing you down to his level and making you look bad.
To ease your frustration with this individual, try feeling sorry for him. After all, the very behavior that is irritating you is also keeping him from developing friendships. It is also ultimately restricting his opportunities for advancement at work. It’s ironic, in a way, that his very self-serving behavior is actually self-defeating.