I knew a guy once who needed to find a job fairly quickly because his severance pay from the job he'd been laid off from was not going to be able to support his family of six for very long. He was actually laid off from his job because he wouldn't accept a small demotion in title because he felt it was a blow to his dignity.
He was offered a couple of jobs but stayed adamant about his salary demands and about a title that would befit a man of his stature. His stature wasn't all that noteworthy, but, in his mind, anything below what he had before was a mark of career failure. In the movies, a confident attitude like that ends well. But it didn't for him. He found himself about to lose the family home and, after a specific clause expired in his insurance policy, he took his own life so his family would inherit a great deal of money.
Now, I know that's an extreme example of how pride can harm more than it helps. And I understand that there was more going on with his self-worth than met the eye. But I still think it's a cautionary tale.
Talented and very intelligent people who think highly of themselves create many career obstacles for themselves due to pride. Here are the problems that result from excessive pride:
Those who think they already know more than anyone else, actually stop the process of learning. They lock themselves away from new information because they think they know everything there is to know already. And when you stop learning, you stop growing.
Overly proud people refuse to admit their mistakes — and sometimes even deny the fact that they make them — because they feel that it would impugn their image. But if you can't learn from your mistakes, then you are hindering your personal growth.
These same people are resistant to change. Why change anything when there are no flaws?
Excessively proud people want to make more than they did in their last job because anything less would be a slap in the face. But you know what? These are different times. If you're that grand, then wouldn't it be wise to go into a new company at a lower position and then work yourself up?
Here are some tips for overcoming the problem of being too caught up in your pride:
- Listen more and talk less. Knowledge is powerful but showing that you're able to accept new information from others is also valuable in a job candidate.
- Admit your mistakes. If you led a life free of mistakes, you'd be in a lab somewhere as scientists probe your brain for scientific breakthroughs.
- Ask questions — Asking questions isn't a gauge of ignorance. It's an indication that you are open-minded and never want to stop learning.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.