Don’t let your Ego and your Job Fall in Love
April 28, 2014 § 4 Comments
Diplomacy was born in the rarefied upper reaches of aristocracy when monarchs governed through their courts and when power and aristocratic station were two names for the same thing.
Canada is surely among the most egalitarian societies on the planet. Moreover, our culture has a strong current of anti-elitism running through it. But when we enter into the diplomatic and high-level international policy profession, our job often becomes synonymous with entry into the upper strata of the elite in our host countries. There is tension and hazard here.
Whether you are a diplomat or a country manager for a multinational, the natural habitat is the upper crust. This seductive phenomenon is more acute in societies marked by inequality and class division. Let’s face it, people are uncomfortable mingling across social divisions. Mingling upwards takes people out of their comfort zone and makes some worry about the risk of rejection. It’s hard for most people to reciprocate the classy and fancy hospitality that high level diplomats and international executives are expected to offer. A real effort is needed to make friends across social divisions.
International policy professionals need to be aware of this peculiar workplace hazard. There is a risk that your ego can inflate past your personal attributes in order to meet the level of flattery that your powerful position attracts.
In my experience, this ego expansion is obvious to our compatriots. It annoys them. Like an open fly, nobody will tell you if they see it, except your spouse or best friend – after it is too late. So we better be very self-aware. However, we also need to be skilled in multiple modes of behaviour. Our jobs require that we conduct ourselves with dignity, confidence and comfort in high level, formal and public occasions. This is being a good steward of the prestige of our office. Then we need to return safely to the ground. Good diplomats are authentic people at the same time.