The Stiff Liability of Unaware Self-Absorption

By Rob Shaul

Recently I stopped by the grocery store for beer. Podcast streaming through my earbds, I hurriedly grabbed a six-pack without making eye contact and jumped in the checkout line.

I felt the dirty looks. 

Self-absorbed, I’d missed that there were 5 people already waiting ahead of me. “What a fucking douchebag,” they all thought in unison.

Embarrassed, I quickly stepped back and sheepishly shuffled to the end of the line, removing my earbuds on the way. 

Unaware self-absorption is excessive focus on yourself at the expense of others, and will have serious negative social and professional repercussions if not fixed. 

Social Examples

Only Talking About Yourself – Eventually, if not immediately, others will rightly discount you.

Being Inconsiderate – Ignoring messages, not returning phone calls or replying to emails, being chronically late are all common examples of being inconsiderate. Being physically present in a conversation but clearly not paying attention is another one that drives people crazy.

Unreliability – Consistently canceling plans at the last minute, or agreeing to do something and not following through signal the “red flag” of unreliability and a lack of respect for others’ time and efforts. 

Entitlement – Expecting others to serve you at social gatherings while not offering to help and not contributing money to shared expenses scream “entitlement.” Good people have highly tuned antennas for this behavior and will judge you a douchebag, immediately. 

Social Repercussions

Arrogance – Self-absorption can easily be mistaken for arrogance, especially if one dismisses or undervalues the contributions of others.

Strained Family Relationships – Prioritizing your own interests consistently will lead to feelings of neglect and resentment from your loved ones weakening the family bond and leading to long-term estrangement. 

Difficulty Making Friends – Relationships will remain superficial and friendships will dissolve as friends rightly decide you’re not putting in the effort. 

Isolation – You’ll stop getting invites to parties, dinners, lunges, for coffee, etc. 

Decreased Community Effectiveness – Self-absorption will hurt your reputation, leading to a loss of trust and respect, making it difficult to participate effectively in clubs and organizations. 

Seen as Unkind – Over time, you’ll earn a reputation of being unkind. 

Professional Examples

Discounting Other’s Ideas – Ignoring or disregarding input from colleagues and focusing solely on your ideas and strategies signal self-absorption. 

Taking Credit for Other’s Work – Most often when a leader presents a subordinate’s idea as their own, seeking personal acclaim while not acknowledging the subordinate’s contribution. 

Seeking Glory– Consistently volunteering for or campaigning for high-visibility projects while ignoring the day-to-day responsibilities that are crucial for mission success.

Not Sharing Credit – Colleagues will distrust an individual who doesn’t forthrightly share credit. 

Incompetence – When self-absorption leads to a failure to address important issues or responsibilities, you’ll quickly be discounted as incompetent. 

Professional Repercussions

Reduced Teamwork – Your self-absorption will disrupt team dynamics, leading to an environment of resentment and competition rather than collaboration and duty. The mission will suffer. 

Impaired Leadership Perception – Leaders who exhibit self-absorption will lose the respect and trust of their team. Would-be leaders will be passed over. 

Stunted Personal Growth – Self-absorbed professionals will be judged unreceptive to feedback and lose opportunities for career development. 

Damage to Professional Reputation – Persistent self-absorption will significantly harm your professional reputation, stunting your career. 

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