Is there a 'workplace princess' at your firm?

Publication: Deseret News

Section: Business

July 29, 2007

Greg Kratz - Deseret Morning News

During a journalism internship about 16 years ago, I met a reporter who taught me a lot by her bad example.

Not many writers love seeing their work edited. But this particular reporter was ridiculous. She had written an extremely long feature story for a newspaper wire service, and she repeatedly demanded that her editors not cut a single word.

Not only that, but she wanted them to require any newspaper that picked up the story to run it in its entirety, even though that would have taken a commitment of a full newspaper page. Few papers will give that kind of space to a wire story.

As I recall, it took the editors days to talk her into writing an abridged version to send out over the wire. She finally agreed, but she grumbled about it for weeks afterward.

And this was not an isolated incident for this particular reporter.

I was reminded of her recently when I received yet another press release with the results of a somewhat silly, but telling, survey on American work life.

According to the survey, almost half of American workers said there was a "workplace princess" at their job site. And 16 percent said that workplace princess was a man.

The study was conducted by Rachelle Canter, author of the executive career handbook "Make the Right Career Move." According to the release, her study included a random telephone survey of 506 employed adults 18 years and older living in private households in the United States between March 9 and 12. It has a margin of error of 5 percent.

"As part of a larger study, we asked workers a few light-hearted questions just for fun, and one of those questions was whether or not there was a 'workplace princess,' whether man or woman, where they worked," Canter said in the release. "We defined this as a co-worker who had a special sense of entitlement or privilege. We were stunned to find that 48 percent of American workplaces have a 'workplace princess' right on the premises."

The study found that 48 percent of these princesses expected special favors from their employers, 47 percent expressed the belief that they were being treated "unfairly" and 35 percent made other people do work for them.

This is, of course, a frivolous study. But Canter said in the release that the narcissistic undertone it shows is worrying. Not only do such princesses drive other people crazy, she said, but they also tend to ruin or derail their own careers without ever knowing why.

She goes on to offer some warning signs that you may be a workplace princess. Ask yourself:

  • Do most of your questions begin with "I want" or "I need"?
  • When was the last time you listened for 30 minutes to a friend or colleague with a problem?
  • When was the last time you called a colleague to see how they were doing?
  • When things go wrong, do you blame the situation and other people?

If this self-examination leads you to believe you are a princess, don't fret. Canter said you can be rehabilitated if you first acknowledge that you are self-centered, and then try to break the cycle. For example, she suggests:

  • Think first of what you can contribute to others.
  • Volunteer to help a colleague with a project and ask for nothing in return.
  • Notice others and thank them for their contributions.
  • Practice random acts of kindness.

Now, this sensible advice may not change the world, but it could change your workplace - or you, if you're a workplace princess who has seen the error of his (or her) ways.

So what do you think? Do you have a workplace princess in your office? Are you a reformed (or not reformed) workplace princess yourself?

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