It’s a tricky spot to be in as a leader — you have a young employee who is technically strong, showing tremendous skill and promise and, because of that, you’re eager to champion that employee’s growth and success.
There’s just one thing holding you back — that young pup employee is a bit of an entitled jerk.
Tactless when interacting with others around them, feeling entitled to skip ahead without putting in the hard work, and arrogantly confident they always know the right answer (to the degree they come across downright insubordinate). Their antics feel directly disrespectful to your authority, undermine the camaraderie of the team, and just make the workplace dynamic unnecessarily tense and frustrating. On one hand, you want to help every direct report rise to their full potential. On the other hand, part of you wants to take this cocky direct report down a notch. Whether it’s a Gen X-er or one of the much maligned Millennials grating your nerves, this is how to keep your cool, lead with presence, and inspire the best performance (and attitude) in this employee:
1. Identify your own hot buttons
When your direct report’s blunt directness or ‘presumptuous attitude’ rubs you the wrong way, pause and reflect on why? Try to pinpoint the threat you are feeling. Do you worry they’ll outshine you or steal your idea? Did their comment make you feel foolish or undermined in front of your team? Look, let’s be honest here: Even the strongest, most honorable leaders have behaviors their egos react to. What button is this employee pushing in you? And can you consider the possibility that a fear or insecurity in you is simply bumping up against an inexperienced, unpracticed and unrefined side of this other person? (They’re still new at this ‘work world’ thing, remember?) Before you instantly assume your employee is wrong and blatantly disrespecting you, consider that ‘showing respect’ may look differently to each of you. While you may consider “showing respect” humbly deferring to the hierarchy of authority, your employee may sincerely consider “showing respect” speaking to you openly and candidly, colleague to colleague. Assuming your direct report actually has the best intentions (just, maybe not the most tactful execution), how would you respond to that behavior if you didn’t get triggered and your hot button of inadequacy and respect had not been pushed?
2. Avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy
People love bonding over a ‘common enemy’ and it seems nothing bonds leaders mid-30s and older more than lamenting about millennials. So, do an integrity check and make sure you’re not looking for your younger reports to fail before they even do so, simply because you’re chalking up their awkward behavior of one or two of them as proof the whole generation is deficient. How you decide to view an employee creates the actual dynamic of your relationship with that person. So, look for the best in the people you lead. Put yourself in their shoes. What is theirgoal, their motivation, their point of view? And most importantly — try to understand what’s it like for them being on the other side of you and your reaction to them. Might your reaction come across to them as insecurity, jealousy, arrogance … even entitlement on your end? Is that reaction diminishing their respect for you and/or making them feel defensive or threatened in the workplace? Just make sure you’re not weighing your own personal opinion or perception of the situation as the full, factual picture of what’s occurring.
3. Mentor without patronizing
No one likes feeling patronized. So, by all means, pull your direct report aside and share your experience of their offending behavior, but avoid the “You see, young pup, I’m older and wiser, so let me mold you” approach. Instead, from a place of mutual respect, help this employee recognize the benefits of balancing both tooting their own horn and working collaboratively and cohesively with the team. They may not even realize how their behavior comes across or how it’s working against their goals. One colleague of mine had a young employee in her division that the entire extended management team was lobbying to terminate because of the employee’s snarky “millennial” attitude (i.e. always acting ‘put out’ by assignments, responding to direct questions with annoyed-sounding monosyllabic answers, etc.). Instead of terminating her, my colleague pulled the employee aside and asked about her behavior from a concerned point of view. The young employee was genuinely shocked she was being perceived that way. She shared that she is a shy, introverted person and thought her responses were conveying a professional “all about business” work ethic, when actually she came across to everyone as unfriendly and straight up insubordinate. The employee, with a little coaching, made an impressive and immediate turn around in her attitude and ended up being one of the strongest members of the project team.
4. Hold the employee accountable
Overlooking a lousy or arrogant attitude in a few employees just isn’t acceptable for any company that hopes to create a healthy, inclusive culture for all of its employees. Yes, considerate conversation about the issue is definitely the place to start (always!) … but, ultimately, holding the employee accountable for modeling the company’s values isas important as them honing their technical skill sets. Make expectations clear, as well as consequences (whether being removed from a leadership position or, if needed, ultimately let go from the company). Then make sure to follow through on providing any coaching or support promised, and give your employee a fair amount of time to practice into the new behavior you expect, as behavior does not magically change overnight. In the overall picture of this, what we’re really talking about is psychological safety. And while it’s essential that you, as the leader, do everything possible to keep your own behavior in alignment with best practices and your own personal integrity … part of that task is sending a clear message that overtly negative, arrogant attitudes from one or two employees will not be left unchecked to compromise the success of the whole team. This article originally published on LinkedIn. Comments are closed. Let’s say there is one person in your team who is a top performer. While being good at their job, the said individual is also known for being quite arrogant towards his peers. Despite showing such an attitude, leaders often find it difficult to reprimand employees who have worked with the company for a long period of time and have proven significant contributions. Nonetheless, if an employee’s arrogant behavior is left unaddressed, it may lead to the establishment of a toxic working environment in which everyone feels uneasy working together as a team. Understanding Arrogance The ‘know-it-all’ employees are problematic to the growth of a company because they disturb the development and togetherness of the team with a remarkable show of their huge egos. Arrogant employees may be a significant threat to the perception of an employer’s brand and the overall team’s performance. It is often challenging for leaders to persuade these individuals of any new changes in the company because they are resistant to change and have strict beliefs on how things should ideally run. Owing to their capacities and experiences (as well as tenure), these employees can be very stubborn and relatively insensitive to any constructive criticism. It is true that job-related characteristics such as devotion, discipline, adherence to deadlines, and work quality are important factors to determine an employee’s self-performance. But, we should recognize that attitude is an integral component of self-performance at work. An arrogant employee who is unwilling to receive feedback from senior management will struggle to succeed in a competitive workplace. Those who are amenable to ideas and constructive criticism, on the other hand, will see progress in their job and acquire opportunities for better self-development. HR leaders need to come up with the best tactics to manage arrogant employees without degrading them or damaging their egos. Here are some tips you can take: 1 . Arrange a One-on-One Meeting Expecting individuals to change their behavior overnight is almost impossible. In fact, people are not always aware of how their actions affect their jobs and the environment. Thus, managers should take their time when it comes to managing arrogant employees. Leaders can set a time frame for a one-on-one review, such as the next three or six months, to see if the arrogant employee is exhibiting specific adjustments in their attitude. Read Also: Amazon Singapore Introduces New Mental Health Support for Workers and Their Families 2 . Be Less Aggressive In pointing out an employee’s unacceptable behavior during a one-on-one meeting, managers should not exaggerate their comments since it can lead to hostility and misunderstanding. Rather, they should be detailed when criticizing the employee’s negative attitudes, and emphatic when encouraging them to change. Karan Rhodes of Shockingly Different Leadership (SDL) suggested that managers should focus on feedback instead of coaching. An arrogant employee may need a reality check from time to time, thus it is preferable to go from coaching to solicited feedback/360 evaluation. This enables your employees to better comprehend how their actions are affecting the team. A good exercise is “two positives; one negative,” in which feedback is offered on what the individual is doing well as well as crucial defects that are impeding achievement. 3 . Make Consequences Clear Arrogant employees often believe that their presence and contribution are desperately needed by their employers. These extremely self-assured employees stand in contrast to the company’s ideals and ideas about modesty. Employers should be proactive and provide clear consequences to arrogant employees if they are unable to adjust their bad attitudes at work. If the arrogant employee does not exhibit expected changes in their professional attitude, periodic reminders and a “order for termination” may be recommended. 4 . Keep Track on Their Progress Once you have had ‘the talk’, do not forget to keep track of their progress. This will help the said employees meet their objectives within the timeframe you have set. Progress can be tracked in a variety of ways, including asking for comments from coworkers, assessing the quality of their work, and holding frequent one-on-one meetings. To ensure utmost openness, make documented observations and reports. Use the reports to evaluate their success at the conclusion of the agreed-upon term. Final Remark Angela Morrill from Angela Morrill Leadership & Life Coaching shared her take on dealing with arrogant employees. She said that company culture is established by actions that are both rewarded and accepted. Being specific about desired and unacceptable actions, as well as following through with reinforcement and responsibility, will address any undesired behaviors or attitudes. Whether they are the consequence of perceived arrogance or anything else, improving the culture inside a business is critical. Dealing with arrogant employees needs persistent efforts, patience, and investment of time. However, by bridging the communication divide with such employees through one-on-one interaction, leaders cannot only help change their behavior but also groom these talents to assume leadership roles in the future. Only with change in behavior and displaying the right attitudes at work, can such arrogant employees scale the heights of success. In the end, patience holds the key to change. Read Also: Salary Negotiation Tips for Employers and HR Managers (Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) Self-confidence is a valuable trait in the workplace, but, in some employees, self-confidence manifests itself as arrogance. If employees act as if they know better than anyone else, shooting down others’ ideas or stealing the spotlight at meetings, morale can suffer. Know-it-all team members can sometimes stifle innovation. As Matthew Morey, CPA, CGMA, a senior staff regulatory analyst at Entergy in New Orleans, pointed out, their attitudes and actions might make their coworkers reluctant to offer opinions. «Someone could have a really good idea, and you’d miss out on an opportunity to make something easier to do or more efficient,» he said. Though they may appear self-assured, arrogant employees are often insecure deep down. «This is someone struggling to say they don’t know,» said Jessica Iennarella, CPA, CFF, supervisor at HSNO in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their pushy behavior, she said, can lead others to avoid them: «The rest of the team can isolate that person because they don’t want to be constantly one-upped.» However, there are ways to get know-it-all employees to recognize the effects of their behavior. If you’re faced with managing an employee whose arrogant ways are becoming a problem, here are some tactics to try: Face the problem head-on. When dealing with an employee who is used to getting in the last word, sometimes correcting their behavior comes down to getting your point across loud and clear. «Explain in the specific context of the job why the behavior is a problem,» said Iennarella, a 2016 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy. You can also try pushing back on their claims. «Don’t be afraid to challenge this employee’s assertions,» said Atlanta-based career coach and author Hallie Crawford. «Ask them where they got their information and if they have proven data for what they say is the best way to do something.» Be sure to do so in a tactful way, she added. «While you don’t want to shame the employee, gently asking for more details can help them to realize that they may not actually have all the facts,» she said. Make sure your course-correction stays constructive. Iennarella recommended keeping the emphasis on your goal — trying to help your employee improve and your team function better — during such conversations. Put them in the driver’s seat. Sometimes reversing roles can be helpful. Morey suggests having a know-it-all employee moderate a brainstorming session. Insist that they focus on keeping the session running smoothly, rather than contributing ideas of their own, he said. This tactic may help them to see how much their coworkers have to contribute, and how listening and collaborating may lead to a better outcome. Use their confidence to your advantage. In some ways, it can be helpful to have someone around with a surplus of confidence, particularly if it’s confidence in their team. Such employees «are very good at proving their position. They’re very strong-willed,» Morey, a 2016 graduate of the AICPA Leadership Academy, said. «If we have a project we’re trying to pitch to upper management, this person would be great at it. There’s a certain level of salesmanship and confidence that comes from the know-it-all.» «The tough part,» he added, «is making sure that person isn’t so much of a know-it-all, but a person who can utilize the whole team.» Matthew Philpott is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact senior editor Courtney Vien at [email protected] I wrote The Dangers of Being an Arrogant Boss and a reader emailed me with an interesting comment. She said that she thought the advice was useful, but that it didn’t touch on the opposite—and just as important—issue of arrogant employees. “The fault can’t always be the boss’s,” she wrote. That’s a valid point: One doesn’t need a management title to be arrogant—or to be destructive. Arrogant employees can be disastrous for teamwork, morale and even retention. If you’re leading a team with an arrogant member, follow these tips to remedy the situation:
- Do not attempt to “put the person in his or her place.” Tempting as it might be, never respond to a team member’s arrogance with public condescension, sarcasm or chastisement. That will backfire for three reasons. First, it will make you appear petty to your team. Even if your team members are fed up with their arrogant peer, they still will not respond well to a leader who acts immaturely. Second, the arrogant person will likely respond argumentatively, which will elevate the tension without resolving the main problem. Third, insecurity is often at the heart of arrogance, so embarrassing the person will increase the insecurity and, possibly, the arrogance as well.
- Speak with the person privately. Make note of a specific incident in which the person’s arrogance negatively affected the team, and talk to the employee about it privately. Approach the situation as a coaching opportunity. Example: “Matt, I don’t know if you were aware of it, but today during the meeting, you talked about your and Martha’s success as if it were just yours. I want you to be aware of your word choices and how they might be interpreted.” Note: Stick to the individual incident, and do not make blanket statements like “Your arrogance is once again hurting our team dynamics” or “You need to check your ego.” In fact, if you can avoid using the loaded words “arrogant,” “egotistical” and any of their variations, all the better.
- Praise fairly—and generously. Alleviate everyone’s insecurities by regularly praising people’s successes openly. That will lessen the arrogant person’s need to toot his or her own horn all the time, and it will ease others’ fears that you’re missing their contributions. Example: “Everyone, I wanted to make you aware of the huge sale that Matt and Martha just made. It was the biggest we’ve had in six months. Martha, those late nights you spent researching XYZ really paid off, and Matt, you closed the sale like a pro. Let’s give them a round of applause.” In that scenario, you ensure that Martha—not to mention the rest of the team—knows that you recognize her value, and you also fulfill Matt’s need for approval.
- Expect progress, but recognize that real change takes time. Arrogance is a deeply ingrained characteristic. People don’t develop it overnight, and it won’t disappear that quickly either—even if you’re an excellent manager. Keep coaching the person when you see problematic behaviors and celebrating praiseworthy achievements. However, if you don’t see any improvement over time, consider letting the employee go. Do your best to help him or her become a team player, but ultimately you have to do what’s best for your team and your organization.
One final tip: Be aware of your blind spots. Many arrogant employees are average workers, but some are excellent at what they do. It’s much easier to recognize and be annoyed by the former group, but don’t forget about the latter. Sometimes managers turn a blind eye to their all-star performers’ egotism. After all, they really are the best at what they do, and you’re grateful for their contributions. However, their behavior can be just as damaging to the rest of your team members’ morale. If you ignore those employees’ arrogance, others will likely think you are unfair and out-of-touch—and a leader like that is even more destructive to a team than an arrogant employee is. What tips do you have for managing arrogant employees? [Image Source: Abe Novy] The Bud to Boss Editorial Staff is a team of leadership experts led by Kevin Eikenberry. We provide valuable insight, resources and powerful learning opportunities designed to specifically address the challenges of new leaders. Together we can help make it a smooth and successful transition. Contact us to learn more about our services and to talk with one of our experienced training consultants.
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