“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows” – Epictetus
During my corporate career, I witnessed just about all aspects of annoying workplace behaviors. The most difficult was the “know-it-all.” At some point in time we all end up working with someone like this, or worse, we may find ourselves working directly for someone who simply “knows everything.” This is the arrogant, stubborn, know-it-all type person who must show every one how smart they are. In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith says, “being smart turns people on. Announcing how smart you are turns them off.” So, the question is how does one deal with this behavior? This is not easy, unless you take the position to simply ignore it. Remember, you can’t force someone to change, or mandate a change in personality. However, if you are willing to take some risk, there are steps to consider. First, it’s important to approach the topic objectively and constructively, without becoming too personal. “Know-it-all” personality type people often seek and need validation. That’s what drives their behavior. An approach to dealing with this might start with acknowledging that their information or position has merit, then follow that with other ideas which might also be considered. Feedback is also a powerful motivator. You may have an opportunity to participate in a 360-degree feedback process where colleagues and subordinates are asked for specific feedback on a person. This is used to develop a comprehensive assessment of the person’s strengths and weaknesses. This is your opportunity to offer balanced and constructive information, which can be used to coach the person. There are no easy answers to this at the end of the day. Helping the individual to discover some insight on their own is a place to start.
Until next time…