On June 15th, 2015, I wrote a blog about expecting greatness in others titled “More Than You Think They Are.” In response to that piece, one of my followers asked me for input on how to handle on how to handle and who thought they were more than you think they are. I thought this was an interesting twist on the same phrase. The reader went on to explain that one of the reasons they avoided working in corporate America was because of those individuals, more often than not, leaders who were over the top impressed with themselves. Most of us can picture this individual either in our personal lives or at work. They constantly brag about their skills and accomplishments making anyone who interacts with them feel small and unneeded. And most often are reaction to them is under the breath cursing or “here they go again” rolling of the eyes and over time we learn to dismiss everything they have to say. When left unchecked this arrogant personality type can obliterate the morale and productivity of a team or organization.
People leaders must work with this “larger than life” attitude to help it down from its high horse to the level ground of reality. There are 3 simple steps to work with arrogant team members.
#1 See if for what it is .
First, you must make sure that what you believe to be arrogance is truly that. Sometimes confidence in one’s ability can be misconstrued as arrogance. Bottom line… arrogance is low self-esteem. Some key indicators of arrogance –talking about themselves to the exclusion of others, generally have limited life experiences and viewpoints, make generalizations about success in their lives, unwilling to see their flaws, loathe uncertainty, have a” my way or the highway” philosophy to name a few. When these signs are present then you are dealing with egotism. Frankly, people with big egos are more than likely covering up for their lack of self-esteem and confidence. These individuals are most often masking their fear of not being good enough or not being able to please others with a grandiose image of their abilities. Just internally recognizing and seeing arrogance as fear allows you to interact with this individual in a very different and compassionate way than simply dismissing them.
# 2 Offer them opportunities to demonstrate their greatness.
Instead of taking arrogant team members at their word give them projects or tasks that demonstrate and even stretch their capabilities. Make sure you are very clear and detailed about the requirements of the task and the expectations for success. Allow the team member to ask clarifying questions and ensure them you will offer support as needed. Once the intentions are clear, let them show you what they can do. Don’t leave them hanging out to dry or set them up for success; however, it is essential you hold them accountable. People with whose large egos control them are masters at shirking duties and getting away with it. Consistent follow through to ensure they are on track will help uncover any potential issues as well as make the person feel supported. Remember that your team member is running scared underneath so don’t be tempted set them up for failure to prove they are not what they think they are.
#3 Provide honest and timely feedback.
Feedback is paramount to cocky people. Because fear is running them they are constantly questioning whether they are doing the right thing, thus the reason they make themselves larger than life. Give them kudos and appreciation when they complete tasks as expected. Point out in a calm and constructive manner areas in which they could make improvement and offer helpful tips for success. Over time when arrogant team members are given the proper attention and feedback they will tone down their grandiose view. However, in instances where that does not happen, as the leader, you will have to have a heart to heart sharing with them how their view of the world is different from reality. If this conversation is required, focus on constructive feedback which means pointing out specifically how their view of themselves is not demonstrated in their actions or how their attitude is impacting the team. Expressing a genuine interest in making them successful will make this conversation much more productive and will produce more long lasting results than chastising them for their bad behaviors.
Arrogant people are not fun for anyone to be around so it is critical as a people leader that these individuals do not get left to their own devices. Take the time to see the underlying fear, give the team members opportunities to succeed and provide honest feedback and watch arrogance shift to confidence.
Reflection Question: What are some others ways you have dealt with arrogant team members? Share your answers in the comments section below.
Call for input: If you have a question about leading, supervising or managing people, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and the answer to your question may be featured in one of my weekly blog posts or weekly People Leadership Insights.