25 Nov 2022

Beware arrogance

Arrogant people are lucky enough to be thick-skinned, brandishing their own certainty and lack of self-doubt or humility as they ride roughshod over the petty issues of other, lesser mortals.

The innate self-belief of the arrogant is transmuted into a conviction of superiority, and a fatal inability to ever admit a mistake. Arrogant people are undoubtedly resilient; their ability to remain unbowed, and to breeze through everyday life without a care about the effects of their actions on those around them, can be quite awe-inspiring, but the effect of arrogance is distinctly undesirable.

Arrogant people are, quite simply, rude. People who have no self-doubt, who proceed without looking left and right to check the feelings of those around them are not people we should be rushing to befriend. Unfortunately, arrogance – that overbearing pride and superiority shown towards perceived inferiors – is now all too often associated with the drive to succeed, to get on, not to be held back by lesser mortals. Ambition is applauded and its unattractive attributes, such as arrogance, are tolerated.

There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, but they are very different traits. Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance that comes from a realistic appreciation of our abilities and qualities. Arrogance is, at root, an inflated sense of personal value.

Arrogant people are know-it-alls, who feel they have nothing to learn, and therefore are resistant to listening to other people’s points of view. Confident people, on the other hand, have no problem listening. They’re aware that they don’t know everything and are happy to learn from others.

Arrogant people brag about their achievements, skills and abilities, and often ignore those around them. They like to hog the spotlight, making others feel less important. They might use condescending or patronising language or simply talk over people. These unattractive characteristics often mask deep-seated feelings of insecurity.

Conversely, confident people are willing to share the spotlight, and like to acknowledge other people’s achievements. In a social context, this is revealed in a propensity to ask questions, a willingness to listen to other people, and a tendency to encourage other people to ‘shine’. In a work context, confident people are collaborative and cooperative; they ask for input from their colleagues and encourage teamwork.

We’ve all come across arrogant people in our social life. We may have suffered an unpleasant encounter at a social event, where we have been bored to death, alienated or patronised by an arrogant guest, who is boastful and overbearing, yet blissfully unaware of their own shortcomings. In the context of a short-term social encounter, the best policy is to swiftly move on – engaging with an arrogant ego can be a bruising experience.

However, it becomes much more troubling in the workplace, where arrogant people can be truly disruptive. Their inability to listen to other people, to engage in constructive dialogue or to work collaboratively, can poison the office atmosphere and disrupt team dynamics.

Here’s how to manage arrogant behaviour or people in the workplace:

1.  Spot arrogant applicants

Be cautious of CVs that look too good to be true. Arrogant applicants may exaggerate their skills and experience or may argue that they are uniquely suitable for the role. When you interview them, you may find them over-demanding – they may state at the outset that they cannot contemplate overtime, or they require a desk near the window. They may enquire about promotion prospects before they are even offered the job. These kinds of demands denote a sense of entitlement, which may well emanate from an over-inflated ego.

2.  Call out arrogant behaviour

Inform your employees that you will be reviewing their attitude as well as their output and performance. Arrogant people may feel that their rude behaviour is justified by the results they get, so you need to let them know that no amount of expertise will justify disruptive or demeaning behaviour. If you want to encourage teamwork, you need to make it clear at the outset that getting along with colleagues is a high priority.

3. Confront the arrogant employee

Sometimes, you need to tackle arrogant behaviour head-on. Set up a meeting with the employee and be specific about revealing incidents. You will need to spell out the negative consequences – for example low team morale and productivity, resignation of key personnel etc.

Don’t make the mistake of associating overweening pride and feelings of superiority with success.

Consideration for others is a fundamental life-skill that should not drain away in the face of driving ambition.

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