signs of a know it all

5 Signs of a Know It All Co-Worker and How to Deal With Them

One of the toughest people to face in the workplace is a know it all. Just the thought of listening to someone like that probably even makes you shudder. You know, that one person on the team that acts like they’re never wrong. What could possibly be worse? What are some signs of a know it all coworker?

signs of a know it all

The thing that gets us most about know it all co-workers is not that they know a lot. In fact, there’s nothing more assuring than working with someone that can provide great insight. Having someone with the answers to challenges we face is never a bad thing. But why is it that we disdain the idea of a know-it-all at work? What is it about being a know it all that makes it so annoying- even dangerous for a company’s culture a productivity?

The Problem with Having A Know-It-All at Work

Workplace Psychology gives us an insight from a study by Lombardo & Eichinger stating.

“Being arrogant is a problem because a person “always thinks he/she has the right and only answer [and] discounts or dismisses the input of others”

Having the answers isn’t the issue. The problem most people have with a know it all is the sense of arrogance and lack of teachability that comes along with it. There’s nothing wrong with giving the occasional insight that could help a co-worker out when they’re stuck with a problem. But someone who butts in without permission or context could be an issue.

So what’s so bad about having a know-it-all employee in the workplace? a know it all can eventually derail team motivation and work dynamics. They lack a sense of trust within the organization. If it’s the leader that has this problem, then this could be worse. That could result to a degradation of individual and organizational success.

5 Tell-tale Signs of a Know It All Co-worker

So how can you tell if a co-worker has crossed the border of being helpful and is now being a know-it-all? There are five tell-tale signs to watch out for.

Sign of a Know It All #1. You don’t admit to your mistakes

In my book, Hustle Muscle, I talk about leadership, and how a large chunk of leadership is admitting to mistakes. People trust people who are vulnerable and honest with themselves and others. We all know that no one is perfect. That means that we can see through someone who will not readily admit mistakes. That’s why for team members, especially managers and leaders, there needs to be a willingness to admit mistakes. When we aren’t willing to do that, you’re probably that know-it-all co-worker that everyone avoids.

signs of a know it all
Signs of a know it all leader

Being a good co-worker is more about being responsible than being right. When we try to justify our actions by saying “this team couldn’t hit the quota because there were some people that did not perform,” we’re throwing people under the bus. As a member of a team, any failure you share too. That’s still on you. Why did those people fail to perform? Maybe you dropped the ball at some point too. It could be that you could have contributed to the quota a little bit more. Or maybe, just maybe, those people are “lazy,” because your negative energy is dragging them down.

Sign of a Know It All #2. People seem disinterested when listening to you

I had a client who once told me with such disdain that her team was inattentive to her ideas and instructions. After talking to the team, I later found out that the things that were passed on to the team were always filled with “I did this” and “I did that” and “You shouldn’t do this.” Basically, the team had a know it all leader.

Thankfully enough, that client realized the dismay of her actions long before it caused any more trouble. That company now has attentive and motivated people. When it’s hard to get people to listen, it’s probably because they don’t hear anything worth listening to. As team members and leaders even, we are first to offer value to the team we lead before we demand value in return.

Sign of a Know It All #3. Your staff find it easier to talk to other supervisors

I once joined a company that had multiple partners. I was working directly under the Creative Director, who had two other partners. As a follower, I found it hard to follow my direct supervisor because he was always throwing blame at our team.

As a result, we found it easier to direct our concerns to his other partner who did not have any coordination with our department. The partners were confused about what to do because they couldn’t understand what was going on. Often, when this happens, it is a cry for help to the leaders that their co-worker or boss is showing signs of a know it all.

Sign of a Know It All #4. People come late to your meetings

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all people who come late think you’re a know it all. People can come late for various reasons- some bad, some worse. But many times people find it pointless to attend the meeting of a know-it-all. That’s because people perceive the arrogance and the lack of team input shown. There’s no point in holding a meeting where the opinions of others do not matter. So some people come in late or don’t show up at all. And when they do, they can’t wait to leave.

Sign of a Know It All #5. You use “I” more often that you use “We”

I really believe in what Luke 6:45 says, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” When it’s hard to replace “I think” with “What does everyone think?”, then it’s time we considered changing our leadership style. Knowing as much as you can is important when being a leader. That’s why we talk about it, and read about leadership. But our knowledge will never be more valuable than relationships and people. Like the old cliche says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

What to Do If You Exhibit Signs of a Know It All

So, if you’re reading this and thinking, “man that sounds like me,” there’s no judgment here, pal. I’m not here to make you feel bad. In fact, I hope that this blog opens you up to the error of your ways. If you’re the know-it-all everyone is avoiding, there’s still room to change. It’s time to take a hundred-eighty degree turn. Here are things you should do.

  • Accept your short-comings. It’s time to acknowledge you have those signs of being a know it all and end the denial game. As the old saying goes, “the truth will set you free.”
  • Apologize to your co-workers. It won’t be easy, but apologizing to your co-workers for the time you offended them with your “I did this,” and “Oh you’re wrong” moments without consent will go a long way.
  • Ask for permission moving forward. The problem with being a know it all is intruding into a space you are not invited into. So moving forward, ensure that you have permission to do so. The best way to do that? Is to ask for permission to say your piece. And gauge when people are just trying to be polite by saying yes even when they don’t want your opinion… at least not know.
  • Allow time to work its course. Now, I’m sure you really want to share what you want with people. That’s great and all, but you need to win people’s trust first. When you have that trust, then you can start to speak into their situations, lives, and work.

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