Peer-to-Peer: Dealing with employee arrogance

Written by ProfitGuide Staff


“I have an employee who is an average worker. However, he always thinks he is the smartest person and makes decisions on his own without soliciting opinions from co-workers or managers. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the required skills or competencies yet to complete the tasks on his own as it takes time to learn the business. What is the best way to deal with his arrogance?”

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Reader responses

Kevin Lang, Machine O Matic:

Attitude is everything. I would much rather have a less skilled employee with a great attitude than an arrogant one. People can learn new things and grow with an organization. However, if they have a poor attitude they are bound to fail. I would fire your employee with the arrogant attitude.


Be direct. Offer assistance. Monitor closely. Follow up.

Pam Mihailoff, Pivotal Integrated HR Solutions:

It really is a performance issue and should be treated as such. Individuals like this usually have no self-awareness of their behaviour, which is why it must be addressed immediately when it happens. (If it is mentioned after the fact, the employee will typically have selective memory and recall the situation quite differently.) For example, when an employee behaves like the ‘Lone Ranger’ and makes a decision that is not within their realm of authority, the manager should immediately call him or her on it and explain again what the employee’s role and authority level is within the organization (using their job description). The manager should then explain why this decision was not within that realm. The first conversation should be verbal and a note should be placed in the employee’s file that the conversation occurred. The manager should also reference any previous conversation on the subject in this conversation. The next time it happens, the same discussion should take place and a written warning should be issued, and so on.

Thorsten Heimann, Pacific Research and Planning:

Is it arrogance, a way of hiding insecurity or just incompetence your employee is showing? I would confront him with what you observe. Make it clear that you are aware of what’s going on and ask for his point of view. Be friendly, but firm. If you believe that he is able to change, let him know. Tell him also that you will review his performance in a short period of time. Then make a decision to either get rid of him or keep him — maybe on a different position — if his behaviour has changed. If things don’t change, get rid of him. Arrogant and incompetent people usually have a negative impact on the morale and motivation of co-workers.

Grant Robertson:

People with such arrogance will likely not receive any criticism of their work or work manners without taking significant offense. There will be a significant risk in approaching this individual, but it needs to be done if his behaviour is negatively impacting your company and/or the morale of other employees (it will consequently affect their productivity). I think you need to be prepared to lose the employee, just in case. I hope that “average” in your case also means “replaceable.”

If you feel that they are not easily replaceable, the best thing to do would be to reassign the employee to other tasks where his position has less impact on his co-workers and the decisions have less or no consequence to the company. If you still have a strong influence with him, indicate to him that he reports directly to you on those tasks and that you expect to be made aware of the decision process and to have your opinions weighed in the decision making. He may feel OK with consulting with you even though he feels like he is somehow “above” the other employees.

On the other hand, if the employee is indeed replaceable, I think you should offer up a blunt analysis of the situation directly in a one-on-one meeting with the employee. Be direct and to the point. Acknowledge that the employee does have a lot of skills that you value and that you value his contributions and see him as having great potential within the company. Explain to him the effects of his behaviour on the other staff. Also explain that there are consequences to his behaviour for the company and if possible, give a real example of how his decision making hurt the company. He will either get the point, or he will not, but you have done your job. Give him a chance to change his behaviour, but realize that it is unlikely that this will happen. Be prepared to let the employee go after a pre-determined trial period. Of course, the employee may resign in the meantime as a result of the deflation of his ego.

The bottom line is that this is a business decision and you must do what is best for your company. To be blunt, if the employee is causing significant problems for your company and hampering its profitability or growth, then he either has to change, or you should let him go.

For his answer, Grant Robertson will receive a copy of Advantage Play: The Manager’s Guide to Creative Problem Solving by David Ben.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com