This is the central question that became apparent to me after I wrote a post about how to find empathy for the office jerk. After reading the excellent comments from People Equation readers, I realized that a distinction was in order: the answer depends on what role you play in your organization.
If you are in a leadership position, you must not tolerate arrogant behavior, even if the employee is “brilliant”.
If you are in an individual contributor role (and you have no leverage with this person), you will need to use considerable interpersonal skills to “deal with” an arrogant co-worker. In this case, one of the tactics may be to try to find some empathy with this person, as I suggested. Other tactics, as listed in the comments section of my recent blog post include:
- View your situation as temporary – dig in, find common ground, get the project done.
- Try and empathize…do everything possible to build a bridge. About the third time that you are stepped on in return, then ethically, fairly and visibly crush this person in the workplace. (Jen’s note: this one has a snarky side to it, but I couldn’t resist including it!)
- Work the internal political system to ensure that “difficult” people aren’t assigned to your projects
- Leverage peer pressure – enlist other trusted colleagues to help “shut out” the offending person. It’s possible the arrogant person may get the hint. . .or at least do minimal damage until they are assigned elsewhere (as in, “out the door”.)
Another suggestion for individual contributors: an alternative to “just dealing with it” is to draw a line in the sand – create a boundary that says “I choose not to tolerate this situation.” Even though arrogant people view themselves as superior to others, I’ve found that sometimes being blunt and saying, “That’s not an acceptable way to speak to me” brings them up short. Who knows, they may revise their opinion and see you as “worth” their time. (You are worth their time of course, but this viewpoint comes from The Arrogant One, perched high up on his superior horse, which is, obviously better than your horse.)
Question for you: how do you handle arrogance in the workplace?