The Workplace Know-It-All

10 Jun

Letterbalm Know-It-AllDear LetterBalm: I work in a congenial office where we all get along except for one guy who is an annoying know-it-all. He’s got an answer for everything. His way is always the best, and he talks down to anyone who dares to question him. He puts people down – sometimes, not so subtly. At the same time, he toadies up to our supervisor, so his unhelpful attitude isn’t known to the higher ups. He’s so desperate for recognition that he gives his opinion loudly and frequently and keeps on doing it. We’re all going nuts around here. How can I shut him up?

–Do Be Quiet

Ms. L.B. wants to know how long the blowhard has been employed at your office. If he’s always been there and always behaved this way, you’ll have to be creative to dislodge him from his self-created lofty perch. Several tips: Don’t let him get under your skin. Don’t fight back – you won’t win, and you’ll look bad. (Think of it as an adult arguing with a child – the adult never looks good.) Let him go on until he runs out of air. Then stay calm and state your points slowly and concisely. Don’t engage, but state your counterarguments. And, psychologists suggest using the person’s first name frequently – it puts you back in control. Try something like these to take the wind out of his sails:

  • I’ve listened carefully to your thoughtful explanation, Quentin, and now I’d like to offer a few counterproposals.
  • Quentin, you’ve presented several interesting ideas that need further thought and research. I will come back to you with my thoughts by the end of the day.
  • Quentin, I appreciate your enthusiasm in expressing your ideas, but we’ve got only an hour for this meeting, and everyone here has deadlines. You and I can meet tomorrow at 10 if it works for your schedule to explore this further. But now doesn’t work for the agenda.
  • You’ve given us much food for thought, Quentin. But to do what you suggest and get it done right, we need support, resources and guidance that we can’t devote to the kind of project you propose. Can you give us some direction here? (This is a good approach for a know-it-all boss.)
  • We all want to do our best here and continue with the great working relationships we have in this office, Quentin. We do so many things so well, but we need to have clear priorities. May I suggest a way to do this with your new ideas?
  • Quentin, I object to what you’re saying because I believe it won’t work, and here’s why … If I may make a couple of counter-suggestions …

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