Handling Know-it-All’s

How many times have you run into a person who has all the answers?  They can tell you how to do and why their way is the only way to go.  These people can be real challenges when they are required to work in a team environment. 

First they kill the innovation of the people around them.  When they are always sharing what they think and how they would do things others have no reason to speak up.  This limits the number of new ideas that are generated so the team becomes less productive.

Secondly they can kill the morale of the team.  Being part of a team where being part of a team where your ideas are not welcomed causes people to disengage from the organization.  The know-it-all saps all the joy of being a valued team member from those around them which can lead to more clock watching and less innovation.

Lastly, by being vocal about their superior ideas and product they eventually generate enough annoyance that people in the organization see them as a negative factor.  They can become the person others avoid whenever possible.  As this negative impression grows it hurts the reputation of that individual and the team as a whole. 

So what can you do with a person like this?

  1. During team meetings thank them for their contribution and then solicit input and ideas from the rest of the team.  Show that you value their ideas and you value the ideas of those around them.
  2. Respecting the input of the other team members will help keep morale from being dragged down by the know-it-all.  When possible have others be in a lead role on a project so that everyone knows that as a manager you value everyone on the team.
  3. Counsel the know-it-all in a private setting to encourage new behaviors.  Make sure that the counseling is objective and focuses on professional improvement instead of telling them they are wrong.  Telling them what is wrong with their behavior will make them defensive and closed to improvement.  Done properly getting them to focus on how they can be better can help them change.
  4. The next step may be to move them into a role that requires less team involvement and gives them more professional independence.  It will be important to make sure they have regular contact with their manager to ensure behaviors are appropriate for their position.
  5. If they continue to be a drag on the organization, the last available option is termination.  There are times when no other option will work for the overall good of the organization.

So if you are dealing with a know-it-all on your team, reining them in is critical for the effectiveness of the team and organization.  This is a situation that is challenging to any manager, yet when managed well the reputation of the manager and team improves.  Help the person grow professionally as long as the organization does not suffer.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com


Filed under Leadership, Team Building

6 responses to “Handling Know-it-All’s

  1. I know this person! I think it is often insecurity that leads someone to try and show they deserve to be in their position…..

  2. I have had this person as an employee and found that it did help taking them aside, thanking them for their input and enlisting their help to get others input by not adding so much and asking others for their ideas and such. They then had a purpose for not overpowering the meetings etc. thank you for the great post.

  3. The Chinese have the BEST response to a know it all who doesn’t really know it. I have used it with fun results. You say (as you nod your head) “You may be right.”, (pause just a moment for that to sink in) then follow with “but I don’t think so”. You can even follow it up with – “Here’s why….” you completely catch them off guard and when you get lucky they are still hearing the positive and still actively listening before they realize you are disagreeing with them.

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