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Managing the Office Know-It-All

Managing the Office Know-It-AllOf all of the annoying people in your office, the know-it-all may be the person you’d like to yell at the most. Unfortunately, yelling at your co-workers is generally never good practice and it’s more frowned upon when you’re the boss. So how do should you respond when you find yourself managing a person who thinks they know everything about everything, and are quick to display their vast knowledge to everybody in their presence?

Take the High Road

When your employee is guilty of correcting you for every little detail (even when they’re wrong), your first instinct is to shut them down. While this is necessary at times, you also need to take the high road. Practice empathy and understand that a confidence issue is probably at the heart of their behaviour. As such, pick your battles. Decide which situations can be brushed off and which ones need to be addressed.

Be Prepared

Even if they’re annoying and sometimes wrong, nine times out of ten, the know-it-all is usually quite smart and skilled at arguing. If you want to begin to “put them in their place” then you’re going to have to be prepared yourself. Identify situations where you know they are going thrive and organize before-hand, arming yourself with facts about the subject. As they start to correct you, ask probing questions. Either they will back down or, if you’re willing to be open-minded, you will learn something from them.

Know How It’s Affecting Your Team

As a manager, your job is to lead your entire team, ensuring they’re doing the best work they can do. When you identify the know-it-all, also identify who they’re aggravating. In some cases, it may just be you, especially if they’re vying for your job and only care about undermining you. In other situations, and more commonly, this person has no limits. They correct whoever they can in hopes of feeling superior. When your entire team is being affected, and a negative atmosphere is being created, fixing the problem immediately becomes a higher priority.

Deal with the Behaviour

As alluded to earlier, know-it-alls are smart and you do need to keep an open mind to ensure you’re not turning away innovative thinking that can move your team forward. As a leader, you also need to deal with behaviour that may be bringing down the team. Schedule a time to meet with your know-it-all and provide constructive feedback. Explain that you value their input but they need to consider their delivery. As with all constructive feedback, bring up specific examples of inappropriate behaviour and explain how they affected the team’s performance.

By understanding and addressing a know-it-all’s behaviours, you can bring out much value in an employee that has potential to be a strong asset to your team. Unfortunately, some people are lost causes. They are too stuck in their ways and genuinely believe that they are smarter than everyone else, and that they are a gift of knowledge to your office. This toxic attitude will be disastrous to your team and may cause top employees to leave. As such, your only solution will be to terminate the person’s employment at your company.

How have you dealt with know-it-alls in your company? Do you have any success stories of turning them into functioning team members, or does your experience point to having to fire them each time? Share your experience and advice with our readers in the comments below!

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