Make us your home page
Career Q&A | By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Model professional behavior for smart, but arrogant, co-worker

Q I have a young professional colleague who is hard-working, smart, competent and … arrogant. When bringing her skills to work on a problem, she's hard to beat. But she identifies internal "clients" who don't get it as lazy and rants about how stupid someone is, thereby upsetting the emotional climate of our whole team. I've had to provide followup support when she's dismissed someone's concerns too quickly and they've raised the issue with me. Her supervisor is no help; I could raise the issue up the line from me, but I'd rather deal with her directly. Ideas?

A: Offer her feedback, set limits during her rants, and buffer yourself from her emotions.

Start with looking out for yourself, identifying the ways that you're affected and examining the reasons for your reactions. While she isn't attacking you, it's creating an environment that diminishes your enjoyment in the workplace. It may be the negativity, it may be a sense that she's being unfair; whatever it is, understand your reaction so that it doesn't get the better of you.

Consider other consequences of her behavior in terms of impact on relationships, workplace effectiveness and her own potential career growth. Then try to get deeper into her frame of reference to understand how she sees the world. Think about the sources of her judgmental reaction — not to excuse it, but to be able to provide feedback that may help her move beyond it.

Finally, determine what a successful outcome would look like. Do you aspire to seeing her mature so that this behavior stops, or is your goal simply to remove this source of conflict in your day-to-day life? This will determine the types of steps you'll want to consider.

Timing is everything in dealing with this colleague directly. Talking about the issue outside of the moment can be effective, since emotions wouldn't be as high. If you decide to take this course, think through the message you want to send. Focus on crafting "I" messages, such as, "I feel uncomfortable when … " rather than messages that could be interpreted as attacks, such as "You always … "

Be specific in your feedback, and choose a single point to make, rather than bringing up all issues at once, which could put her on the defensive. Also, anchor your feedback in a tone of respect, offering it as a way that she could continue to build on her strengths.

Once you've figured out your messages, be sure to ask permission to give feedback. And, if she says she's not interested, respect that. She may come back later when she's prepared. However, if you offer it without consent, it's likely to be received poorly.

When she goes off about a colleague, you don't have to sit quietly. Develop a repertoire of responses to cut off unproductive rants. Ask her to focus on solutions, do a humorous "time out," defend the colleagues, probe to understand the underlying issues, or simply step away to send a message that this isn't acceptable behavior.

Model and reinforce professionalism, and you'll help this talented colleague gain the emotional intelligence she needs.

Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.

Model professional behavior for smart, but arrogant, co-worker 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data


    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent


    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower


    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]