Lucia dreaded interacting with her colleague Ray. Meetings that were scheduled for an hour would last two; once Ray started talking, he wouldn’t stop. “There’s no doubt he was a smart man,” Lucia says, “but he did little more than talk about everything he knew. He delegated almost all of his work to others.”
Most of us have dealt with a Ray, the know-it-all who is convinced they’re the smartest person in the room, hogs airtime in meetings and has no qualms about interrupting others. They gleefully inform you of what’s right, even if they’re clearly wrong, lacking information or fail to understand the nuances of a situation.
Here are some of the signs of the know-it-all:
• Monopolizes conversations, refusing to be interrupted and talking over others
• Does not listen to or heed criticism or feedback
• Speaks in a condescending tone
• Explains things that others already understand
• Rarely asks questions or displays curiosity
• Steals or doesn’t share credit for group successes
One reason know-it-alls exist in so many workplaces is that many organizations reward people who act as if they have all the answers. Do employees who state their ideas with conviction tend to get more support for those ideas at your job? If people appear uncertain, are they considered weak? In many cultures, decision-making is a competitive sport, rather than a collaborative effort, so acting like you know everything is a shrewd survival technique.
So how can you make your interactions with your know-it-all coworker not just less annoying but less damaging?
First, answer these four questions before taking action.