Do you have a know-it-all on your team?

With the tendency to barrel through work related tasks while disregarding feedback from the rest of the team, sub par know-it-all’s create overall quality concerns and frustration from the rest of the team. Additionally, heightened obstinacy creates difficulty when trying to provide feedback to these individuals to help them improve in the future.

Here are our tips for how to coach employees who think they know everything.

At some point(s) within our lives, we have all experienced a know-it-all. Whether they come from another coworker or within a circle of family and friends, the word “frustrating” mildly describes the emotions felt by those who come into contact.

The psychology term “belief superiority” defines one who truly believes that their beliefs are superior and knowledge of certain topics is higher. When presented with evidence rejecting their belief, they will not accept the reality where they are incorrect. Research has not demonstrated that those who possess a higher belief superiority-or know-it-all, justify the notion by actually knowing more than others. So to reiterate what you already know about these employees: they are overconfident in their abilities and really do not have a clue.

Working with a know-it-all takes a toll on the morale of the entire team. Reluctantly, your team anticipates fixing inevitable mistakes due to a know-it-all’s refusal to ask for clarification or for help. For the sake of the morale on your team, it’s up to you to keep the peace and coach employees who think they know everything.

4 different approaches for how to coach employees who think they know everything..

When pondering the most effective method to provide feedback to a know-it-all, allow yourself time to prepare. Gather relevant concrete examples and plenty of follow up feedback to present to the individual. Understand that their stubborn beliefs serve as a compensation mechanism to their content fears telling them they are not good enough. 

Using a combination of these approaches, you will be able to build their confidence as a worker so they feel adequate without resorting to the know-it-all bad habits.

  1. The magic of forward thinking developmental feedback

I have heard this described as feedforward rather than feedback. The first time I heard this term, I felt as if I rolled my eyes so hard that I about fell out of my chair. With a personal aversion to cheesy business buzzwords, you can see why.

The lapse in branding aside – there is merit to this concept. Likely to fall on deaf ears, refrain from focusing on where your employee has been lacking and communicate how they can improve for the future. Incentivize this future so they are more likely to go down this path with you.

With forward thinking developmental feedback, entice the employee by building upon their current performance. When you clearly define what your expectations are and how they can meet them, you can lower their fear. You have given them a road map, they just need to follow it.

  1. Tie mentorship into their action plan for improvement

When coaching employees who think they know everything, encourage them to work with other staff. This individual must be able to work with both their colleagues and you as their leader-where you and other staff know the industry.

Let them know a clear path set with mini goals to meet your expectations and improve. When they achieve the mini goals it will make them feel confident that they are achieving your expectations.

  1. Build their confidence

Being overconfident in your abilities is a superiority complex. The employee has to prove to everyone that they know what is happening with their know-it-all approach. The root is that they are afraid of their team realizing that they are a mediocre worker and hiding feelings of inferiority.

You can lower this fear by publicly praising when they actually are correct, and privately speaking with them one-on-one when they are not correct for what your expectations are and support for how they can improve.

  1. A simple question to coach a know-it-all

If they do not seem receptive to the above steps, try this technique to soften them up.

“What would happen if you were wrong?”

The purpose of this question is to reveal if they would worry that their team would think less of them or they would lose their job. At this moment you can provide assurances that you are not going to fire them and coworkers like them.

When you have succeeded in pinpointing why they are afraid of being wrong, you can circle back to steps 1-3 to work on a successful action plan.

If, however, they disregard the question by emphasizing that they are never wrong, you can proceed to answer the question for them; communicate that you are not going to fire them for admitting that they are wrong and that by listening to the opinions of their coworkers, they will earn respect. When circling back to number 1 of developmental feedback, make it clear that if they do not walk down this path of improvement with you that they could possibly be terminated: not because they are wrong, but because they refuse to meet your expectations as a team player.

Follow up check in meetings

After you have coached an employee who thinks they know everything, it is important to have a loop back in meeting with them. Set up a few specific times where you can provide feedback on their progress and discuss how they can continue to tweak their actions.

In some cases, you may feel that it’s necessary to initiate multiple conversations with the same individual. Some people are just not self aware and require regular examples of where they have fallen short in not knowing everything. Have hope though, research supports that once belief superiority is lowered, individuals are more receptive to ideas and opinions they were not previously open to.

With intent to create innovation within your business through hiring diverse and talented personnel, you can expect their unique characteristics to accompany them as well. While we all possess both positive traits and less than favorable faults, the ability of everyone in your team to remain humble and work as team players sets you up for success. The sooner you can master how your team works together, the better. However, with extensive complexities in the management position, not everyone feels comfortable in handling more sensitive issues. While it’s important to solve problems once they emerge, the methods in doing so can either improve your workplace or ignite additional problems. Here at MCDA CCG, INC., we have demonstrated success in building foundations of team unity within many businesses. By providing personalized and inclusive coaching solutions, you can ensure enthusiasm and positive compliance from everyone in your organization.

Don’t go it alone, contact us today!

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