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How Do I Manage Someone Who Is Good At His Job But Arrogant?

Expert advice for keeping egos in check.

How Do I Manage Someone Who Is Good At His Job But Arrogant?
[Photo: Flickr user K P]

Finding someone who is a really good at her job might seem like a manager’s dream, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare when that employee becomes arrogant.

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This week, leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps a manager figure out how to keep an employee’s ego in check.

Hello,

One of the people on my team has an excellent performance record. And he knows it. His behavior, because of being recognized by everyone in the company, is beginning to cause problems. He’s becoming arrogant, not obeying me (I’m his boss), co-opting others to impose his will. But the company does not see that side of him, so sometimes I look like the bad guy.

What do I do with an employee who is so good it’s making him bad?


I can understand how frustrating this might be, because his performance record says he is excellent—but you’re in a position to see a very different story. Ideally, performance reviews should reflect not only an employee’s work results but also his behavior toward others—emotional maturity and intelligence, ability to function well on a team. That concept may be a good way to open the subject of this employee’s bad behavior with those in the company who think he’s terrific.

For starters, it may help you to remember that those who display arrogance are usually doing so as a way of camouflaging their deep insecurities. Here are some concrete steps you can take:

Attitude Is Part Of Performance
Sit down with him immediately and explain that even though his work results are excellent, his interactions with other people are unacceptable, and that distinction will begin to influence performance reviews and other measures of success on the job. Talk about the difference between arrogance and self-confident assertiveness, and explain that arrogance and insubordination are extremely damaging to careers.

Let him know what behavior is not acceptable. Be specific in your descriptions of which behaviors and actions must stop. Be sure you have examples of his past behavior (especially toward you). Make sure he listens, and let him know that you will be monitoring his behavior.

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Make A Plan For Improvement
If he is unaware of how he misbehaves or acts out, offer him professional assistance; either you can coach him yourself, or tell him to get outside professional assistance from a coach or counselor. Let him know that you are trying to help preserve his personal and professional well-being.

Make Consequences Clear
Those who are arrogant often think that the company needs them so badly they can get away with anything. Let him know that if things don’t improve, the ship will sail without him. You can let him know that he is important, but his behavior toward others is contrary to the company’s values.

Keep Track Of Progress.
At every step, document what you’ve said and done, and keep others in your company informed of what’s going on. Especially since they’ve been biased toward your problem employee, take every opportunity to show them that you’re being fair and methodical in your dealings.

Set A Time To Meet Again.
Let him know he has a certain set time in which to show improvements. After six months (or whatever time you set), there will be another review to see if the attitude and behavior have changed. Firmly and explicitly tell him that this is a nonnegotiable point: If there is no change, there will not be a position available for him after six months.

Good luck!


If you have a dilemma you’d like our experts to answer, send your questions to AskFC@fastcompany.com or tweet a question using #AskFC.

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About the author

Lolly Daskal is a Leadership Development and CEO coach and consultant and founder of Lead From Within. Follow @LollyDaskal.

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