How to Talk to the Employee Who Thinks They Know Everything

As a manager, you inevitably have to deal with problem employees. One of the most challenging is the office know-it-all.

You know who they are: They always have to have the last word, they’re never wrong about anything, and in meetings, they speak up just to hear their own voice. When they think they have the answer to a question or problem, they don’t take well to being contradicted. It’s more important to them to win an argument than be part of an effective shared solution.

And yet, dealing with them can be tricky, because they may actually be hard workers and assets to their team. So, you need to curb their know-it-all tendencies gracefully and professionally. It may not be fun, but by taking the right steps, you can do it.

Start by hiring smart.

As is true of most problems in life, prevention is the best medicine. If you screen candidates carefully for this and other negative traits, you can avoid hiring a know-it-all and the related interpersonal conflicts before they begin.

  • Look for applicants who are open-minded, calm, outward-focused and willing to learn and listen. Avoid those who seem overly impressed with their own knowledge base and who launch into conversations unprepared, at top volume, and by interrupting what others are saying.

Meet with the employee in private.

Despite your best efforts, you’re bound to find a know-it-all on your staff at some point. Before the situation gets out of hand, meet with the individual in a private setting, away from their peers. This lessens the pressure on them from feeling on display or needing to once again prove that they’re right.

  • Bring up the subject in a tactful but direct way. Try saying something like “I noticed that you didn’t back down from that argument even after your statement had clearly been proven incorrect” or “Your listening skills at team meetings could use some attention. Let’s work together and make a concrete improvement plan.”

Encourage honest, open communication.

By actively modeling the right style when you meet with a problem employee, you can lay a foundation of trust and begin to help them improve their own communication style.

  • Begin by discussing the positive aspects of the employee’s performance. You will more effectively put them at ease and create a more open channel for two-way communication.
  • Listen to their ideas before introducing your own. Don’t automatically disagree, just listen. Then, at the appropriate point in the conversation, be calm and clear about workplace expectations.
  • If appropriate, question the validity of an employee’s ideas. When they provide know-it-all solutions, ask probing questions to encourage the use of logic and analyzation. This may be a needed area of coaching to make it a routine process.
  • Remind them that you’re both there to find the best solution. If they respond with disrespect, let them know this type of communication is not productive. If you think a session may turn volatile, include a higher supervisor or an HR rep in the meeting. It may be time to consider a verbal or written warning or another plan of action.

For more direction on how to handle difficult employees and negative behavior patterns – and hiring to avoid problems before they occur – contact the staffing and management experts at PrideStaff Fresno today. Your success is our mission.

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