June 20, 2018

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Arrogance and Pride are Career Killers

Admit it. There are times when you say, “I get it…how come they don’t?” Or, “I’m pretty smart—I saw that one coming-- long before everyone else did.” But when you feel like you’re the smartest one in the room everyday, that spells trouble for your career.

Even if you are bright, well educated and get from A to Z faster than most people, when you start thinking and believing that you are smarter than everyone else, your arrogance about your intellect will blind you. It will show up in how you act and what you say.

Here is how it will hurt you:

You will be so convinced that you are right, you will dismiss the opinions and suggestions of others. You will cut people off and push your solution. Even if you end up being right, repeatedly cutting off your colleagues is disrespectful and says, “I know best, so don’t even bother telling me what you think.” Over time, people around you will be quiet.

People will stop telling you what you need to hear because they’ve learned you don’t listen to them anyway. Some wounded colleagues might even wish you would fall flat on your face—especially if you have insulted them by dismissing their warnings that you were about to walk off a corporate cliff.

Arrogance can sneak up on you in the form of expertise. If you have been in your field for many years, or you have extensive training, it’s understandable that you feel competent and skilled. You do know a lot. Unfortunately, when a less experienced colleague or employee has a fresh idea, it’s easy to dismiss it as naïve or flawed. I’ve seen this happen when a senior executive has moved up the ranks and he is now a level above the department he used to manage. Times have changed and he is quick to dismiss new ideas because they don’t fit with the way he used to do things. He may have been the expert back then but he has forgotten times change.

In a related scenario, a sought after expert can get so used to being the one people come to for answers, he stops learning from others because he thinks he is already good enough. He may not attend conventions, read the latest books, or take a seminar. And he certainly won’t ask for advice himself. He has forgotten that being curious and open to learning is what created his expertise in the first place.

Arrogance can cause you to blame others for problems, rather than taking necessary action yourself. Rather than taking ownership for your own mistakes and behavior, you play the righteous, superior one, who couldn’t possibly be wrong. Collaboration goes out the window as conflict and dissention block progress. Expertise won’t help you as your reputation as a difficult coworker prevents your experience from being used.

Arrogance can cause burn out because you shut others off from helping you. You are so busy solving all the problems yourself, you don’t have time to delegate—and mentoring is out of the question, because of your double-booked schedule. “It would take far too long to bring these people up to my level,” you reason. “I’ll just have to do it myself.” Meanwhile, talented employees and coworkers stagnate…and eventually look elsewhere for development and the opportunity to contribute. Eventually, complaints and exit interviews mount and senior management have a decision to make…and it’s usually not in your favor.

Is it possible you have a touch of arrogance? If so, let this be your wake-up call. Your career depends on it.

- Joan Lloyd

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