Arrogance at Workplace

People are dissimilar in terms of their approach and behavior towards others. Sometimes, when interacting with others, people behave arrogantly, which is normally considered rude. Such issues can be attributed to one’s upbringing, authority hogging, ostentation of wealth, status consciousness, psychiatric complexes, comparing oneself to others etc.Arrogance and Humility
I think there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance because if the person is confident and he/she realizes that, then there’s a possibility that lack of tolerance, discounting others’ opinions and certain level of bias can develop in him/her. As a result, a balanced work relationship is hard to achieve. No matter how good they are with their work, people tend to avoid interacting with them unless necessary.
Perhaps, they have superiority complexes, or maybe they behave like this unknowingly. As far as the workplace is concerned, if somebody has an attitude problem and is not jelling in like other members, then it can create a lot of difficulties for coworkers. Consequently, it can also impede overall group performance.
Kindly share your opinion on this. Furthermore, I would welcome your personal experiences regarding the same. How you handle/tackle such behavior at your workplace or otherwise?


  • I think arrogance is a bad trait in workplace most of the times and i am sure directly pointing it out in person could make a significant difference.

  • Salima:
    “I’ll never hire that guy again” I’ve heard it a few times. If asked “were you not happy with his work ?” they’ll say “its not his work, he’s so difficult to work with”.
    But when you’re confident but kind, patient and a good listener, you’ll genuinely care about others. Your attitude will come across in all what you do. As a result, your people will love to be around you, they’ll side with you and want to assist you in whatever way possible. In short, they’ll take delight in your success. They’ll forgive you easily if you make a mistake and will always talk positively about you behind your back.
    On the contrary, if you’re arrogant and demanding, even your positive qualities will be overlooked and forgotten. You’ll create a great deal of stress for yourself and for those around you. You’ll be left looking over your shoulder wondering who, if anyone, is on your side.
    Well, I believe, you can catch more flies with honey; and when you’re pushy, you push people away.

  • In my experience arrogance comes from one of two places; frustration or insecurity. I try and look beyond the immediate behaviour to get to the emotion causing it. Of course it is so very hard not to react and become defensive, this requires a balanced emotional and rational state.

  • The fine line that you refer to between confidence and arrogance is humility.

  • Hi, Salima…
    What a great question about a problem that is so common in the workplace. I once worked with the champion of arrogance and rudeness, and it was no picnic.
    This person would systematically pick on one of us for months at a time…”critiquing” our work, correcting our work, coming up with mediocre work themselves, never handling customers’ questions with common courtesy, and running to the boss to snitch on others. This person had to be picked on as a child because the holier-than-thou attitude and aggression were working 24/7 to hide so many insecurities.
    Dealing with it was a challenge because on the rare occasions that management and HR got involved, the resolution stuck for about a day before the same old situations popped up again. Retaliation was a huge part of this person’s arsenal, and the only way to free yourself from it was to ignore it for a great length of time so that someone else became the target.
    In the end, my only satisfaction is that this person was let go before I was during the job elimination process. I pity anyone crazy enough to hire this clown!

  • I had to face such person using what I could name “psychologic terrorism”. This person was blaming her team member on a regular basis.
    This person was giving instructions about the activities planning for each member of the team. When you started your job, she was coming to you and asked you to do something else. This situation happened many times a day.
    It was obvious that this person had big lack of management skills : do not trust to her collaborator, disturbing the organization of everybody, could not delagate to people, but also lacks in the accounting process organization. I noticd that some external contractors were reacting negatively to her instruction, arguing that it was useless and time consuming to act in such way. But the answer was that all these people were stupid.
    I was tol by one of the collaborators that they asked to have a meeting with her and an HR person to discuss about the problem, and to solve the problem on a constructive way. The reaction of the person was that she started to cry, but not of sadness but of rage !
    What I can tell you is that this person is on my black list, and I will never work anymore with her.
    This behaviour is totaly unproductive. One of the main conditions to build constuctive and effective work relationships is to trust on people. Since few years, the companies organization structure were totaly changed with the development of technologies and ICT. Each member can contribute to the improvement of the effectiveness of processes and workflows. It means that the wayof management need to be babsed on participativemanagement instead of directive management. That is xhat mean the concept of collective intelligence. But this could only work without arrogant behaviour.
    Best regards,

  • Salima:
    Arrogance brings down empires so what about human beings, yes there is a very fine line between self confidence and arrogance which each can be sometimes mistaken for each other and I have seen both cases
    Arrogance comes from a very dark side inside a person that is meant to cover weaknesses that has to do with the psych of a person so to start with it is really difficult to deal with sich a disturbed personality. Arrogance when in full bloom is narcism these are really the ones that are totally incapable of seeing reality.
    Self confidence is also sometimes seen as arrogance mistakenly by some insecure people so it is crucial to really know ho wto differentiate between the two traits
    While it is not walk in the park working with an arrogant person if they are specialized in a certain field you cant live without them – Believe it or not an arrogant person can be turned around to be a better colleague if a good manager/ leader knows how to deal with their good side and just bringing out their good qualities while managing to resolve conflicts they can become a part of a team like rehabilitation I have seen both cases – some not hope and some that just needed a bit of work
    My 3 cents

  • I’ve known quite a lot of confident people, very few whom I would consider arrogant. To me the difference seems to be in how they treat others and how they work. The confident people are considerate of those around them, whether those people are below or above them on the ladder. Confident people are also good at their jobs – it’s what makes them confident. Those who are arrogant are often rude and dismissive, especially to those in lower positions, but often to clients, collegues, superiors and vendors as well. Those who are arrogant, at least in my experience, aren’t always competent. The arrogance may mask their insecurity. Or they may have just been promoted so far that they no longer realize how incompetent they truly are…
    Just my observations, for what they’re worth. Confidence is a good thing: arrogance is always bad.

  • Salima:
    Many perceptions of “arrogance” are due to misunderstandings by extroverts concerning the behavior of self-confident introverts. The former often assume that the latter are arrogant because they tend to keep to themselves and have no real need for frequent social interaction.
    Allow me to back up a little:
    The most common mistake made by us human beings is the assumption that other people think like we do. But the reality is that, even at the most basic levels, we think very differently. Extroversion versus introversion is a prime example. There are huge differences it the ways in which these two kinds of people behave in social situations.
    Regardless of culture or nationality, extroverts outnumber introverts by about 2 to 1. So automatically most of the people in your office will be extroverts. Extroverts NEED frequent social interaction; they are externally focused and the opinions of other people generally carry more weight with them than their own opinions of themselves. Introverts, on the other hand, do not NEED social interaction; they are internally focused and value their own opinions of themselves more than those of other people. (We’re talking about people here, so there are always exceptions.)
    So the basic situation is this: You’ve automatically got a lot more extroverts than introverts in your office, and most of these extroverts consistently make that most common human error: They believe that everyone else thinks as they do. In this case, they believe that everyone else is extroverted, as they are. “Quiet” people, to them, are just shy or lack self-confidence. They believe that these “quiet” people would act as extroverts (read: normally) if they could just get past their “issues.”
    Enter the self-confident introvert. This person is obviously not shy. Nor is he (or she) lacking in self-confidence. However this person prefers to sit by himself and read a book at lunch-time rather than chat– and this is blasphemy to the extrovert, to whom lunch-time is social time! The introvert usually doesn’t participate in the morning kaffee klatsch. Recently he may also have failed to inform you that he had just bought a new car, so he definitely thinks he’s too good to associate with the likes of you! This is proof that he’s an arrogant snob! But the reality is: while an extrovert simply has to tell everyone about the new car she just bought, it doesn’t occur to the introvert that anyone else would be interested in his.
    I have seen this perception of introverts by extroverts get traction hundreds of times in my career. It’s not harmless. A self-fulfilling prophesy occurs in which an introvert who is considered arrogant by his coworkers will withdraw completely from office social life. (Extroverts, listen please: understand that an introvert can actually do that and not suffer emotionally.) Sooner or later, the isolated introvert will become GENUINELY arrogant- especially if he or she is very good at what she does or has special skills or experience. Then you have a real, not a perceptual, problem on your hands.
    The good news is that this situation is easy to prevent. A module on “Extroversion/Introversion” in diversity training is all that it takes to create the awareness necessary to avoid the whole problem. I have personally taught this many times and have seen very positive results, without exception.
    BTW: In case anyone thinks I’m singling out extroverts for rough treatment: There are also perceptual mistakes made by introverts about extroverts that can be just as damaging.

  • Confident people are totally okay with other people knowing nothing about what they have accomplished.”
    The truth is that being an arrogant person may serve you in the short term, it rarely relates in lasting relationships built on a foundation of loyalty and trust. Arrogant people will usually find themselves surrounded by lots of fair-weather friends who try to exploit them for things, but at the first sign of trouble all you will see is their backs as they run for the hills.”
    Confident people have a broader sphere of influence, and earn more loyalty and respect than those who just use bravado.
    I think you can always tell how confident a person is about themselves by the way they respect or treat the ‘little people,’ they never look like they are trying hard to impress other people, and never put others down around them to come out the better person.”

  • It won’t work for LONG, ’em sure………….

  • Hi Salima
    You have answered in your question – people tend to avoid interacting with them unless necessary.
    This is a safe route – for all, whether the person is arrogant or not, till you do have a good working relationship or understanding with the people at work.
    Arrogance from the top has a different impact and arrogance from down has a totally different impact. Both have to be dealt with properly, in a dignified way, without effecting you or harming you in anyway. The whole idea is to continue to perform – without your post/position being compromised because of an individual. This is a common thing in any organisation, and is just one of the many perils, professionals face in any work environment. As long as you can stay clear from getting too personal in these issues, you still have a chance to get away as well as survive and continue to perform too.
    This situation is viewed from different angles – from the top, from the HR, and from the floor. And is treated in a different way.
    On the floor level, where a person is being hen-pecked by this arrogant person, they have no time, desire or patience to read through the others mind or reason to understand the behavior. They are there to get the job completed, and they just want the right atmosphere to get the work done.
    If the arrogance is coming from top – you have the option of going to the higher ups, HR, document it and present it to them, not as a complaint though, and let them handle or monitor it. Taking it into your own hand can create further problems for you.
    If it is from below the ranks – take corrective measures, have a talk, sound out that this would not be permitted. Again document it, give it to the higher ups if there are any, and to the HR to monitor. Legally it would be a safe practice too.
    As a leader – you cannot afford to have arrogant soldiers behind you.
    And as a follower – you cannot afford to have arrogant leaders lead you.
    They would put your life, or the entire teams life in danger – either by their over confidence or arrogance.
    In short – how much ever good you are – you are a failure, if you are arrogant and rude and do not know how to speak or deal with the people.
    Very good points from
    Herb – from a senior position point of view.
    Karen – from a HR point of view
    Sahar – from a motivational coach / speaker point of view.

  • Since it’s quite possible the confident individual may not realize he or she is coming off as arrogant, it may be a good idea to point that out in a nice way.

  • An observation, not an answer: I found myself wondering how this applies to the man who currently works in the White House and to his predecessor. And if it will make a difference.

  • Sometimes what looks like arrogance is not. People can be mis-understand. Extremely shy, quiet people and perfectionists are often considered arrogant by those who do not know them well. Look closer. Get to know the person. See if you can determine why they are a little quieter, perhaps not sharing or disclosing details you had hoped they would. Are you approachable? Are you making assumptions about the other person?

  • Well, looking at the other side of the coin – insecure individuals have the tendency to brand confident people as arrogant (for lack of a better label).
    There’s nothing wrong with being confident, as long as the person’s action do not become rude, and detrimental to those around him/her.
    What some people may perceive as arrogance may be perceived by others as confidence.
    Everyone has their own biases and convictions- and no matter what you there will always be a critic to rain down on your parade, and point out your flaws to offset their own personal insecurities.

  • Hi Salima,
    There are times when ones honesty and as you said the confidence with which they behave is wrongly considered “arrogance”. They say people who show you the mirror on your weaknesses are either said to be brutally honest or are actually considered arrogant. However it is the lack of diplomacy in such people and nothing else. I think its the attitude that makes all the difference in the communication. Strangely / Ironically, people who talk upfront and have a very straight forward attitude are considered rude and those who say certain sensitive things sarcastically are said to be behaving smart 🙂

  • All types of people are there in offices. However, its our interpersonal skill that matters in dealing with such rude, tough people. There might be cases where you can ignore, at times you have to be firm when dealing with such people, in severe cases they may also need counseling for altering their behavior. For many, it doesn’t register that they are being rude or arrogant!!

  • I hope I’m not one of those ‘people’ we’re talking about here… I happen to possess most of the traits listed here.
    But I’m not arrogant… or am i? :S

  • In a nutshell, if you REALLY believe in what you claim and you make a stand for it you are automatically an arrogant.
    That because, sometimes the only way to make yourself heard is to talk louder or the likes.
    And that becomes even worse if your claim is proven to be right, as people hate being discredited publicly.
    You can minimize the problem by being nice, touchy, etc., but the only way not to be EVER called an arrogant is to not make any stand on anything.

  • I’ve met many arrogant aggressive people, as time has passed it has become clear they were covering their limitations with aggression. The ravages of time have shown how much their work was imperfect.
    Arrogance alone is often created from the inability to monitor or care about others perceptions of you.
    I handle arrogance by letting them do all the talking and simply get on with my work.
    Time has taught me to be confident in silence.
    Two watch phrases come to mind
    “They don’t care how much they know, UNTIL they know how much you care!”
    “Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself”
    Simon Hamer

  • It depends on how we see it. People like “perfect” or “near perfect” people. Unfortunately the reality is different. People who are nice is always not very talented and people with a bit of that “extra” talent seem to be little bit arrogant – this especially you can see it with marketing whiz-kids and super star salesmen. Face the fact. Professional/business life is not charity or popularity contest – we need superstars and superstars come with price – may be what we think as arrogance – as long as you can manage it I guess it is ok – Ricky Ponting and Shahid Afridi may be arrogant and loathed by the fans (of their respective opposing teams) – but they deliver for their team and that’s what matters. Not everybody can be a Sachin Tendulkar or Manmohan Singh or a mix of both.

  • Empathy.
    For the arrogant it may be missing.
    My experience, from a consulting perspective, is to make a point of connecting with them (rather than avoidance) and then ask questions that pull out empathy.
    The arrogant love to talk. The key is to get them to hear themselves and then covertly tweak their words and perspective.

  • Frank Merrick

    If you ask 10 people to define “arrogance” you may get at least 5 or 6 different answers. It’s as much a matter of perception as anything else.. whether in or out of the workplace. I’m offering no absolute definition here, but would like to suggest that behaviors within the workplace are either rewarded and thus reinforced, ignored or discouraged. Rewarded behaviors (and sometimes ignored behaviors) tend to form the norm or “corporate culture” of the organization. Behaviors outside of the normal range are usually rehabilitated by way of mgr/employee feedback programs, training, performance management, etc. Bear in mind, that despite what might be regarded as the best of corporate cultures, “arrogant” individuals are sure to be found…which makes achieving an “arrogant free” workplace an aspirational goal at best. We’ve all heard the phrase “Its nice to be important, but more important to be nice.” Fact is, we all know an “arrogant” person or two..or three, gets results and is otherwise an exceptional performer, Consider, Terrell Owens, or Randy Moss… both potential hall of famers! The Bills and Vikings apparently don’t care how “nice” or “easy to get along with” they are.

  • Hi Salima
    I think the first challenge is to have clarity around what arrogance is, and what contributes to/supports it. ‘Arrogance’, like rudeness (or politeness), is a label/ interpretation covering a range of behavioural and attitudinal traits. As a coach/consultant, I often have client employees (at all levels) complaining about some individual’s ‘arrogance’. When I ask them what the person actually does that leads them to conclude he or she is arrogant, here are the common responses I get: (Many of these have been surfaced by others in earlier answers):
    > Raises their voice/shouts frequently
    > Gives terse/brusque answers to questions
    > Makes decisions based solely on their own views and experience
    — Doesn’t solicit or even listen to/consider input from others
    — Interrupts/talks over others
    > Frequently cites (superior) educational credentials/years of experience
    to justify courses of action
    > Works alone, doesn’t share information; keeps their office door closed.
    > Does a lot of finger-pointing — focuses on who to blame versus how to fix things when things go wrong
    > Focuses on ‘finding the flaw’ in others’ work
    > They can’t remember my name and I’ve worked for/with them for years.
    There are a number of causal factors that need to be considered, as the ‘solution’ to the issue may be very different. As Herb pointed out, MBTI differences (especially the E/I and J/P dimensions) can create friction and misperceptions in the workplace. If these differences can be surfaced, understood for what they are and managed they can create compatible strengths within the team or relationship. Additionally, if it is a cross-cultural workplace, cultural differences may affect perceptions of what is ‘arrogant’ behaviour. Again, dealing with these issues is a matter of surfacing and understanding differences and agreeing how to operate together to enable the best performance from everyone.
    I have consulted with corporate cultures which selected for, valued and rewarded individualistic, highly competitive, ‘shooting from the hip’, ‘driving to deliver results’ behaviours. In these situations, most people who don’t fit the template will leave (or be fired) and overall cultural change really has to be undertaken, if the situation is to be improved.
    Finally, there are people who intentionally or unintentionally exhibit behaviour interpreted as ‘arrogant’. When I have coached managers — and/or employees who aspire to move up the ladder — in the first case, I usually find that they have patterned their ‘leadership’ style off a manager/executive/ technical specialist they have admired and perceived as highly effective. These people want to be good leaders/employees and erroneously believe this is the best way of accomplishing it. Hence, if they can be coached/developed by HR, a consultant, a mentor, etc, I’ve found they can be easily turned around.
    The final category is people who unconsciously operate in a way that others perceive as arrogant. In some of these cases, the individual’s attitude was not arrogant, but they had mannerisms that created that impression — for example, one person who raised his voice and jabbed his finger in people’s faces at meetings. He was totally unaware he was doing this, and it was easy to fix. Hence, one of the solutions in dealing with arrogant bosses/colleagues in the workplace is to begin with ‘assumption of innocence’, and a statement/question to the effect of: ” When you do/say X — (descriptive, non-judgmental observation), I (feel/interpret that in) this way. Is that what you intended/meant?
    Finally, there are a few people who are unconsciously but irredeemably arrogant in attitude and behaviour due to psychopathology and early childhood trauma . Often they re-create ‘scripts’ from their early life — trying to get a better outcome. Sometimes these people can thru interventions like one I’ll describe in a clarification; but often therapy is required.
    I had one Asst. Plant Manager coachee who was, by everyone’s reckoning extremely arrogant — his nick-name was ‘King Aurthur’. He seldom left his office, listened to and accepted ‘snitching’ and rumour, screamed and yelled (over the phone) at everyone and issued disciplinary citations like hot-cakes. He never spoke anyone face-to-face but would demand stacks of daily reports which then picked apart. My intervention with involvement and approval of the Plant Manager and HR Manager was to:
    > Allow him to sit in his office no more than 1 hour in the morning and 1/2 hour at shift end.
    > He couldn’t demand reports — he had to go out and look at things for himself and talk to people.
    > He couldn’t discipline anyone.
    After three months, he began to develop confidence in his ability to work with and through people and we saw major change

  • One learns, or needs to learn, to accept that another person’s tendency toward arrogance is harmful, just as any poor behavior in the workplace can be. Unfortunately, arrogance is tolerated at the higher ranks until the person does enough harm to others and finally to self.
    I address arrogance in the workplace and elsewhere just as I seek to address other behaviors that hinder performance – directly with the person, in a private conversation.
    I do not think there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. On a continuum, lack of confidence is on one end and confidence is on the other end. As another person answered, the opposite of arrogance is humility. Another difference between confidence and arrogance is that confidence is quiet and arrogance is loud.

  • Arrogance, is a major hurdle in self development and a strict no – no, if we aspire to learn and grow. As you have listed arrogance can be attributed all those factors, but mostly in a work environment the arrogance is evident when we start thinking we are indispensable. Arrogance would be very leathal for development and learning and something which every professional needs to be cautious about from a very early stage of the career.

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