Can You Train “Arrogance” Out of Your Organization?

18 Feb Can You Train “Arrogance” Out of Your Organization?

Unfortunately, you cannot train arrogance completely out of an organization. However, you can certainly make positive inroads. A significant number of leaders, roughly 70% have some level of “Egotist” traits as an inherent risk factor, according to research. While this tendency shows more under adversity or conflict, this trait is part of one’s personality. Under stress, this is an ineffective coping strategy that many leaders resort to in order to get their way or to deal with adversity. So bottom line, when there is a lot of pressure and high demands in the workplace, Egotists’ arrogant behaviors worsen.

The Egotist:  is self-centered, has a sense of entitlement, takes credit for others’ accomplishments, is viewed as a hard-nosed competitor, has a sense of superiority, may use intimidation, and expects to be looked up to. Egotists often betray trust by stealing credit, creating dysfunctional work environments because of their self-obsession, fail to listen to others (because they see themselves as the smartest in the room); and, they lack decision making objectivity.  Some examples of behaviors:  they often put their personal agenda ahead of the needs team; refuse to admit mistakes or pay attention to feedback; exhibit demeaning behaviors towards staff; and, they often play up quite well.  Last, critical feedback may not only be rejected but can cause anger, resentment, and possibly, retribution.


(Source: CDR Leadership Risk Assessment, Author: CDR Assessment Group, Inc. 1998)

Keep in mind, the degree of the negativity or impact of above behaviors will vary based on the individual’s full profile and other risk factors, character strengths, job suitability, stress level, empathy, etc. For example, if someone has high “Interpersonal Sensitivity (IP)” character strength, meaning they are a caring and nurturing person, their Egotist behaviors will be diluted and not as abrasive. However, with low IP, they may behave more like be dictators, bullies or as jerks especially to people under their authority.

Once this Egotist risk trait is identified, leaders can (sometimes) manage this tendency more productively. Executive coaching and assessment is typically required for accurate, candid hard-hitting feedback, guidance, review and ultimately, change. Getting an Egotist’s attention is half the battle and this is no easy quest. Once they commit to change, developing improved skills in areas such as: active listening, asking better questions, tuning in to needs of staff, approaches for showing value and respect for team, etc. can be accomplished only if the commitment is strong and steadfast.

Another tactic to help neutralize the Egotist behaviors is careful examination what or who triggers these behaviors to manifest. Is it a peer? Is it when a mistake is made? Is it when presenting to senior leadership? Is it when someone challenges his or her idea? This should be carefully explored, ideally with a coach, so that thoughtful plans can be made to anticipate and prevent the arrogance from rearing its ugly head during future similar situations.

Keep in mind, when a leader is in a role that he or she is not well suited to perform (i.e., the square peg in a round hole), then risks, such as Egotist and one’s other risks, tend to run free because this leader is under constant high stress.   Other Risks that are commonly found with the leader who has the Egotist risk are: Upstager & Rule Breaker. This compounds problematic behaviors because the Upstager will aggressively fight, argue, negotiate, and passionately push their point of view to win the day. Next, the Rule Break will do just that – impulsively break or violate precedence, rules, policies, values, or expectations to get their way when this trait is combined with the self-serving Egotist.

It is important to note that if Egotist behaviors are not part of the culture an organization wants to adopt or accept, steps can be taken to minimize the number of candidates selected or promoted who have this trait. One way to accomplish this is using scientifically validated pre-selection assessments to identify these traits. This, along with structured interviews and reference checking to pinpoint how these behaviors manifest for the candidate, is of great value. The assessment informs the hiring management team that the behavior is evident. Then, it is the hiring team’s job to flush out the trait further to determine the impact of the behavior and candidate suitability.

Last, and most important, holding leaders accountable for their bad behaviors, is essential. This is where most organizations drop the ball – especially with Egotists. While we all have various inherent risks, we also have a responsibility to manage these tendencies effectively and to treat all others with respect and dignity. Too often, organizations look the other way and tolerate these inappropriate behaviors and focus on outcomes versus how the results were achieved.

Accountability is most important because the best way to get an Egotist’s attention is with clear consequences for inappropriate behaviors. This generally means walking the talk with an organizations stated core values of showing respect for all employees and stakeholders. Consequences must be real, clearly articulated, and acted upon.

Next, the Rule Breaker will do just as the title implies – impulsively break or violate precedence, rules, policies, values, or expectations to get their way when this trait is combined with the self-serving Egotist.