The temptation to strangle him is almost stronger than you.
You and Dwight disagree about whether or not your company should do X. You’re the world’s foremost expert in X. Dwight is not. It Matters not to Dwight.
Working with a know-it-all is not
always fun. Accepting the fact that they exist in every company with more than 2 employees is healthy. These are the people who excel at job interviews.
You can’t make Dwight go away; if he leaves he might be replaced by someone worse (as happened in Venezuela when dictator Hugo Chavez died. Woah, heavy.) Learning to keep your cool is where you want to focus.
The thing you need to know about dealing with Dwight (and other overbearing know-it-alls) is a public show down, debate or duel, seldom works.
If you challenge him in front of others, literally he will fight you to the death. That’s the way his brain works.
Dwight is not being arrogant and authoritarian to annoy you; he sincerely believes the success of this company (and perhaps the entire world) rests on his shoulders. His agreeableness score is zero.
He is a man on a mission, not a people pleaser.
Fortunately, by being clever and creative, you can usually outwit the “strong personality”. (Be careful of referring to these people as “strong” personalities as you might then see yourself as a “weak” personality, which is false!)
What you perceive as arrogant, may be perceived by others as confident. Some see a person as decisive, others as authoritarian. One can see himself as impatient, others focus more on a lack of listening.
Is this person assertive, or aggressive?
Direct or blunt?
Overall, your strategy is to work around them, not to get into a shouting contest that you will probably lose. If you don’t see a way to stand your ground in any particular conversation, put off the decision until you’ve had time to influence behind the scenes.
3 Counterintuitive Specifics to dealing with an abrasive personality at work.
- Treat them with respect. Dominant people want, actually need, others to hear and value their opinions. Show respect for them and their viewpoints.
It’s easier to show respect when you realize the value they truly add. They make you question yourself. You know they’re not saying anything just to be nice.
You don’t have to chit chat with Dwight. Keep conversations targeted and brief. Speak confidently. Avoid generalizations and support your assertions with evidence, which is an excellent habit to form anyway.
Imagine if you had this kind of person out there advocating for you; in some contexts, that could be quite powerful.
2. Specifically identify your feelings (to yourself) after interacting with this person. Really drill down. Instead of feeling bad, maybe you feel one of these:
defeated, frustrated, angry, helpless, depleted, sad, cornered
If you decide what specifically you are feeling as a result of your interaction with this person, then it’s easier to talk yourself into a more helpful frame of mind.
For example, let’s say talking to Dwight depletes your energy. Maybe by taking a 20-minute walk, you can recover.
If you feel helpless, you can see that you’re really not helpless, and look for an action step to take.
3. Encourage teamwork. Consider ways of improving your team’s dynamics. Most teams can benefit from team building, especially in building trust.
Teambuilding needs time and other resources. It’s an ongoing way to keep your organizational saw sharpened. Intelligent team building activities helps everyone to see each other in different contexts and build those relationships.
As part of your teambuilding strategy, conduct personality testing. Tests like the Myers-Briggs or Gallup Strengths can enrich your understanding of underlying team dynamics, and encourage your team members to learn more about themselves and one another. Diversity is needed, but it’s not easy to implement. Teambuilding helps everyone visualize how different points of view add value.
P.S. About the power of using specific words, the brilliant engineer, Priya Greene, recently posted a home-run suggestion on Facebook. She asked people about cool names for projects, specifically R&D. Naming a project (as does naming an emotion) gives it an infusion of energy and personality. If you’re the force behind the drive to name things, people are going to be drawn into that positive energy you’re generating.