How do I best work with people who seem arrogant?

5 action items

  • 1. Assume innocence

    There are many reasons why a person may exhibit this behavior. Try and reset your mind, and consider all the reasons why they may be showing outward arrogance. Perhaps they struggle with criticism, or are having a hard time figuring out how they fit into the team. If you lead with empathy, you are more likely to have better outcomes.

  • 2. Engage them in group activity

    Arrogance is a common deflection when someone is feeling threatened or under-appreciated. Try and find ways to involve this person in activities as a group where everyone participates, such as a workshop. These are great at building team camaraderie, allow the person in question to feel heard, and also expose the strengths of other team members.

  • 3. Ask them questions

    If their arrogance is a defense mechanism, engaging them directly can help disarm them and build their own confidence, eventually relaxing the behavior. Get to know them personally: What brought you into design, tell us about your past work, what's a cool project you worked on? Ask them how they like to receive feedback. Engage them for feedback on a problem you're working on. And when they show arrogance, follow up with questions: Ask them to explain their thinking, how they arrived there, what other directions they may consider. It's possible they don't have the design maturity or confidence to explore a problem deeper, so encourage that behavior and as a team, give them the backup they need to get there.

  • 4. Accept that people are who they are

    Perhaps this person is just the way they are. Who knows what got them to that point, but ultimately only they are responsible for themselves and their personal growth. Take a deep breath, and accept them. Identify the methods and projects where the arrogance is relaxed and focus your time and energy there. When they say something that annoys you, shrug it off and move on. Conflict is a natural part of life, and it's good practice to learn how to deal with it, as annoying as that may be.

  • 5. Get advice from your manager

    Not about them, but about you. Talk with your manager and ask for help dealing with this situation. If you have a good manager, their response will not be to confront or discipline this person, but rather to encourage you with ways to work with them and improve group dynamics. They can help coach you to adjust the way you communicate with your coworker and to lean into your coworker's strengths. Find an advocate who will help you grow, as you focus on finding common ground and a good working relationship with your team.

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