How to Deal with a Know-It-All in the Workplace


Have you ever had a great idea shot down by a “know-it-all” at work? Maybe they didn’t even give you the chance to fully explain your thoughts or position. The know-it-all just hopped in to say how your plan won’t work or perhaps how they could make it better. Many professionals have to interact with co-workers who give unsolicited advice regarding their job, and it can create a tense environment with conflict and hostility. When people are constantly trying to “one-up” each other, it can also lead to an overly competitive atmosphere. 

How have you handled colleagues who were know-it-alls in the past? Did you discuss the issue directly with your co-worker, or ignore their behavior? Those who have a know-it-all as their immediate boss are in an even trickier situation. They might feel handicapped in their ability to perform well due to constantly changing processes, procedures, and strategy to appease their boss. Unfortunately, if an employee doesn’t reach their performance goals, the negative results can become all their fault in the eyes of their manager. Here are some ways to deal with a know-it-all in the workplace.  

Acknowledge them / their idea

The truth is most know-it-alls just want to be acknowledged. Many are looking for someone to recognize their intellect or ingenuity, so they come across as pushy or trying to force their beliefs on others. If they happen to suggest an idea, process, or solution that could be helpful, thank them. Mention how you appreciate them taking the time to share their thoughts with you. Many people with the tendency to give unsolicited advice will be so surprised and actually feel a deeper connection with you. For some know-it-alls, acknowledgment alone can help to limit their tendencies.

Present your own opinion or solution

Acknowledgement isn’t enough for many professionals, and they might have a deep-seated desire to be right or the best at everything. In these cases, when the know-it-all just won’t pull back on their own and you have a difference of opinion, tell them. In a calm way you can acknowledge their point of view, and then say you look at the situation differently. Outline your own solution to them and others if you’re in a meeting. The key is to avoid making it sound like you’re shooting down their idea as a personal attack.    

Provide facts and research

List out some of the facts and research supporting your opinion. If the know-it-all is your boss, you might want to provide a longer explanation of your thought process and how your solution will lead to positive results for the team. This can be extremely beneficial to help show the know-it-all that you have nothing personal against them. Make sure your research can be drawn back to having a positive impact on business drivers, such as revenue, profit, productivity, and time.     

Let them know you’ve made up your mind

If the know-it-all is your co-worker, you can tell them that based on logic and all the background information you’ve gathered, you’ve made up your mind to continue with your course of action. Be sure to say this as a statement with finality. Many professionals who are know-it-alls like to debate and if it seems like you are uncertain, this could lead them to continue discussing how they think you’re making a mistake. In the event your boss is a know-it-all, you might have to eventually go along with their idea or point of view. If that’s the case, and you know your idea is better, you can concede but remind them of all of the benefits to your solution. You could say something like, “Even though the plan I proposed could lead to increased productivity, I see how yours can be beneficial as well."

Dealing with a know-it-all on the job can be aggravating and stressful. However, there are ways to communicate with them and decrease conflict. First, acknowledge them and their idea. Then, present your own opinion or solution with the corresponding research and facts to support it. Finally, letting them know that you’ve made up your mind can end long, back and forth exchanges that aren’t the best use of your time. What will you say to the know-it-all at your job the next time they offer unsolicited advice? 

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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