How do I deal with know-it-all colleagues? … (And are you one yourself?)

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Know-it-alls are the worst because they can’t possibly know it all, unless they’ve made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil.

And we can safely guess they haven’t.

So, how do you deal with this frustrating archetype?

More importantly, how do you recognize that “know-it-all” attitude in yourself?

Here are the traits of a know-it-all:

  • Argues the point, even when pointless
  • Wants to “win” – often over trivial matters
  • Needs to prove superiority
  • Lacks self-confidence

If you see yourself in the list above, take heart. You may be a know-it-all, but at least you KNOW you’re a know-it-all. And that’s the first step toward change!

And if you work with a know-it-all, here’s how you deal with it:

  • Avoid arguing back. Instead say something along the lines of “That’s a good point. I’ll take that into consideration,” or use other half-ceding, noncombative remarks.
  • Show through your actions and words that you’re not interested in winning or debating. Then, the know-it-all will have nothing to do, except make friends.
  • Make sure to do your homework beforehand if you decide to “engage” the know-it-all in his argument. Ask the person to cite sources. Don’t get emotionally invested in the argument. Perhaps you should challenge him to an old-school Lincoln-Douglas debate. Whatever argument you’re having with this know-it-all doesn’t really matter in the grand scope of things.
  • Recognize that sometimes these know-it-alls act this way because in reality they have a lack of self-confidence. Simply being agreeable and not confrontational about every issue (as long as these issues do not put patients in danger!) will help them boost their confidence and perhaps make them feel as though they don’t need to act like a know-it-all.

Just remember to be kind to your fellow workers and treat them with respect. Winning and losing an argument over something trivial is much less important than common courtesy.

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9 Responses to How do I deal with know-it-all colleagues? … (And are you one yourself?)

  1. juju

    I work with a fellow who loves to remind all of us that he is the “senior therapist”. Now the boss has actually given him that particular title and he is allowed to make out the work schedule for the rest of us worker-bee’s. This man loves to use big words to express himself. He belongs to a right winged religious cult and is thought well of in his church. He loves to passively-aggressively put the rest of us down or in our place with his vocabulary. If ask a question, he responds with the answer “well, yes and no.” He makes no sense at all. At best he has a high school diploma. My question is this: How do I deal with this freak? I have no clue? should I agree or not with his half-assed answers? In all reality, the guy is self-educated and well-read. Sometimes I try to throw him off by using larger words than he uses. His answer is always the same….”yes and no.”?…no matter what the question is…How do I respond to this asshole and maintain my own dignity and position at work.

  2. jim

    i deal with this problem all the time, the I found the Community for Insufferable Know-It-Alls, then I just send them there. lol

    its an online debate forum you should check it

  3. Alice Mann

    I worked with a new graduate “KNOW IT ALL” and one night she had a real stupid question to ask the Cardiac Surgeon, so I suggested she make that call. His response is one I will never forget!!! I quote,”That is the stupidest question I have ever heard. But, what worries me more, is what you’re NOT ASKING,”……My job was done!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol

  4. You forgot laughter, an important weapon in the struggle against knowitallism.

    You forgot suggesting that they write down their important insights into whatever (letter to the editor, something for the suggestion box).

    How about: This is too important an issue to talk about here during our lunch break, between patients, in the elevator etc. Could you remind me about this when we have more time?

    I bet Dr. Whatshisname would be highly intrigued by what you have to say.

    Et cetera.

  5. holy crap U've got the same name as whoseMerCall-it Know-it-Aller

    I tend to do the “Deer look in head-lights” look; Bambi-sh – – I Blnk a couple of times – turn around and walk away.

    Or, I use my Proverbal left-handed OMG U ding-dong question;

    When U were young did U walk 2 School
    or carry Ur lunch? …..

    They look at U and think….WT Heck?!?! and U simply turn around; walk away as they CONTINUE to scratch their heads….while U laugh Ur face off say’g Imbeciles.

  6. I’ve worked with nurses like this!

  7. Jesse

    I am a male LPN, and I work with many women. I am not an outspoken person, kind of laid back, and I listen to everything. Many of the RNs are very, do-what-I-say type of nurses. As a professional I try to follow what they say due to legality issues. I really get tired of the power trips all the time. How do I work around these issues?

  8. Anonymous

    I’ve been around some know it alls in my lifetime and I have to say they’re annoying. Really appreciate the advice you’ve given. Treating others with respect is so much more important than correcting someone who thinks she knows it all. Thanks so much!

  9. Anonymous

    I most definitely agree with all the tips provided in here. Most people who pretend that they know everything are insecure. It’s their defense mechanism of hiding their inferiority and lack of self-confidence. Just try to show that you are not interested in going through an argument with him or her and remember to maintain that level of respect.