All Articles Leadership Inspiration Are you the office know-it-all?

Are you the office know-it-all?

3 min read


This guest post is by Kristin Kaufman, founder of Alignment, which helps individuals, corporations, boards of directors and nonprofits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. Her clients have included Accenture, Hewlett-Packard, HMS, Frito-Lay, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Uplift Education, NYC Leadership Academy and Logicalis Group.

No one likes a know-it-all. Yet, the world is full of people who simply love to show off their smarts, pound their chests, exercise their control, cover their insecurities and, in some cases, belittle the other person to make themselves feel better. We have all been in these exchanges, and nothing derails a meeting or any gathering faster.

Here are some thoughts to heighten our attention to these behaviors and avoid falling into the trap of being the office know-it-all.

  • Stop talking and listen. We don’t always have to have the answer. It’s amazing what we can learn when we just be quiet and listen. Sure, we might think we have an answer or opinion, but what can we learn if we wait to share it? What can we learn if we openly and actively listen to others’ opinions — without formulating our own response first? Every time you feel the urge to blurt out your opinion, instead ask for someone else’s.
  • Stay neutral. As leaders, we own the environment we help create. And knowing it all and judging those on our team will shut down communication and creativity fast. Be a leader who encourages rich conversations and open brainstorming sessions. Pursue this with nonthreatening dialogue free of judgment. This creates a safe environment for team members in which they understand that every comment, idea or suggestion is not under scrutiny. This may be viewed as the “locker room”: What is talked about stays within the team and doesn’t leave the room. This will spawn incredible exchanges and limitless ideas.
  • Listen with interest, without interrupting and negative commentary. Think of a first meeting with a prospect, a potential client or an interview for an important position or job. Typically, we are on our best behavior, ask questions and listen, and look the other person in the eye. We aren’t so intent on what we are going to say next, because we are sincerely interested in what the person is saying. What we say next is often a question to keep the person talking. Listen as if what the other person is saying is the most important thing you’ve heard all day or that he or she is the most important person at the moment.

An overall good lesson: If you can’t say something nice or supportive, don’t say anything at that time. Smile. Listen. Hear the person’s perspective. There will be another time and place to share thoughts and opinions. You will be amazed at the teamwork you foster — people love to be heard, without filter or judgment.

There is no harm — and, in fact, benefits — in knowing nothing at certain times, remaining neutral at certain times and enjoying our first meeting experiences all of the time.