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Business Advice - Dealing with an egotistical boss

Updated on October 5, 2010

The Know It All

You know the type. They will argue the point until they win and they will not hesitate to use either raw power or a raised voice in the absence of intellectual prowess. What is the root of this need to be right all the time? Do they really believe in the myth of their own genius? Do they really believe they are inerrant? It's as if they have seen ALL the facts and have concluded that nothing else is possible but their own point of view. The "know it all" adopts the theory of Solipsism which revolves around the metaphysical idea that reality exists only in one's mind. In other words, if you haven't experienced it, then it doesn't exist. It's a part of the "not invented here" theory (citing my mentor Bob Williams) meaning anything not invented by you is to be rejected. The irony of the "know it all" is that by invoking the "not invented here" theory they have in fact reduced themselves to what they actually know as opposed to being that yet to be found someone who, in fact, knows it all.

The interesting thing is that while nobody knows it all, so many people in positions of power hold themselves out as if they do. In doing so they reveal two things: a fundamental unbelief in the intelligence of their audience and a deep-seated inferiority complex (a third possibility is that the person is corrupt and is controlling things for an outcome beneficial only to themselves; I am assuming an honest scenario in this discussion). While seemingly contradictory, these two conditions exist simultaneously when an inferiority complex breeds the need to bludgeon others in order to elevate itself to required levels for the desired existence. The inferiority complex has such a hold on the "know it all" that they sow the illusion of inferiority in all others which then becomes hardwired in the "know it all" mind.

How can you resist the need to be a "know it all?" First, I think it requires not taking yourself too seriously. Second, you have to accept that there are others around you who just might know something more than you on at least one or two subjects in life. You wouldn't think this would be so devastating of a revelation. But, apparently, this is the case with some folks. Third, you must understand that people can and do make mistakes. After all, we are only human. It hurts when you make a mistake. Especially so when you make that mistake in front of people who either judge you from a position of power or people who look up to you as their leader. How do you manage yourself when it is clear you are wrong? Being humble is always the best reaction in my book. It's an endearing trait and actually can help soften your mind to the point of being open- minded which, in my view, is a very good thing.

To me, it is important to not box yourself in by insisting that you always have the last word. How do you avoid the position of being wrong in the business world? Not by egotistical statements designed to silence others, but by adopting a collaborative nature which leaves open the possibility that all the facts have yet to be considered. In my view, a good manager surrounds themselves with the brightest minds possible. This is a virtual impossibility for someone with an inferiority complex. But a healthy person recognizes that utilizing and managing talented specialists who obviously know more about a given task (especially one that is repetitive) than the manager will elevate the department to the highest levels of efficiency and productivity. In keeping with the idea of learning from all sources, the "collaborative manager" will learn from their own subordinates. How better than to learn from someone who uses in practice what you contemplated in theory? This is how scientists work; their laboratory is where they test theories and it's the same in the business world. It is virtually impossible to contemplate all the consequences of a change in process so you must be open to feedback even if it proves your initial theory incorrect. Why make a high-profile mistake when it could have been tweaked or scrapped in private? So, how do you walk your ego through this potential minefield? By bringing everyone in on the plan. They will recognize your visions even if it is short of necessary details. The details are the things that you as a manager delegate to others, so there should be no ego conflict in your knowledge gap. You have, in a sense, moved beyond these types of details.

I believe the way to get people excited and helpful is to open the floor for improvements to your vision. They will welcome being a part of something bigger than themselves and will take some pride of authorship as you give them the gift of contribution. They will care because they see you care about their minds and you will be the type of person that they want to see succeed. You are now standing on the proverbial shoulders of giants so that you can maintain and enhance the view needed to perfect your vision. Glorify the giants. Give them their pride and ego-gratification in their contributions so that they will not shift the floor beneath you. The fact is you need people. Get rid of the self-made persona, the "know it all" wall you build and understand the contributions others make to your success. It will rub off.....



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    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 6 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @vidhimayur - Thank you for the nice comments. I did kind of switch gears on this to target the egomaniac himself. This is kind of a "hint" discussion. It is tough to deal with someone like that when you have no power. The thing is if you really want to succeed you understand that developing others is very important but they will not thrive if you shut them down.

    • vidhimayur profile image

      vidhimayur 6 years ago

      yes, it is so difficult to handle egoistic person.And like you even i have observed that those who suffer from inferiority complex are most egoistic people. In your article you have thrown more light on how to be a good boss!! :) Very nice article.

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      @SeptemberGray - me too... it was pretty bad as this guy berated people in front of others. We had words over it and I was glad when I moved on... thank you for commenting.

    • SeptemberGray profile image

      SeptemberGray 7 years ago from Corpus Christi, TX

      For ten years I had a boss who made me so miserable actually became physically ill, high blood pressure and an ulcer. I was actually one of the few people to have a sense of relief when I was laid off in 2009. Good article.

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas


      One of the bad things about the recession (in addition to not having a job) is having to stay at a job working for an abusive boss. Sometimes we want to make something work and forget our health. Hopefully you are in a better place and for that I am thankful for your sake. Thanks for reading...

    • imatellmuva profile image

      imatellmuva 7 years ago from Somewhere in Baltimore sounds like we worked together, and you were a witness to what I experienced at my last job! This job lasted only (2) years, the shortest in my life, but the most difficult because of EVERYTHING that you shared in this hub! I truly appreciate this hub, because it helps to remind me that I'm in a better place....away...far away from that damn place! Thank You...Thank You!!!

    • The Suburban Poet profile image

      Mark Lecuona 7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thank you. I've been around these types and it is a difficult situation. I've seen young people upset the applecart because they let their egos get in the way not realizing that a somewhat human approach to those who report to them can make people blossom. I like the saying "be the type of person others want to see succeed."

      I hear you on being occasionally wrong... I mean how could I be wrong? I'm THE SUBURBAN POET for god's sakes!!!!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 7 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is well written, and contains some good advice. Both of us are occasionally wrong - but maybe only once a year (kidding).