Many who analyze and comment upon management leadership (myself included) praise the humility of a leader as a desirable trait. But in viewing and discussing employee behavior, the trait is less covered. We see frequently the arrogant business owner who looks in a mirror to plan and ignores the opinions of others. If arrogance is harmful to business prospects in management, can it also be harmful if prevalent in employees?
The indicators of the presence of arrogance in employees are subtle. They are often difficult for managers to perceive. One common indicator is the setting of areas of control. An employee may view an activity or an area as solely within the power of that employee and protect that territory or area of control. The employee may criticize management decisions, pointing out errors obvious to those working with the employee. The employee may characterize the employee’s role as doing his skill as long as is convenient and then perhaps going to work elsewhere where that role is valued.
What the arrogant employee does not do is act as if the employee is part of a team with a vested interest in the success of the business. How can the arrogance of an employee be changed?
For many employees who see decision-making go on without input from them, arrogance is a defense mechanism. “Management does not care about my thoughts, so I do not care about the business. This is just a job and if something bad happens to the business, I will go somewhere else to work. I will keep my area in order, and management can go to Hell.”
But what if that employee is a part of the group that makes decisions for the business? The decision-maker will be that person with the responsibility and authority to make the decision. The decision-making process at its best will include soliciting thoughts from the group that must make the plan decided upon successful and utilizing that input as a part of the decisions of the plan. It is much more difficult to write-off management planning when it is based, at least in part, on employee input. The decision made might not be the decision the employee would make, but the decision-making process will have considered your opinion. The employee will then have a vested interest in the decision and its success.
It can get better. What if the decision-maker, that person with the responsibility and authority to make the decision, has a conversation with employees in the group about their input and why the decision was made the way it was. Here is the benefit of the humble leader respecting the thoughts of those who must carry out the plan based on the leader’s decisions. With this humility and this respect being shown to the employee, the employee will be much more willing to support the decision, the plan, and the success of the business. The employee will show humility.
If you as a leader want respect for what you do, those who must carry out your decisions should be vested in those decisions and want them to be successful even if they do not completely agree with the decisions. In other words, those who carry out the decisions should respect the decision-maker. That respect comes where the decision-maker shows respect by soliciting, listening, and explaining decisions to those who make those decisions successful. Humility in the leader begets humility in the follower.
If you do not see arrogance in your employees, start looking for it. Do you have isolated areas of power and control within your team? Do you see and hear support for the planning for the business? Are all employees aware of the planning and how the goals will benefit the business? Why aren’t those in charge of carrying out planning acting as if the planning is important and instead viewing it as an annoyance?
To get rid of arrogance in employees, show humility in leadership. Employees who are respected, will reflect back the humility they are shown.