Not Cocky…Confidence.

When it comes to confidence vs. arrogance, only one of those traits is desirable, and knowing the difference between the two can do wonders for your professional reputation.

The best way to get into the meat of this is to ask if you ever had a boss who was a Veteran of the Military. I have.  A couple, but one to describe would be as if a boss is an arrogant leader who leads as if he’s in a battle and thinks he’s leading with intelligence and wisdom, but he isn’t.  When overly arrogant people are challenged, they are more like to act impulsively—in this scenario, they are more apt to drive their troops into battle, which can be deadly.

But of course, most workplaces don’t have such dire consequences when one of its members has an overabundance—or a severe deficiency—of confidence, but an imbalance is never healthy and can lead to a toxic environment if left unchecked.

I was the only female on a team four other males and was told about a conversation one of those guys had about me where he said, “Oh we all tried to give her advice on how to do things and she didn’t like that.”  So, does that make me arrogant? Can’t I be confident in how I do things different from others? And isn’t that kind of patronizing?  

A wise person once told me that “Arrogance is the need to convince yourself and others that you’re good at what you do. Confidence is being convinced of your strengths but fully aware of your weaknesses (which you know how to address)”.

Confident people don’t isolate others; they create opportunities for them to shine.  In some cases, employees need encouragement to boost their self-confidence.  As women, we’re taught from a young age to be ‘nice’; and, especially in the case of many female workers over 40, the challenge is more about talking people up to confidence rather than down from aggression.

However, out-and-out domineering behavior is always a negative no matter your gender. Long gone are the days when people could get away with being prima donnas, Today, the workplace is much more oriented towards workers’ feelings. It’s a very candid time.

On a group call about trust this same coworker brought up a point about trust being about respect and not having respect for a “know it all”, because I had heard what he had previously said about me I knew this was directed towards me.  Again, patronizing since I had to hear about how he felt about me from someone else or passive aggressive ways instead of just sitting down me to talk. 

When I think of arrogance, I think of it as a distorted picture of one’s own abilities. When you think one knows more than they really do, they tend to look down on others. Arrogant people are not team players. In business, it’s more important to be effective than to be right, and an arrogant person is always concerned about being right. Clearly my success proves this not to be the way I think however in the future rather than judging bad workplace conduct, it’s important to give constructive feedback and to offer people an opportunity to self-correct within a clear-cut plan for improvement. Getting along well with your co-workers and treating them fairly can often take more effort than you think. Whether you have a toxic boss or an arrogant team member, you need a plan on how to make your work relationship really work.  Trust is earned and getting to know someone, really getting to know them for yourself and not basing an opinion on what you hear through the ‘gossip’ vine can not only earn trust but also gain respect.  And if you feel the same after constructive feedback is given, it might mean some of the team members have to recognize that not everyone is perfect and focus on the person’s good qualities. Appreciate their substance, not their style.


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