Now, I’ll be honest up front and say that I believe I have expertise in a few subject areas.  Writing for one.  Team management for another.  We all have these areas of expertise which we not only use to nab a paycheck, but we’re proud of them.  They distinguish us from the crowd, and we earn respect using our honed skills.

Maybe that’s why it’s hard to work with someone who believes they know everything.  You know who I’m talking about because in my experience, there is at least one at every office.  This is the guy who has something to say about everyone’s job: from the CEO right on down to the janitor.  He has an opinion on this and an opinion on that, and oh by the way, you’re doing your job wrong too.  And when he complains, it’s usually about the “idiots” he has to work with every day.

I hate to break this to you, guy.  But if you think everyone you work with is an idiot, odds are, you’re an idiot.

Here are a few questions to ask the person who thinks they know it all at work.

  1. Why can’t you learn anything new? Working with other people exposes you to new thoughts and ideas.  You can learn from their experiences or try out new techniques on the job.  Even if you’re super incredibly awesome that you can’t learn a single damned thing, you could learn how to gracefully handle a tough situation.  If you seriously can’t find something to learn from your current work situation, you might know everything already.  Or you might be an idiot.
  2. How can one person have god-like knowledge? Even managers (or should I say especially managers) who have done the job before don’t know it all.  Customer tastes change constantly, technology changes the skill sets we need even in the most established professions, and mastering a skill takes a lifetime.  If you think you know everything there is about every single person’s job at work, you might be some mythical office beast.  Or you might be an idiot.
  3. If all of your ideas are so great, why aren’t they all working? Most people make mistakes.  I have yet to meet a single person who has never, in their entire lifetime, made a mistake.  If you insist that your ideas are always the best and infallible, you break all laws of probability.  Or, you’re an idiot who can’t see that you too, make mistakes.
  4. If you’re surrounded by idiots, why don’t you leave? Here’s my personal favorite.  If you’re so smart, so dead on, why are you allowing yourself to be surrounded by idiots?  You can take all your precious little ideas and go off and create your own business.  You could be surrounded by idiots because everyone around you is so incredible dumb.  Or, you may have nowhere else to go because you’re an idiot yourself.

There are definitely people in this world I would rather not work with.  Hell, we all know a few.   But to write an entire company off as idiots is childish at best.  People make “dumb” decisions for all sorts of reasons, not all of them because they’re “idiots.”

Real professionals don’t believe in idiots.  They thrive in teams and get real work done.  They learn new ideas, change, and adapt their careers.  They do not slap “idiot” labels on their co-workers all day by pretending they could do everyone else’s job better.

-Deborah Fike

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