Employees who always need to be ‘right’
Employees who have a need to be ‘always right’, can be challenging to lead. They make mistakes, they frustrate us and they cause conflict within our work teams.
Let's look at our team member Steve.
Steve has low self-esteem, but he hides this by being pretty loud with his opinions. He is considered a ‘know-it-all’ by his work colleagues.
We can pinpoint the start of his behaviours to when his father would praise his grades at school, but be critical of Steve whenever his grades dropped.
“You got three A’s and one C on your report card. Why did you get the C? You need to try harder.”
Steve’s constant need for approval is time consuming and emotionally draining for his manager.
Steve has proven to be difficult to train, because he doesn’t want to seem weak by asking questions or letting his manager know when he doesn’t understand something. He makes mistakes, because he doesn’t listen and is not open to learning.
Steve causes conflict within the team because he constantly needs to prove himself right and prove others wrong.
Providing feedback to Steve can be problematic. He takes any negative feedback as a personal attack. He can become highly triggered and will not hear the rest of the conversation once he’s been provided with seemingly negative feedback, because his sole focus is on the emotions attached to the perceived criticism.
Example of Steve’s behaviour
An issue has arisen because Steve has not followed a process. When you point out the error and the impact of his actions, Steve becomes loud and aggressive.
TIPS for responding
What really was going on with Steve?
Steve didn’t know how to do the job correctly and this is why he made a mistake. He was highly embarrassed to get it wrong and he lashed out when he felt he was going to be in trouble.
How to avoid similar occurrences in the future
Try sandwiching negative feedback between positive feedback. This won’t always work with a person who has a need to always be right, but it is a good method to try.
Having quality policies and procedures in place, plus effective employee training is an important step in managing people who must always be ‘right’.
You can avoid a lack of understanding by having expectations and procedures clearly defined during onboarding and by regular training activities.
If Steve still refuses to follow the procedures, you can use these tools to assist with the performance management process.