How To Deal With the Know-It-All On Your Team in a Healthy Way

Oren Cohen

We all experience them. Here’s how to deal with them.

Photo: Unsplash

Imagine you’re at a team meeting. The know-it-all — who joined the company not a fortnight ago — has just put you in the spotlight in front of everybody, asking a question they could have easily asked offline.

“What have you learned from your research so far?”

Ending the question with a subtle smile as though they expect you to give an unsatisfactory answer — a situation that allows them to share their knowledge.

That is only the latest in a series of events working with that person. They know everything and they make sure you know it too.

In meetings discussing how to approach tasks, they listen to everyone, only to point out the mistakes people make and then they share their own idea — the perfect idea — making sure everybody else agrees.

The know-it-all will contest a person that disagrees until they relent. One day, you find yourself thinking: “I should put them in their place.”

No, you shouldn’t. Let me explain why.

They Thrive on Conflict

When you’re angered by what they do, you make them happy. They feel like they are stirring things and “capturing” their place within the company hierarchy.

Don’t let them feel that way. When they offer their knowledge to you, thank them. Tell them you find their opinion valuable and complete the exchange.

You don’t need to let them “fail” but also do not let them get to you and doubt your value. That way, you do not ignore their knowledge but you also do not allow them to walk over you and make you feel like they are better than you.

Only you decide your value — don’t put it in the hands of strangers.

Thank them when they offer their knowledge and don’t go into conflict with them. You’ll feel better for it in the long run.

Don’t Hate Them

Most know-it-alls are self-aware. They know they cause conflict and they know it doesn’t earn them many friends. Don’t let them be right. Go out on lunches with them, laugh when they tell a joke, listen when they share a story.

You may feel like doing these things is being false to your character. You may think it flattery to be a good friend to them and you don’t think they deserve flattery.

That’s true. The know-it-alls don’t deserve it — but what you’re doing is not flattery at all. What you’re doing is showing them how most people who are not know-it-alls act in their day-to-day.

It confuses them. The know-it-all asks themselves why you’re not mad, why aren’t you angry? Why couldn’t they reach you? Why don’t you see the ultimate value they bring to the company?

Don’t Feel Threatened by Them

The answer is simple — you do. You see their value and you don’t feel threatened by it. Why should you? Could they take your position?

You both work on different things. You’re part of a team. You both have the interest of the company at heart, even though their personal interest is probably a bit higher than yours.

It’s completely understandable. People work in high-tech for different reasons. Some have a genuine interest to make something that will change the world. Others want to make money.

Some of us even work in this industry but want to do something completely different, like writing a book or drawing a masterpiece.

The know-it-all placed their personal interest above the interest of the company. They will ask for a raise every few months and after a year will disappear to a different place to pursue even higher salaries and benefits.

So, you see? They won’t even remember you. Why should you spend so much energy on them? Let the know-it-all win. Think ahead. Think about how they benefit the company and not how they make you feel.

It’s like a game of chess, and you need to do better than a pawn aspiring for greatness and disappearing from the board. Chess is a game of kings but we all know the Queen holds all the power.

Let them win and, perhaps one day, you’ll be there to watch the inevitable truth come to pass — that know-it-alls don’t know it all.

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I'm a geeky content creator. My content will usually be helpful articles for other content creators like me or some fun geeky articles about shows, video games, and literature. Recommend me a new fantasy book! Also, I'm working on my own fantasy story so stay tuned for that, too.

New York City, NY

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