Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lack of Civility? When Arrogance Creates a Toxic Environment

Arrogance-Big Ego Riding a Small Pony
We have watched the news and experienced arrogant behavior at the top. We may wonder how some people can actually believe they know it all and are all to everything! In their own eyes they cannot make mistakes and treat others as pawns to their own malignant personality. Research in the The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist helps us understand the problems arrogant people create that is only a matter of time before real damage occurs to an organization.

What is arrogance? It is a person who engages in behaviors intended to exaggerate their sense of superiority by putting others lower. They want to seem omnipotent and invincible to others but at a deeper level they are covering feelings of inadequacy.

Higher levels of arrogance are associated with lower self-esteem, lower general intelligence, poorer performance and lower team building. It is the opposite of what it intends to portray because it acts as a cover for deficiencies.

The pitfalls to arrogance is the toxic environment it creates where collaboration turns into stress, poor relationships, and in-fighting. As the arrogant person continues to engage in maladjusted interactions with others they end up creating fight and flight responses that lead conflict.

It is important for organizations to work as a social group. It can be argued that their fundamental strength is the ability to pull people together to complete important work. Arrogance destroys social cohesion and creates a whole host of functional problems.

Arrogant leaders have a difficult time learning from their mistakes or gaining feedback from their environment. They become pathological in their thinking and are blindly willing to take large risks that lead to costly mistakes. Critical thinking is nearly non-existent.

The impact on poor relationships, toxic environments, and heightened risk-taking has serious consequences for organizations. While these leaders are hired for their skill they are often fired for their personality. By the time they are gone the damage has already been done and it is up to the next person to pick up the pieces. Arrogance and confidence are two separate personality traits and hiring managers should be aware of the difference.

Silverman, S., et. al. (2012). Arrogance: a formula for leadership failure. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 50 (1)

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