Q. When asking questions or pushing a position in a meeting with seniors, where is the difference between being bold in doing so and coming across as arrogant or self-assured, which could be dangerous in one’s career?
Workplaces are replete with people whose arrogance has irreparably maimed their otherwise promising careers. And while confidence and arrogance might be plotted along a shared continuum, the two attributes are unmistakable in the effect they inspire in others. The latter almost invariably leaves a bad taste behind. It is an occupational hazard.
Consider the following questions: do you know how you are perceived by others? Have you sought feedback about how you come across? Do you have a trusted colleague or friend who can share personal feedback with its bark off? While it may at times be misaligned with reality, people tend to assess others on the basis of perception. Noble intentions can sometimes be entirely eclipsed by a poor impression.
What is the real purpose of raising a matter? Do you, by raising it, shed more light on a pertinent issue or on yourself? How well do you appreciate your cultural context and the people you are dealing with? Do you, by the manner you raise an issue, undermine the respect you should have for others? Do you acknowledge that others, like you, could be right?
Even with the best effort and intentions, your confidence might sometimes be misjudged by others to be arrogance - as the French say, ‘c'est la vie’. But it will make a difference if you are more concerned about listening to others and respectfully raising issues than flaunting your superiority.
It is indeed possible to interact with others confidently without reeking of conceit. If you genuinely respect others, your attitude will conform accordingly.
After all, arrogance does not live in sentences; it takes residence in human beings. As the poet and novelist Kelly Cherry says: ‘There is a wicked and pervading arrogance loose on the earth, like a rabid beast, an overdog. Does it run, does it slouch, does its name have a number? The beast preaches contempt, for that's what arrogance says: that nothing is real but itself, and the bone and blood of another's being are insubstantial as breath’.
Do you have a question? Send it to our team: [email protected]