Some employees have tremendous expertise … and some just think they do. Here are five tips for managing both types:
- Become an advocate: Regardless of whether an employee really “knows it all” or not, chances are that person doesn’t think he/she needs you telling them how to get the job done. So how do you win the respect of these employees? If they’re a valuable part of your workforce, you go to bat for them as often as possible, proving to them that you’re a valuable asset they want in their corner.
- Focus on what motivates them: Some employees are motivated by incentives, others by recognition. But it’s often helpful to ask these employees what would motivate them the most. Generally, these type of employees prefer to be left to their own devices, but knowing they have a goal and rewards to shoot for is a perfect way to keep them in check without micromanaging them.
- Give them a sense of ownership: A lot of know-it-alls don’t play well with others. That’s why it helps to find a project they can take complete ownership of. Having a pet project not only gives these employees an opportunity to prove their worth, it also gives them a sense that you believe in their abilities and trust them to get the job done.
- Document everything: When it comes to the know-it-all employee, it’s a good idea to keep track of any/all incidents that have caused problems. Having a file of disciplinary issues is a strong reminder to these employees that they’re not as untouchable as they think they are. But it also gives managers leverage in situations where they need the employee to adjust certain behaviors.
- Reward behaviors, not results: One of the biggest problems managers run into with know-it-all employees is that they know how valuable they are to the organization … perhaps all too well. One way to get around that is by creating a workplace where positive behaviors are rewarded as much as (if not more than) positive results. Creating an atmosphere like this ensures employees who go out of their way to endorse the company’s rules and processes will gain the recognition they deserve. It also minimizes the risk negative behavior and attitudes will become like a cancer, spreading throughout the department.
Based in part on “When Your Employees Know More Than You,” by Marshall Goldsmith, Harvard Business Review Blogs, 7/20/10.