Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Manage a Know-It-All

How do you handle a new person who seems to know everything? This is such a common problem. The team members who have worked long and hard feel like the new person does not understand or appreciate their experience (and this is probably true). The new person feels like the existing members are set in their ways and not open to new ideas (there is probably some truth to this as well).

Both sides become frustrated and upset and act in ways that perpetuate the misunderstandings. While there will always be some growing pains, they can be managed using a few simple strategies.

* New member equals new team. When someone new joins the group, it will be tempting to expect the new person to fit into the existing team culture. The problem is that every time membership changes it results in a new team. The best approach is to open up all team processes and rules for reconsideration by everyone.

* Build empathy. Both new and old team members could benefit by trying to understand the opposite perspective. When people are new, they want to be noticed, accepted, and valued. When people have been on a team for a long time, they want the new people to recognize and appreciate the problems they have already solved and the work they have put in getting things to where they currently are.

* Provide coaching. If the new person is really ruffling feathers, it can be easy to sit back and watch the person self-destruct. Don't let that happen. Talk to the person off line and give him a heads up. This could mean letting him know how his actions are being taken by the group, and suggesting ways to ease in more smoothly.

By Tom LaForce

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