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How do you deal with a colleague who is always arguing on most topics just to be right and put everyone else wrong. She always says "No!, because.. {insert argument}".

She always wants to be right at the expense of offending other people. I mean you can say that gently and not too forcefully.

Edit: Sometimes this person is correct but sometimes she is not so it's more like 50/50.

I think one of the causes for this is that this person is so nitpicky. She will insist what she thinks as correct even small details. And she is too bossy in her approach at that.

One important thing to add is that this person is so competitive that she always wants to win an argument and have the last to say..

thanks for your insight guys!

closed as off-topic by Masked Man, gnat, Richard Says Reinstate Monica, Mister Positive, Dukeling Feb 12 '18 at 16:23

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  • Is she generally correct? Or just enjoys being a contrarian? – AthomSfere Feb 12 '18 at 1:24
  • Generally she is correct though her approach irritates people. – Glenn C Feb 12 '18 at 1:26
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    I don't really see why "No! Because ..." should irritate anybody. Besides, if what she says is usually right, then getting the right thing done is more important than soothing egos. If it bothers people that much, they should probably get better at their job so that she doesn't have to correct them so often. – Masked Man Feb 12 '18 at 1:35
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    Pointing out the correct thing is good but the approach is so domineering that it causes tension within the team. yes egos are hurt to use your term. – Glenn C Feb 12 '18 at 1:45
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    Have you discussed her behaviour with her before or have you raised any of it to your/her manager? And at the risk of starting a controversial discussion: would you feel the same way about the way she argues her points if she were male? – Lilienthal Feb 12 '18 at 9:41
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Have you tried talking less to this person?

When I notice that communicating with someone is a negative experience more often than it is a positive one, I gradually reorganize my communication patterns to reduce the amount of interaction/communication with that person.

It is a natural and sensible response, whereby behavior which yields a negative outcome (think of it as 'punishment') is changed to avoid such outcome.

Another good working assumption is that people are unlikely to change, and it is safe to assume you are not going to produce such change -- especially in a colleague, as opposed to a subordinate.

Your best strategy is to reduce your interaction with this individual, in other words, talk less to her. Minimize the source of irritation, and the irritation will be minimized. You can't always win, but you can always at least cut your losses. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I am not going to delve into the potential benefits of being told what you (and everyone) are doing wrong, on a regular basis. I am going to assume that whatever you are doing is not as wrong as this person paints it to be, so the source of the problem is not with your and others' behaviors, but with the way this person communications. Other commentators are welcome to explore other perspectives.

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I think in this instance there are two topics that could be addressed.

1) She often offers a contradictory and correct position on various topics.

This says she is potentially a great asset to the team, that she is:

A) Confident
B) Intelligent
C) Competent 

I would take no actions to stifle this. If other team mates are offended only by the above, I'd work with them to understand the value she is offering and hopefully help them grow slightly thicker skin.

2) Her soft skills / delivery might need a little work.

Really, this is for everyone's benefit. Her coworkers will be more comfortable, she might receive better feedback during conversations, but most importantly she will be able to give the exact same information without other members of the group instantly cringing, recoiling, and becoming defensive.

How I would handle something like this with a peer (it helps to have good rapport, but can also work to build rapport) is wait for a good example of this happening.

Afterwards, ask her if she is aware of how the team members perceive her actions and that they are offended by her delivery of information and counterpoints.

And then follow up with advice on how she can say effectively the same thing but with it seeming less confrontational.

"Like in that last meeting, where John was talking about how he wanted to sail to the end of Earth just to see it once. Instead of saying 'You can't do that, the earth is round' you could have said something more like 'That sounds like a fantastic time, but have you considered the modern scientific consensus on the shape of the planet?'"

Finally, I'll admit I personally wish being direct worked as well as it should. Often times though we have to help foster a conversation rather than just give opposing information, regardless of our own degree of competency vs someone else's. It isn't that she is doing anything wrong, just that she could be more effective.

  • I strongly agree here with almost everything. But I think that from my experience with similar people - the most effective way to end this is to just socialize with this person. It is highly likely that her lack of interpersonal skills led her to this, and confrontation and/or ignoring her will not make her understand. She likely feels alienated from the team, and is not sure how to 'fit in' or build relationships/friendships. Invite her to lunch with the other team members. Chat with her about non-work topics. Then she will not want to be as abrasive. – Christopher Feb 12 '18 at 14:12
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    I don't see how you get confident, intelligent, and competent from "obnoxious and wrong half the time". – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 14:19
  • @TheSnarkKnight right half the time is an edit, originally she was "right most the time" – AthomSfere Feb 12 '18 at 16:35
  • @AthomSfere you should probably update then, as your answer doesn't take that into account now. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 17:21
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It's well established that 50/50 is a failing grade and "No!, because ..." is an approach that is not well received; especially with that score.

Interpersonal skills is handled over at interpersonal.SE, here it's more about the workplace.

She needs to sit in her hierarchy, if she cuts the cheques she might get away with it but as a demoralizer, time waster, and irritant she needs to think before she speaks; spend more time considering if she is correct, whom to approach with her pearl of wisdom, and work on the delivery.

An effective approach I have found (when being spammed) is dismiss the notion of bringing up the matter with me, "something of this importance should be brought to the attention of management, be certain that they get back to me by the end of the day".

They know the worth of their ideas and the subject is either brought to the attention of the correct person or their failing is brought to light.

If they simply enjoy interrupting, being corrected or correcting, or simply like to test boundaries (manspacing) and roll roughshod over their colleagues then you need to establish that you'll not be the avenue for this behavior.

She needs to be correct more often, and work on her approach.

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The way to deal with a difficult person is to address the behavior when it happens.

"Excuse me, but that came across as a bit rude." (for example)

As you pointed out, it is not enough for this person to be right, you have to be wrong. Someone tends to use this tactic to stifle all disagreement by making you pay a social penalty if you dispute her. (Disagree, and I'll embarrass you).

This is usually indicative of someone low in skill and competence. Leadership is convincing not cajoling.

The only way to reign someone like this in is to address the behavior. It doesn't matter if the person is right or wrong if they're being abusive towards the team. What is important is how the ideas are presented.

If you start with an

"I'm sorry, but that came across as a bit rude".

Expect something like

"Well, I'm right!".

To which you say:

"Right or wrong, that is not the way to address people"

You want to curtail the behavior, but not the input, because as you've said, she puts in some good input (about 50%) but she's wrong often enough that you don't want her ideas accepted because they are just the ones put forth the most forcefully.

  • To be fair, OP went from "Generally she is correct" in the comments to "50/50" in the edit after people called him out that while the colleague's manners are still suboptimal, contradicting mistakes is a good thing. – DonFusili Feb 12 '18 at 14:45
  • @DonFusili that's what I said. Correct the behavior, not the fact that you're getting input and that force should not be a criterion of acceptance. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 15:09
  • Oh, I agree with your answer and upvoted, I just find the "wrong often enough" a bit at odds with how OP made it sound in comments before being called out. I accept a lot more social incompetence from colleagues that are "generally correct" than from those that are correct "50%" of the time. But I'm nitpicking. – DonFusili Feb 12 '18 at 15:44
  • @DonFusili I think it's the forcefulness, because even if we're dealing with an insufferable genius, the natural tendency is to try to take the person down, not good for the person or the team. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 12 '18 at 15:56
  • What if she doesn't understand what's wrong about her behaviour (which seems entirely plausible)? This approach doesn't exactly explain what is rude about the behaviour, or what would be a better way for her to convey her opinions instead. Also, calling someone rude is likely to make them defensive and thus less receptive to criticism. – Dukeling Feb 12 '18 at 16:28

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