Dealing with People Who Act Superior to You

The People Mentor Podcast

Hi, I’m Nicola from The People Mentor and today I want to talk about dealing with people who act as if they are superior to you.

Working with colleagues who act superior, if you are not careful can lead to all kinds of emotions. 

It can spark anger, a feeling of insecurity and anxiety.

Often those types of people believe they know more than they really do and believe they are better than you.  But sometimes it is just a bravado act to cover up deep insecurities.

Or it can be because they spot mistakes and genuinely are trying to help but it comes across the wrong way.

So, in reality, it is a defence mechanism as they perceive you or the person they are dealing with as a threat.  Often because they see themselves as inadequate.  Often superior people are overcompensating for those feelings.

Often they get their self-worth from outside sources.  You will often find that they won’t take ownership of mistakes. They can have mood swings as their sense of inadequacy swings into action

Another to note is that the Superior person will come across as self-centred and can be heard sharing their exploits when others are talking about theirs.  Through the discussion, they will use the situation to reinforce how they have coped with more, done more and so on.

When discussing situations and events:

You’ll often hear them say things like well they seemed to be listening to me more, or I felt the attendees were more engaged with me, but you did well!

You can also detect an air of entitlement.  Often it stems from being given everything as a child but not necessarily a caring childhood.

They usually like to be the ones in control and will get quite unkind if they don’t feel as if they are or if they are being undermined.

The one thought to note is that this person behaving superior to you is usually struggling with emotional anguish and it’s not about you.

Here are some tips on how to work with a person who is acting superior to you.

Firstly if it is really bothering you then ask yourself why. 

Are you concerned that they are showing you up? 

Or is it because you want to be the one deciding actions?

Then look at what you can do to build the relationship. 

Perhaps they don’t trust you to do the good job needed.

Create opportunities to discuss the way forward and if it comes down to it then tell the person how you feel.  But own it and keep the emotion if possible out of the discussion.

Keep to specifics.  

Remember to keep positive wherever you can, compliment the person when they do something that stands out to you and wherever possible ignore the small comments.

The other thing is to have the conversation when the situation arises, don’t leave it.  

Say something like” Thank you for your thoughts. I do feel confident in what I am doing.  However, if I get stuck I will ask the team for help and I will include you as part of the team.”

The third point is to not take this personally, as if you observe you will see others going through the same and probably even feeling the same way as you.  

So the lesson here is you won’t change these relationships by trying to control the other person’s behaviour, but what you can do is adapt yourself in these circumstances.

The thing is we can place our energy into blaming and deriding someone or we can use it to work out how to find a more productive means of interaction with the person.

And lastly, if you have done all of this and it’s not improving go and talk to your Manager to discuss opportunities for you to take ownership and contribute more to projects and meetings.

You could say, “I’d like to take the lead on these areas: What steps do I need to take?”

Your boss then knows your co-worker isn’t the only person wanting opportunities and potentially alerts them to the team dynamics going on.

If after all that nothing changes, then if you don’t want to change jobs, look for opportunities across the business and offer to learn and try other aspects.

Do you need help as a Manager or Leader to have difficult conversations?

Often it is a lack of confidence that holds us back.

Well, that’s where I can help.

I can give you the tools, tips and experience to give you the confidence to have the conversations.

Not sure?

Then start by chatting with me.

I can help you identify what’s needed for you.

If you’re thinking that you’re nervous about investing in anything right now, I get it.

But what if my help, guidance, and support could help you reduce your fears, increase your confidence and improve your handling of your teams?

Sound good?

Get in touch for a chat about exactly what’s possible. 

I hope you enjoyed this podcast, and I’ll see you next time.

This is The People Mentor signing off.

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