The Know-It-All Syndrome

I received the following text from my colleague and thought of sharing it, dissecting it and probably looking deeper into its implications in our day to day living either as a family, business, relationship/partnership or in church;

“Perhaps the most frustrating way that leaders underperform is by over-talking. That is, they act like know-it-alls. They can tell you how the world works, what corporate is thinking; how it will backfire if you try this or that, and why you can’t possibly change the product one iota. Sometimes such blowhards get their swagger from a few positive experiences, but usually they’re just victims of their own destructive personalities.

Ultimately, the company ends up being a victim too, because know-it-alls aren’t just insufferable, they’re dangerous. They don’t listen, and that deafness makes it very hard for new ideas to get debated, expanded upon, or improved. No single person, no matter how smart, can take a business to its apex. For that, you need every voice to be heard.”

I do not know the author of this text otherwise I would have acknowledged him/her for such a wonderful piece. So yes, there you have it. Over talking is a dangerous activity; Michael Connelly in his book Lost Light posits that Loose Lips Sink Ships. Let’s take that in again; Loose Lips Sink Ships. Well, it’s such a weighty statement. Perhaps this explains why we end up souring our friendships and (or) acquaintanceships: engaging in cheap talk and opening our mouths too much, spilling out vitriol about the next person, his/her unbecoming character and how he/she does not suite person x/y. And then we forget to examine our hearts and soul – quick to point out the flaws and dents in the other person’s life. This cheap talk then spreads like wild fire (whether be it factual or mere rumors), consuming many on its way and leaving – in most cases, irreparable damage. If you find that your friend is talking too much about another person, you should get concerned. Chances are that you might be the topic of discussion in another forum. This happens most of the time eh?

Let’s face it; none among us is righteous. Problem is some assume the holier-than-thou attitude then go round painting the worst picture about you in the hope that you do not succeed in whatever you are doing or that your friendships go to the dogs – literally. And you have encountered such kind of people in your life. No? Then you start wondering why your ‘friends’ are no longer picking your phone calls, your texts are never answered and when you meet in the streets, they assume that they have not seen you. But worse is a friend who has the know-it-all attitude, he/she is a headache. Whether he/she is right or wrong, your opinion is trashed away. You feel less valued, you quickly start looking for alternative companions, you feel your friend push you out of the companionship. When this happens in an intimate relationship, one of the parties will definitely feel less valued, he/she will feel domineered-over and this will bring unnecessary friction. Hell, it might even lead to separation and (or) divorce in case of marriage – which ultimately translates to broken families. Because which adult in this world would just keep quiet while the other humiliates him/her and totally controls his/her way of thinking? Would you allow that?

It becomes more complicated when the know-it-alls shift to the work place. Now you know that you shall never be consulted and that all decisions will be done out of your knowledge or input then you are forced to implement with the greatest results expected from the same. Now this makes the workplace a nightmare to work in. Many people opt to move out, look for better pastures and carry on from there, only to find more of the know-it-alls on the other side.  And the cycle continues. When you see one person controlling the whole system in the business, organization or church, never allowing anybody to know even the basics in running the company, then you know that you are not dealing with an ordinary colleague. He/she would want to handle all the crucial processes, rarely takes leave, and even when on leave you have to get some clearance if processes have to be completed, otherwise you all have to wait for him/her to report back to work. If the person decides to quit, the company either collapses or it undergoes an expensive and painful overhaul of the entire system – in which case most of the crucial information is lost.

See, one reason that contributes to the collapse of companies under such personalities (as managers) is that they might make decisions which are huge mistakes thereby crippling the cash flows, sales or customer base of the company. You cannot claim to know everything in any field; being a jack of all trades but a master of none will definitely send you to doom. (Doom here is not the insecticide. And by the way why doesn’t it eliminate all the roaches in the kitchen? No matter how many times you spray, they will march across the table just when your friends are getting ready to partake in your meal thereby killing their appetite). When there is failure, they never accept that they are the cause but wrap everyone else into the web and unfortunately those on the lower side of the food chain are sacrificed. The ‘big’ man is spared; for fear that the company may lose the only resource it has, the person who makes the company tick: a demigod. But you have to be wary of such people. They make the workplace less enjoyable, less fulfilling and ultimately the results produced by the ‘foot soldiers’ (staff) are the bare minimum. All what the staff aims is to be on the safe side; the break-even point. Then you wonder why the company has remained stagnant at one point for a decade. Or the same mistakes are repeated year in year out. Or targets are never met. Or tasks are never completed unless closer monitoring is applied.

I guess this know-it-all also contributes to inheritance disputes. This happens when the parent/guardian would not listen to any of his/her children, relatives, lawyers or friends regarding the equitable distribution of the wealth. The person goes ahead, clings to the property up to the deathbed then leaves all the property with no direction on how it ought to be shared out. Or the sharing is not equitable. Those left behind then start fighting, spilling their fighting to the public domain; that is, if the property is worth a fortune. You’ve got to trust that your children will take over the business and run it well after they bid you farewell. You’ve got to show them all the secrets which make your business run smoothly; do not keep all the information to yourself. How many times have we seen one of the parents leave a fat bank account while the family was living in abject poverty while he/she was alive; and to make matters worse, there was none enlisted to benefit upon the death of the account holder?  That fear which makes people become know-it-alls; the fear of the unknown, can only be overcome if we become open to one another, when we trust our friends and family that they mean the best for us. That if you train your junior on how the system works, it does not mean that you would lose your position, rather you spread the risk of making huge mistakes and, the burden in case errors and mistakes occur, is shared.

The know-it-all syndrome is real in our society today. It makes other human beings live frustrated and stressful lives. It not only decreases their morale, but their full potential is never achieved; they do only that which they are asked to do. They never take the initiative; they would rather clap their hands when they see their captain sinking than extend the same and pull him out of the vessel.



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