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Confidence versus arrogance
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/07/2010

Winner child Confidence is a wonderful quality. It is a state of assurance or competence. Most of us would agree that confidence is preferable over fear or arrogance. Balanced confidence is the center point in the attitude continuum. And it is a foundation for safety in corrections.

A balanced attitude is crucial in our field. Much has been written about the detriments stemming from a lack of confidence. And it is very easy to recognize that some arrogant staff (as opposed to the assertive, confident sort) inspire revenge, grievances, law suits, and assaults.

        No confidence                      balanced confidence                     arrogance
     >-----------------------------------X------------------------------------<
                                                  (attitude continuum)

Another way to say it is as follows:

Confidence is a firm, friendly hand shake; Arrogance is a vice-like competition while shaking hands.

Arrogant staff proudly announce their accomplishments and abilities (real or imagined) to all within earshot. Many will exaggerate their worth when they feel threatened by the presence or reputation of others. This is personal pride on a mega-dose of steroids.

This goes beyond a distasteful barrage of braggadocio. There are dangers tied to this. Quite simply, arrogance attracts manipulators. And the long line of possible events in a set-up are put into play. The bottom line is that safety diminishes when unprofessional behavior persists.

The walls have ears. Offenders can easily pick out staff whose identity is tied to an overfed ego. Manipulators with any experience can simply foster the bloated ego of the target and subtly work the con game. One tragedy of this is that it is not easily avoided, as the hyper-arrogant typically do not utilize helpful self analysis. They often believe that they are too smart to fall into any trap. Arrogant staff may as well paint a large target on their backs.

Staff have ears, as well. As the self-promoters continue to bleat their merits, irritation grows in the staff body. Many will distance themselves from their braggart colleague, intensifying any disenfranchisement. This increases the target potential for would-be handlers.

Another layer of arrogance comes when one attaches their importance to the accomplishments of others and claims this as their own. This is like a parent with over weaned pride who boasts incessantly about the academic or athletic accomplishments of their children. In terms of balance, pride is fine in small doses. The problem arises when the balance tilts in the direction of obnoxious, chest thumping declarations of superiority. It is, in other words, a matter of the intensity of the act rather than simple pride in someone else.

This also comes into play when one is enamored with or tied to a mentor. Some staff can be overenthusiastic boosters of mentors. Vocational coaches and positive influences are an important part of the profession. However, their good works are diluted when a parasitical braggart goes beyond learning from the mentor and attaches their wagon to the star. Many mentors are humble people just doing their job and helping others learn. Arrogant staff with vicarious notions thwart many mentors who do not wish for a wash of attention. This can force a valuable resource to retreat.

As with all things concerned with human nature, mending perceived problems can be complex. And with the arrogant, constructive criticism can be misconstrued as a challenge to one’s reputation. Yet, of one treads too lightly, the message is lost. Also, coaching can be interpreted by the “coachee” as harassment.

In the interest of safety for all, we should consider how we can temper the arrogance of colleagues. Perhaps the best fix rests solely on the observer. In other words, one should focus on the lesson of others. For example, if you see unbridled arrogance, you should check yourself to see that you are not conveying the same repugnant message.

Also, one should avoid the preaching mentality. I am aware that this essay may seem preachy. But I am illustrating this in concepts and not attacking particular individuals. Tone is important.

Training in communications is another part of the solution. However, the intended audience is often oblivious of their sometime shameful impact on others. We can only hope that the lessons of training are assimilated by those who believe it does not apply.

Lastly, no matter the behavior, a colleague is a colleague. Writing them off and leaving them to fall makes one culpable in whatever may happen. Staff disenfranchisement, for whatever reason, is actually a subtle form of arrogance. We need to support our coworkers on the job in order to achieve the goals of safety.

In the end, egos, personalities and animosities should be subordinate to the maintenance of a foundation of safety. Accomplishments mean nothing when we are in motion to answer a call of duress. Issues of safety should put everything else into perspective.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page



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