Confidence vs. arrogance: how to achieve the right balance at work

a person standing in confidence vs arrogance person with crossed arms and a crown of superiority

Confidence is a valuable asset, but can you have too much of a good thing? Many people mistake arrogance as an excess of confidence, but they’re two starkly contrasting concepts. Understanding how confidence vs. arrogance shows up at work can help create more effective teams and a positive workplace culture.

Table of contents
What is confidence?
Qualities of confidence in the workplace
What is arrogance?
Confidence vs arrogance: what's the difference?
When does confidence become arrogance?
Understanding the root cause of arrogance
How to develop soft skills to achieve a balance in your workplace
How to deal with an arrogant colleague or team member
The benefits of achieving balance in your workplace

What is confidence?

Confidence means trusting and believing in your abilities, knowledge, and the value of your contributions. It also means recognizing where you need to improve and being open to seeking help to develop new skills. At work, confidence is evident in employees who trust themselves to tackle challenges and take responsibility for the results of their work, good or bad.

Studies indicate that observers can accurately assess confidence through body language cues1. Confident individuals maintain eye contact, sit or stand up straight, and have serious facial expressions.

Confident leaders and team members are involved, assertive, collaborative, and open to learning and feedback. They have respect among team members and leadership. They share their thoughts, acknowledge their strengths and those of their team members, and approach new projects and challenges positively and confidently.

Qualities of confidence in the workplace

Collaboration

Confident individuals are team players who are open to constructive feedback and collaborative approaches to problem-solving. True confidence is inclusive and intrinsic, without the need for a sense of superiority to others. A strong sense of confidence can benefit the entire team and increase positive outcomes.

Decision-Making

One study found that nurses with higher self-confidence had better problem-solving and critical thinking abilities when making high-stakes decisions2.

Productivity

Self-esteem increases overall performance, and productivity, contributing to more successful outcomes for the individual and the team11.

What is arrogance?

Arrogance means thinking that you are better than others and deserve special treatment, often leading to ignoring other people's ideas and overestimating your abilities. The main difference between confidence and arrogance is that arrogance comes from having an inflated sense of self and not respecting others.

Confident people usually keep eye contact and have friendly postures, but arrogant body language looks different. Arrogant people might avoid eye contact and use dismissive gestures, like waving their hands, rolling their eyes, or lifting their chin to seem superior3. Baseless confidence can be a drawback that can hinder professional success.

An exaggerated sense of confidence can lead to strained relationships at work if not managed well. Arrogant employees might even create a hostile work environment. Overconfidence can be a barrier to an inclusive and collaborative environment without a healthy balance between confidence and respect.

Sometimes, people who lack confidence act arrogantly to hide their insecurity. It can help them to handle negative feedback, create boundaries, or deal with tough social situations. But, when someone in a leadership position behaves arrogantly, it damages relationships and creates distrust.

Confidence vs arrogance: what's the difference?

In the workplace, confidence and arrogance are different attitudes toward others and how one handles criticism. Confident individuals acknowledge their strengths and those of their colleagues, while arrogant people ignore other people's thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

The differences between confidence and arrogance can be especially noticeable in leadership roles. A confident leader respects their team members, welcomes feedback, and promotes a collaborative environment4. An arrogant leader avoids taking responsibility for mistakes, assumes an attitude of superiority, and uses condescending language. Arrogant individuals are less likely to have positive relationships at work, leading to poor collaboration and a lack of innovation among team members. Over time, arrogant leaders can damage healthy professional relationships, which are crucial for success in both work and personal life5. Some studies suggest that employees who work under arrogant leaders have lower morale and higher rates of burnout6. This can lead to a toxic work environment that impacts individuals, teams, and the entire organization.

When does confidence become arrogance?

People with confidence become arrogant when they lack humility, respect, and self-awareness. Having too much confidence can lead to recklessness and overestimating one's abilities. Conversely it can even lead to complacency and a lack of creativity12.

Confident people believe in their abilities while being open to learning from others. They trust their skills and rely on preparation and input from their colleagues. They have a clear approach to solving problems while remaining open to new perspectives, ideas and opportunities for growth. They also display friendly and open body language.

In contrast, arrogant individuals focus only on their own ideas and demand positive feedback. They might even criticize others to reinforce their superiority. They have a fixed way of solving problems, leaving no room for innovation, and they display body language that shows dominance over their team.

Understanding the root cause of arrogance

Understanding the key difference between arrogance and confidence involves identifying the root causes of arrogant behavior. A few factors may contribute to the development of an arrogant personality.

Environmental and social influence

Arrogant individuals may have received positive feedback without the balance of constructive criticism, leading to an inflated sense of capability and an inability to accept their shortcomings. Workplace culture and values can also contribute to an employee’s attitude of superiority8.

Personality factors

Arrogant people may score lower in personality traits like humility and agreeableness7.

Low self-esteem

Despite their arrogant demeanor, they may be hiding a lack of self-esteem. People who truly believe in their abilities don't need to display superiority. People who seem confident may experience shame more often and negatively react to failure, indicating that low confidence is masked by arrogant behavior13.

How to develop soft skills to achieve a balance in your workplace

People who are arrogant might not have a clear understanding of their true strengths - and they might avoid acknowledging their areas of improvement. The first step towards developing soft skills is getting a big-picture view of your work style.

Start by taking the research-backed F4S workplace assessment. Since our mission is to make coaching accessible to everyone, you can take the assessment for free. You’ll get instant access to your top motivations. You’ll also uncover your blindspots. These are specific motivations that you have either too much interest in, or not enough.

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With our visual dashboard, it’s easy to spot imbalances. And with our AI Coach Marlee, it’s even easier to make changes. Just set a goal and Marlee will recommend a personalized coaching plan to support your success. With 90% of users achieving their goals, we’re confident (but not arrogant) that you will too.

Our assessment isn’t just for individuals. If you want to improve team morale, F4S is a great people analytics tool. After you’ve taken the assessment, create a team and invite colleagues. You'll learn about your team dynamics, personalities, communication styles, and motivations. You'll get a free report that tells you what makes you and your team happy and energized at work by looking at the 48 different work motivations.

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They’re up to 98% accurate so you can be confident you’ll know how to bring out the best in yourself and your team.

Once you have mapped your personal motivations and those of your teams, you can use our coaching program to support your professional and personal growth. Our assessment compares your motivators against benchmarks for optimal success. For example, if you show room for growth in sharing responsibilities through delegation, our coaching program will give you the tools and confidence you need to do so.

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Subtle difference of confidence vs arrogance

Here are a few of the F4S 48 motivations that might be affecting your workplace and how they can show up in someone who acts arrogant.

Internal frame of reference

Some people have a strong belief in their own intuition and don't need help from others to make decisions. This is called having an internal frame of reference and can be good, especially when quick decisions need to be made. However, it can also lead to a lack of trust in others, especially for people who are arrogant or have a narcissistic personality9.

Need for power and control

Some employees may need power and control, which can come across as arrogant behavior. They may see collaboration or outside input as a threat to their sense of power. Although these people can make great leaders, they need to be open to communication and collaboration.

Assertiveness

Assertive people are often great leaders or entrepreneurs. They have strong principles and discipline, but they may sometimes come across as arrogant or authoritarian if they communicate their ideas too forcefully.

Sole Responsibility

Some people prefer to take sole responsibility for their work and dislike delegating tasks. This can be good as they are accountable and clear about their roles. However, leaders who struggle to delegate can benefit from understanding their motivations behind it. Delegating tasks can empower and motivate employees.

How to deal with an arrogant colleague or team member

Arrogance is a normal trait of human nature. Learning how to work effectively with teams of diverse and conflicting personality types is an essential trait of effective leaders and successful teams. Here are some strategies and tools to help work more effectively with an arrogant team member.

Set clear expectations

Ensuring your entire team understands the expectations around communication, role responsibilities, and respectful interpersonal conduct is essential. Some people perceived as arrogant are unaware that their behavior rubs others up the wrong way. Before jumping to disciplinary action, ensure everyone knows the company culture. If the dynamic has become tense, F4S tools can support you in resolving conflict in a way that leads to greater team cohesion and effectiveness.

Encourage empathy and understanding

Understanding your team's motivations can go a long way in creating harmony and high-performing teams. Our analytic tools can provide insights into personality and cognitive traits to encourage more understanding, respect, and acceptance of each other's differences. It can also help create a deeper understanding of the difference between arrogance and confidence and how to support people in managing relationships with these personality types.

Clarify lines of communication

A lack of clear communication can create tension and unnecessary conflict. Use our tools and coaching programs to help improve your team's communication and emotional intelligence skills to empower them to communicate and collaborate more effectively.

For example, say you are managing a project officer who has been talking over others in team meetings and failing to get their colleague's input before making decisions. Instead of assuming it is simply arrogance or a disregard for other people's opinions, our powerful analytics tools may reveal that the individual assumes they are solely responsible for the outcome. They may fear shifting responsibility onto others or feel like they are not taking ownership by asking for input and feedback. Understanding the true motivations for behavior may reveal that it is not caused by arrogance at all, providing an opportunity for greater team cohesion.

The benefits of achieving balance in your workplace

Diverse teams are high-performing teams, but initially, diversity can feel uncomfortable10. Exposure to ideas that differ from yours can create doubt, insecurities, and sometimes conflict. But working through these challenges ultimately creates better, more resilient teams that are ready to use innovative solutions to problems and adapt to change and challenge.

That said, having a healthy balance of confidence in your team is important for having a harmonious work environment and healthy professional relationships. Not every individual feels comfortable making decisions independently, while others prefer to work alone with minimal collaboration. There is no universal right and wrong, as all personality traits have strengths that can be harnessed in an empowering way.

Embracing diversity and striking a balance between confidence and arrogance at work has several benefits for individuals and teams.

Improved self-awareness

Deepening understanding of yourself and your colleagues is essential to finding the balance that works best for your workplace. Self-awareness is also the first step in personal growth and finding new opportunities to build skills and strengths. Our tools can help to develop your teams at a low cost and with highly-effective, evidence-based psychological and neurological science.

Increased harmony and alignment

We can support you in developing the soft skills and awareness to build more effective and harmonious teams. Tools like our culture map are an accessible and powerful way to visualize areas of aligned values, traits, and potential friction points. These insights help you direct your energy and attention where it will be most effective, taking out the guesswork and trial and error of improving team cohesion.

Improved self-image

Overcoming challenges, like working with a colleague displaying arrogant behavior, is actually great for personal resilience and confidence. Having past evidence of successfully working with different personalities builds trust and faith in your ability to work with challenging people or problems in the future.

Improving self-awareness and developing skills to deal with difficult colleagues effectively can significantly boost one's self-esteem. By learning to navigate challenging situations and build positive relationships with others, individuals can feel more confident in their abilities and accomplishments, leading to a stronger sense of self-worth and increased satisfaction with their work.

Finding the balance of confidence vs. arrogance

Use our analytic tools to benchmark your personal motivations related to self-confidence and learn about your motivations and blind spots. You and your colleagues can compare results using our real-time dashboard. Strike the perfect balance in your workplace for a harmonious, enjoyable, and effective working environment.

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  1. (2019) 'The Dark Side of Communication and the Dark Triad of Personality'. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2019.00063/full
  2. (2014) 'Narcissism and Leadership: A Meta-Analytic Review of Linear and Nonlinear Relationships'. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1574626714000299
  3. (2021) 'Trait and Facet Emotional Intelligence Are Differentially Associated With Narcissism and Arrogance'. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9778650/
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  13. (2001). 'Relationship of core self-evaluations traits--self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability--with job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis.' Available at: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-16970-007
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