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What is Arrogance and Disrespect Really?

The first step to correcting a culture of disrespect and possible workplace bullying behaviors is to first of all name the behavior.  Here are two behaviors: Arrogance and Disrespect.  Becoming more aware of what they are and their effects will help you to draw the line from someone having ‘power over’ you, even just for a few moments.  So, how do you handle these two behaviors?

Arrogant:  conceited, haughty, superior, proud, over-confident, self-important, condescending.

Behavior: What it looks like

  1. Usually very bright.
  2. Has an inflated ego.
  3. Will speak out and say things like “This won’t work,” or indicate that others don’t measure up in some way.
  4. Many times asks, “Why?” in a belittling manner for decisions and requests (tone of voice).
  5. Often fails to complete routine assignments or comply with basic rules and regulations.
  6. Questions authoritative knowledge, and will often present facts and ideas in the hope of contradicting the boss or co-worker or showing that their knowledge, performance, or thinking is inadequate.
  7. Acts superior.  The key to this behavior is making him/herself look superior by making others look inferior.
  8. Shows very little remorse, empathy or concern for others as a rule and when it is called for, finds a way to divert showing emotional support.
  9. They get mad and irritated when the focus of the conversation moves from them to something else and they are often unable to hear someone else’s view point without being critical. They are not always adversarial -they connect well if they are around people they like and who agree with them.
  10. Usually do not seek to compliment others, but rather try to save the lime light for themselves. Even if they are not verbal about this, they will a least be thinking it.

Effects: How Behavior Affects Others:

  1. Others suffer from the arrogant person’s ridicule; they feel uncomfortable at best, inferior at worst.
  2. Feelings of exclusiveness rather than inclusiveness result from the behavior.
  3. The credibility of a boss or team lead with other co-workers is often hindered.
  4. Decision-making becomes more difficult; people are hesitant.

Disrespectful: rude, impolite, discourteous.


  1. Body language: a pointed look, a sigh, a sneer, a look of clear disdain, rolling one’s eyes.
  2. Also reveals disrespect by what he/she doesn’t do: everyone in the office may wash out their cup at the end of the day – but not this person; everyone chips in on a deadline – but not this person.
  3. May act as if some people don’t even exist.
  4. May reveal disrespect in the form of ugly words.
  5. Often seems to be expressing frustration.
  6. May have basic primary needs which aren’t being met.  Appears unable to meet needs in a positive manner.  Therefore, turns to disrespect out of frustration, anger, or hostility.
  7. When you give them feedback as to your needs, they meet you with dismissal, denial and a general disconnection for your situation.
  8. To not defend another in public and in fact join in gossip about another. That is disrespectful even though many do it.
  9. Thoughts: I’m better than you. I deserve more. Your opinion doesn’t count as much as mine.
  10. Tone of voice: can be sarcastic, cold, flat where is should be accepting, polite, kind and compassionate where need be.

Effects: How Behavior Affects Others:

  1. People are often left feeling puzzled, but do not say anything.
  2. Excuses are made to cover up the embarrassing behavior.
  3. We write this off as a ‘personality conflict’ instead of addressing the behavior as disruptive and against organizational values.
  4. We doubt ourselves in using our authoritative power if we are a manager in terms of straightening this person out (insubordination is tolerated) and we doubt ourselves for feeling poorly about another and we over-extend the olive branch in order to keep the peace.

Realizing this kind of behavior exists is key.  Coming to the awareness it should not be tolerated anymore and knowing that this kind of behavior says more about the other person than you, is empowerment. Stopping it is leadership.


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7 responses to “What is Arrogance and Disrespect Really?”

  1. Terry Smith says:

    Worked with an extreme example of this behavior. Had to wonder if person who did it is a sociopath. Belittling, argumentative to the point it seemed pathological. Addressed the behavior directly, it got a little better, for a while, then got worse again. Complained to supervisor, but little was done. This person is going to be a nightmare for anyone she works with, or has work for her.

  2. Lilly says:

    I just dealt with this. I walked out. There’s no way I’d put up with that ever again in my life!

  3. Defender says:

    Bullies by experience I say are Sharp, Smart and Suave when it comes to implementing their bullying tactics. Above all the problem is the HR and the Management stands by them and its like one man fighting against a System. The best way is being self employed or look for occupations where you work from home…

  4. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Regardless of ‘style’, if the behaviour is experienced as disrespectful, it is best to be address and not ignored as “that’s just the way he/she is”.

  5. raul says:

    I’ve dealt with these types at work and its so frustrating b/c they never get into trouble

  6. kellie says:

    So, if this is a person’s ‘abrasive’ style, how do you define it as bullying and call it a violation of the respectful workplace policy?

  7. Michelle Devlin says:

    Well written article Val. For companies, sometimes one of the hardest things it to realize and admit the behaviour exists. That is the only way they can learn to deal with it and change the cycle.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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