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The Presence of Arrogance: A Personal and Professional Toxin

The Presence of Arrogance: A Personal and Professional Toxin


L.T. Force, Ph.D.

By nature of my training and practice....I often say to my family and friends: "People are my Business”. And at that point, in hearing my words - we all laugh. Why? Because people can be tough and difficult to engage with - and there are times I am better at that skill - then other times.

In the field of Psychology - we are guided by the principle that: “Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. It is the study of the mind, how it works, and how it affects behavior.“ Building upon that thought - the belief is: “Behavior can be measured....behavior can be scientifically studied...and behavior is predictable.” As I tell my students: “Yes, that may be so in a laboratory setting. However, what I have seen across the years of my practice, coupled with what I see in personal settings and workplace settings in real life is: The most predictable thing about human behavior is that it is unpredictable and yes, people do the damnedest things”

I imagine we all have stories about: “exchanges with others - both personally and

professionally”. For many of us, we have a small network of what we would refer to as: “friends”. However, the vast majority of: “our connections” fall under the umbrella of:

“neighbors, community members and people we know - on the personal level.... and associates, colleagues and people we work with on the professional level”. I am of the belief - the behavior, mannerisms and exchanges we have with friends can be quite different from the behavior, mannerisms and exchanges we have from others in our more distant network - and are quite

different in the tone and the depth of the exchange - whether it be on the personal or professional level / organizational / corporate level".

I remember the first time years ago - I heard the words: “Corporate Culture” from a friend of mine who worked for a large corporation.

What Is Corporate Culture?

Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company's employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. A company's culture will be reflected in its dress code, business hours, office setup, employee benefits, turnover, hiring decisions, treatment of clients, client satisfaction, and every other aspect of operations.

The term organizational culture, or culture in the organizational context, was first introduced by Dr. Elliott Jaques in his book The Changing Culture of a Factory. (Jaques, 1951). This was a published report of “a case study of developments in the social life of one industrial community between April 1948 and November 1950.” The “case” was a publicly held British company engaged principally in the manufacture, sale, and servicing of metal bearings. The study was concerned with the description, analysis, and development of the corporate group behaviors.

(Fred Schuneman, 2019).

From the early work of Dr. Elliott Jaques - the term: “ Corporate Culture” has remained the same - but has also changed as it is applied and defined in different industries and settings today. For instance, some cultures introduce proactive and supportive atmospheres for employees and

customers. Other cultures have introduced restrictive, demeaning and a tone of arrogance in

dealing with colleagues and individuals that are specific to their industries. What have we learned from this? We have learned a very simple and powerful lesson: “cultures that support creativity, a sense of appreciation and value for their employees and colleagues - they flourish. Whereas,

“Corporate Cultures” that lead with restrictions, a demeaning theme and a tone of arrogance - their collapse is inevitable”.

What do I believe is the most damning ingredient for negativity impacting relationships and

Corporate Cultures “ I believe it to be: “arrogance”. On a corporate or organizational level: "arrogance diminishes the opportunity to thrive". On an individual level: "arrogance is truly corrosive and distancing…. impacting personal interactions".

Definition of "Arrogance":

1: exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner an arrogant official. 2 : showing an offensive attitude of superiority: proceeding from or characterized by arrogance an arrogant reply.


As an aside, what I have witnessed professionally and clinically is - the further I step back from the demonstration of arrogance - I witness the person presenting this behavior is using it as a tool - to justify superiority - when in fact they, and a person with a trained eye, realize it is a red-flag for someone feeling inferior or non-capable or incompetent - they are compensating for their weakness: "they are using arrogance as a shield". This perspective is further strengthen when one looks at the Freudian definition of the defense mechanism: “Reaction-Formation - an equal but opposite response….I.e., the presence of outward superiority, from the Psychoanalytic School of Thought - would represent the presence of interior inferiority”.

So, in summary, we have all experienced different interpersonal exchanges and we have all worked in different environments. As stated: “the most predictable thing about human behavior is that it is unpredictable. And yes, people do the damnedest things”. Our strength is to understand the “dynamic of arrogance” - and call it out for what it is…. because if left unchecked: "the presence of arrogance can be devastating for interpersonal interactions and for:“Corporate Cultures”. In fact,

“the presence of arrogance is a personal and professional toxin - that needs to be cleared - as does a smoked-filled room".

Oh, and one more thing….if you think this applies to you….it probably does....


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