January 24, 2022

8 Tips for Dealing with a Know-it-All Coworker (podcast)

8 Tips for Dealing with a Know-it-All Coworker (podcast)

We all have one: the know-it-all-coworker. In nursing school, I remember my instructor telling me that it was the know-it-alls that scared her the most, because they were the most dangerous because they wouldn’t admit when they didn’t know how to do something. 

Danger aside, a know-it-all coworker can also be challenging to work with, so Nurse Alice provided some tips for how to deal in her podcast, Ask Nurse Alice podcast, 8 Tips To Deal With a Know It All Coworker. After encountering her own unpleasant know-it-all-nurse when she tried to get report on a patient (spoiler: the nurse’s report did not match what was actually happening with the patient and Nurse Alice was not impressed), Nurse Alice decided to provide some tips for how to get through those less-than-ideal situations:

Listen to this episode on the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast

#1: Be Empathetic

Nurse Alice’s number one tip is to be empathetic, a tip she had to employ herself when she encountered a nurse who irritated her with her laissez-faire attitude about report, leaving out critical details about the patient’s history and treatment. 

“As much as she irritated me. I had to remember that this attitude, this air, this privilege, whatever this person was exerting probably stemmed from a competence issue or some deeper personal issue,” Nurse Alice explained. “So rather than get angry at her, I had to feel empathy like, ‘Oh, I'm so sorry. I feel so sorry for you. You are one of those nurses.’ So be empathetic.”

#2: Pick Your Battles

“Dealing with the know-it-all can be exhausting,” said Nurse Alice. “And there are times when your best response is to ignore some of their attitudes or their responses.” 

#3: Lead by Example 

Nurse Alice suggested this tip, especially if you happen to be a boss or manager, but for everyone to lead by example. 

“You need to model the behavior that you would like to see,” she said. “Keep it professional. You have to be strategic and constructive with your words in the work environment, especially in front of patients.”

#4: Know Your Own Facts

The single best way to deal with a know-it-all who is also bordering on incompetent? Be confident in your own facts, said Nurse Alice. “When delivering your presentation or selling an idea or heading to a meeting, be competent with your own facts,” she explained. “Double-check your sources and verify the facts.”

#5:  Keep Your Sense of Humor

In Nurse Alice’s difficult situation, she was able to use humor to defuse the situation to some extent. “Everything I said I still with a smile,” Nurse Alice explained. “And you know, after a while she was just like, ‘oh wow, I guess there was some information I didn't I didn't really see.’”

#6: Remain Professional

No matter what, keep things professional, Nurse Alice advised. Both in front of your colleagues and the patients, because that way, you won’t regret anything about your own behavior. 

#7: Offer Constructive Feedback

This may not be appropriate for all situations and with all coworkers, but if it’s possible, Nurse Alice said it can be helpful. And if you do implement this solution, also be sure to keep one other very important stance to make sure your constructive feedback lands well: stay humble. 

#8: Avoid Involving Your Boss 

Nurse Alice advised that unless the situation warrants it because of safety reasons, it may be more helpful to avoid involving your boss. Instead, she suggests talking directly to the individual whenever possible in a professional manner. 

“I think it's really important that we learn how to have these crucial conversations with our colleagues,” she noted. 

Lastly, Nurse Alice urged all nurses to visit for tons of helpful tips on how to become a better clinician and communicator. You can email her at nurse

“We'd love to help you to be the best clinician that you can be, whether you are LPN or RN, advanced practitioners—we want to see you be successful,” she said. “So help us help you!”


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