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The Ethics Coach on Dealing With the Office Know-It-All

This story appears in the August 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: One of my business partners shuts down discussion in meetings by dismissing ideas or concerns that don't mesh with what he has learned during his career. I worry that people's unwillingness to challenge him makes us vulnerable to other problems. He isn't receptive to feedback. Suggestions? 

A: He may not be thinking through the consequences of his actions or even be aware of the toxic impact he's having on the culture. You have to step up to help him see what he's doing and turn the situation around. Partners who share a history, friendship and commitment to the company's success have a solid starting point for difficult conversations. He must stop "dismissing" people's suggestions and comments, because that behavior conveys that what is on their minds is worthless and doesn't even merit discussion. This violates your staffers' dignity and leads to resentment. (To help reinforce this point, consider giving him a copy of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict by conflict-resolution expert Donna Hicks.) 

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