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Arrogance versus Confidence

"The candidate came across as a little arrogant." 

That’s a comment we occasionally hear from clients as cause for not hiring a candidate. And sometimes when I hear that comment I think to myself, “I wonder what they said to be deemed arrogant?”

From experience we know that one person’s arrogance is another’s confidence. Two people can view the same interaction differently.

When I relay interview feedback to a candidate I will ask them for their perception of the interview and usually, the feedback I receive from them is positive. Often they cannot recall a specific instance where the interview may have gone awry. But sometimes it is not a specific instance. Sometimes, a candidate’s perceived arrogance is a gut feeling of the interviewer.

It makes sense, of course, because interviews can be tension filled. Formal dress, sitting in a quiet room across from an interviewer(s) with a potential 6-figure opportunity lying in wait, tension gets ratcheted up and personalities change. Does pressure trigger arrogance?

It could, which makes it difficult to determine the exact spot where confidence crosses over the line to become arrogance. Jennifer Houston, writing on, surmises that attitude is one of the differences between confidence and arrogance. 

Jennifer’s use of the term attitude is interesting. As managers and directors, we know that attitude is not a basis for an employee performance discussion. If you tell an employee their attitude stinks, gear up for an argument as they will surely ask, perhaps loudly, what are you talking about!?

There is an observable behavior every attitude. In the interview environment, that observable behavior may be use of the term I and them by the interviewee. 

If you use the term I to take credit and not we to spread credit, you may be labeled arrogant.

If you use the term them to assess blame and not I to accept blame, you may be labeled arrogant. 

In health care facilities it is important to convey confidence. Hospitals and their offsite properties are life sustaining ships and when a boiler goes down in the middle of a winter’s night, you better have a leader who is confident, perhaps arrogant, to get things up and running quickly. 

It can be a fine line to walk but if you are a leader who preaches and practices we and us to spread credit, occasional arrogance will likely be overlooked. 


Peter Martin 


Our next Beyond Competency: Health Facility Leadership Skills Development program, offered in partnership with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, will be held in Indianapolis on August 6.  Please see  or  for more detail. 

“Thank you for the knowledge you shared at the Beyond Competency program. I picked up information that I will be able to use back on the job that will make me a more effective manager.”     Mary Lynn Hayes,CHFM, Manager, Facility Services, Allied Services Integrated Health System, Scranton, PA                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

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Gosselin Associates provides facilities management search consulting to the health care industry...


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