Engineers, Arrogance Doesn’t Help!

I'm not arrogant. I'm just better than you

You’re an engineer.  You are smart.  You know it.  And you show it to others in degrading and nasty ways.  Since I started this blog, I have chatted with several people in the comments about how many engineers and highly analytical workers seem to treat non-tech workers as though they have little to no intelligence in technical matters and therefore can be spoken down to.

I implore you, help me fix this impression!

As an engineer, your job is more than merely writing code.  It also entails the more subtle social interaction with your team members to get your product designed correctly, funded, marketed and deployed.  If your project manager doesn’t know much about the technical side of matters, try to help them understand!  Give them a little bit of background as to why some part is taking longer than expected.  By treating them with disregard, you are weakening the image of engineers as well as reducing their desire to know what you’re doing.

This can lead to steamrolling your bosses into getting you to work faster, or even just making unrealistic promises to customers because they don’t have the information they need!  A short time of explanation can actually save you frustration at being pushed around.

Just as they don’t understand your side of the situation, you probably don’t fully understand their side either.  How much knowledge about advertising or selling do they have that could be of use to you in the future?  A mutual exchange of information can lead you both to better levels of understanding, and make you both better members of the team.

Again, I implore you, fix this situation!  Push yourself to move beyond the belief that people can’t figure out what you’re doing and make them understand!

Why do you think engineers tend to disregard ignorance, rather then reduce it?  What options are there for those non-technical people who need help?  Let’s discuss in the comments!


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  • What if an engineer either doesn’t know, realize, or does not believe that they are being arrogant or condescending?

    • Christian Fey

      Great question G. I think the answer lies predominantly in the idea that you should know who you are, and how you behave towards others. There are good indicators: your coworkers avoid you, are anxious around you, or generally try to interact with you as little as possible. If you’re in doubt, ask a few people. Not just one (usually you have at least one friend at work who’ll tell you that you’re awesome…), but as many as you can muster to hear from. If the consensus is overwhelmingly positive, likelihood is you’re not, but if there is hesitation before people give you a wishy-washy response (so as to not hurt your feelings), that says something. Perhaps follow-up with something like, “Would you describe me as arrogant?” and if the answer is “kinda” or worse, then ask, “What behaviors do I exhibit that lead you to think that?”

      Without asking you’ll never know, because most people don’t go out of their way to inform you of such a character flaw.