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Confidence or Arrogance

I recently got into a conversation with one of my clients who is an employee of a Fortune 1000 company.  He contacted me because he felt like he was being disrespected by his superiors in the work place.  The markers that he observed were lack of recognition by his bosses for work done well and lower than normal bonuses (100% versus 60%.)  His history is interesting as it applies to this article.  He spent 20 years working for a Fortune 500 technology company and ten years running two family businesses.  He and I got together initially in 2003 as he started his first entrepreneurial journey and three years ago as I supported him in his search for his current employer.

I suggested that he go to people within his work place to ask them what he could do to gain their respect.  Ask them, “What do I need to change to gain your respect?”  As he went to two of his most trusted advisors in the business, the answer he received startled him.  They both told him that he had developed a reputation for being arrogant.  When we spoke about his discovery, his alibi was that his superiors mistook his confidence for arrogance.

From there, our conversation evolved into comparing the definitions of arrogance and confidence.  I am often reminded of a story as told by someone of leftward leaning political policy. When Bill Clinton was in the White House he was confident.  However, when George Bush was the resident of that house, he was arrogant.  What makes the story most interesting is that those that lean right believe the opposite to be true.  George was confident.  Bill was arrogant.

I was an employee for 20 years in three Fortune 500 companies.  For many, the struggle between arrogance and confidence is the dilemma that drives management employees to entrepreneurial travails.  There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence especially as much of the measurement for being judged is up to the discretion of the observer.  Some would go so far as to say that confidence/arrogance is the root of learning to play the corporate game.  What often confused me about playing the corporate game was I thought we were in business to make money.  Silly me, there I go thinking again.

For many entrepreneurs, gamesmanship is not their choice on their journey for long term earnings.  Their preference is to find a business that they love, and then do a good job for a fare wage.  What I discovered as I left corporate was that I always loved connecting people.  Connecting people is the core of what I do today.  Leaving corporate was due to my learning that my confidence was often seen as arrogance.  I then applied my confidence to those that sought my ability to teach them to connect with those they want to do business.  That confidence continues to pay me today.

Back to my client, though. Please note his work experience as an employee and business owner as described in the first paragraph.  It is very unusual for a one time employee who successfully owns and operates two family businesses to return to corporate as an employee.  It becomes even more interesting to discover that the reason for his leaving the first Fortune 500 company was with confidence, to discover what could be accomplished as an entrepreneur.  Or was it arrogance?

I believe many of us get caught in the trap of arrogance versus confidence.  This might sound like sour grapes, yet here I go…there are just so many spots allocated for top positions on the corporate ladder of success.  Those on the rise have to be perceived as confident rather than arrogant.  Once one receives the arrogant label they become expendable.  Those who have the label of arrogant are the folks who are constantly updating their resume and jump from work place to work place every two to three years.

Which again brings me back to my client.  He is again feeling the angst that comes from being confident as he is seen by managers as arrogant.  He knows he is good at his job. All of his peers and clients tell him so.  After loving his current position for the first 12 months, now nearly three years in, he is looking for his next opportunity.  Sad, yet true.

My reason for creating this article is for those who have left corporate or are considering leaving corporate and especially for those who have left corporate thinking about returning.  My advice to my client is simple.  Respect is a two way street.  First we need to respect ourselves.  When we believe that we are doing good, getting a reasonable wage for our work, and the majority of people we support agree that we are performing at or above standards, then we just have to let some opinions go.  The idea of checking our ego at the door is important.  If we are full of ourselves, then ego creates arrogance that will impact how we relate to others in a negative manner.  If doing something well means waiting for a compliment from our bosses, then we are performing for the wrong reason.  We need to satisfy ourselves first before we can garner respect and admiration from others.


Gerry Rose runs INTEGRITY Networking Solutions in Oceanside, CA.  He works with people in business who want to attract the right prospects and generate more referrals.  More than 10,000 businesses have been presented the INTEGRITY Networking Solutions system in San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange Counties.

Gerry’s stimulating presentation Unlimited Prospects, Unlimited Referrals is ideally suited for small business owners, home-based businesses, and independent professionals who want clearer direction and want to attract more prospects, develop dynamic systems, and strengthen their companies’ accountability.  Gerry does one on one consulting, conducts a range of keynote speeches from thirty minutes to full-day education workshops.  His book series, Unlimited Prospects, Unlimited Referrals, are available on the website,

Gerry has more than 20 years’ experience directing business owners how to grow their businesses.  He is a networking dynamo.  Those who know him will assure you that he does a great job of bringing people together—which is why he started INTEGRITY.

Involved with networking organizations since 1984, Gerry is a Distinguished Toastmaster, a member of Toastmaster International, and has chaired numerous chambers of commerce and non-profit organizations.

Are you truly committed to attracting the right prospects and generate more referrals?  If so then contact INTEGRITY Networking Solutions for availability and information.  You can contact Gerry by mail at 1610 Quiet Hills Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056.  Direct dial (760) 439-4623; e-mail to  For more information, go to

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