Why over-qualified workers can be a problem

by L&D14 Jul 2017

A new report has found that over-qualified employees can create a series of complex issues, both for themselves and the organisations they work in.

The study, co-authored by a faculty member from Florida Atlantic University's (FAU) College of Business, suggests that employees who consider themselves over-qualified are not only more likely to be unsatisfied workers, but uncommitted ones.

Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in FAU's Department of Management Programs said this can create psychological strain and lead to a potential loss of productivity.

The study – published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour – involved other researchers from Florida International University who carried out a meta-analysis of perceived over-qualification using 25 years of synthesized research.

“That deprivation is what is theorized to result in these negative job attitudes,” Harari told Phys.org.

“There's a discrepancy between expectation and reality. Because of this, you're angry, you're frustrated and as a result you don't much care for the job that you have and feel unsatisfied.”

He said that psychological strain can stem from employees who don't feel they're being rewarded for their efforts because there is an imbalance between their efforts and the reward structure of work.

So what kind of training might help in this situation?

Managers can turn this around by increasing employee engagement and opening new possibilities for them, says Johnathan Raymond, owner of Refound – an advisory firm that offers accountability skills training programs for owners, executives, and managers.

According to Raymond, who is also the author of “Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For,” managers should treat these employees as if they are the spokesperson for the team.

Their frustrations could also be the frustrations of other members of the team who might just not be willing to speak up and risk saying something that would offend the higher-ups.

The problem might not be an isolated case, which is why managers should still pay attention to the disgruntled employee’s complaints.

And creating cliques at work can also do more harm than good, says Raymond.

“When conflict arises between an employee and the manager, almost every team member will side with the team leader one way or another out of self-preservation,” he said.

“As a leader, managers should not let a difficult employee situation escalate into a divisive problem.”

Great leaders should also accept dissent as honest feedback, he says.

“This could be the hardest thing that a manager should do, but doing so allows team members to have a safe environment to share what they are really thinking and not be afraid of severe repercussions for voicing out their opinions.”


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