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The first in our series of July blogs live from New York examines the latest US research and takes a deep dive into the work we’re doing here with our clients. Here we look at the impact of being overqualified for your role.

If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re overqualified for your current role or felt that you just weren’t stretching yourself it may be causing you more than irritation. Are you just too big for your boots or is there more to it than that? New research from Florida Atlantic University has uncovered the ‘Big fish in a small pool’ syndrome. Being over qualified may be causing you psychological strain.

Are You Really Over Qualified?

Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Management Programs.  of Florida International University examined the impact of perceived over qualification for job requirements. At best it’s a mismatch. You entered the role believing that it was going to be something it isn’t. Maybe the organisation over-promised, perhaps they weren’t really clear about what would be involved. Or maybe you intentionally undersold yourself? However you got there, the result, Hari discovered, is the same. The perception of being overqualified arises when an employees expectations of job structure and reward are felt to have not been met, but also violated in some way. The discrepancy between those expectations and reality has a negative impact upon psychological wellbeing.

The Results?

Employees who feel under-utilised experience demotivation and feelings of deprivation. They’re left with a gamut of negative emotions ranging from anger, lethargy to frustration, resulting in psychological strain. That strain is bad for employee wellbeing and bad for business to boot. The research found that over qualified employees were more likely to engage in deviant workplace behaviours for example; bullying, coming in late, slacking off and even theft. The more overqualified the employee perceived themselves to be, the more counterproductive their behaviour became, impairing organisational efficacy and having a negative impact upon their team.

Who Are The Over Qualified?

Younger employees who were over educated for the role and exhibited narcissism reported higher levels of over qualification. With the current trend for unpaid internships in some organisations, this presents an obvious problem. Wherever you sit in an organisation or however old you are, if you feel that you’re overqualified and under utilised, you probably are. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider your career ambitions, push yourself towards a role you’ve always dreamed about or use a whole new paradigm to design a professional role that you’re proud to be in.

Michael B. Harari, Archana Manapragada, Chockalingam Viswesvaran. Who thinks they’re a big fish in a small pond and why does it matter? A meta-analysis of perceived overqualification. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2017; 102: 28 DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2017.06.002

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