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Feeling overqualified is bad for you and your employer

Feeling overqualified at your job has negative consequences for both you, and your employer. 

Feeling overqualified for your position makes you feel unsatisfied with your job, uncommitted to your organization and experience psychological strain, according to a study co-authored by a faculty member from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.

Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Management Programs, together with fellow researchers Archana Manapragada and Chockalingam Viswesvaran of Florida International University, carried out a meta-analysis of perceived overqualification synthesizing 25 years of research to clarify disparate and conflicting findings in the literature.


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

According to the scientists, the dissatisfaction comes form the difference perceived be the employer between the effort he puts in and the reward system employed by the work environment.

“We invest effort at work and we expect rewards in return, such as esteem and career opportunities,” Harari said. “And for an overqualified employee, that expectation has been violated. This is a stressful experience for employees, which leads to poor psychological well-being, such as negative emotions and psychological strain.”

And the feelings of being overqualified can also lead to deviant behavior the scientists argue, and this might range from coming in late to bullying co-workers. Also, the more overqualified an employee feels, the more likely he is to engage in disruptive and counterproductive behavior.

Harari also says that employees who were younger, overeducated and narcissistic tended to report higher levels of perceived overqualification.

“It seems to suggest that there is a need to take jobs below one’s skill level in order to gain entrance into the workforce,” Harari said. “We do see that, as people get older, they are less likely to report overqualification.”

Sylvia Jacob