How to Reach Workers Who Overestimate Their Competence

By Brenda Smyth

How accurately do your employees see their work? If you ranked employees in order of    competence, are the employees in the bottom half of your list aware they’re in the bottom half? Do they truly understand your expectations and what outstanding performance looks like?  A growing pile of research suggests that a large number of American workers overestimate their own competence or fail to recognize their own weaknesses. This Illusory superiority is a natural human tendency.

Through a series of manipulated studies, social psychologist David Dunning PhD, found that people consistently overestimate themselves. The least competent among his Cornell University test subjects inflated their abilities the most—leading him to conclude that ignorance, rather than arrogance is often the culprit for this over-inflation. The lack of accurate feedback contributes.

Here’s where managers come in … Most bosses are pretty comfortable (although sometimes stingy) complimenting the work of employees. This recognition and positive feedback helps employees feel appreciated. It also builds employee confidence and keeps them engaged.  But if your employees don’t clearly understand how they’re doing—that they could be doing a few things better—how can they be expected to improve? When you give a raise to one employee and not another, likely you can justify this difference in your mind. But to the employee who’s received nothing but positive feedback (and no raise), it might reek of favoritism or worse—discrimination.

You owe it to your employees to be clear about where they stand. But, doing so without damaging morale can be tricky, especially when the odds are you’re dealing with at least a few people who think they’re way more competent than they really are. Accurate, specific, well-delivered and timely feedback and communication is critical. Here are some suggestions to help keep it real, without deflating workers:

  • Clearly communicate expected performance and encourage   questions. What does a successful outcome look like? It’s critical that your employees know what’s expected and that you clearly see (through their questions) whether they have the necessary experience or skills to accomplish it.
  • Increase the amount of positive feedback. Use a 5-to-1 praise-to-criticism ratio  suggested by
  • Increase the frequency of feedback. Don’t save negative feedback for once a year. When someone is underperforming, he or she should know it as it happens.
  • Give employees information that enables them to self-assess. When objective, quantifiable measures of performance are available, give them to your employees.
  • Frame performance concerns in a broad, non-restrictive way. Without drawing conclusions, create open discussions that   enable you to get to the root of a performance issue, suggests Asking questions worded in a non-threatening, fair way helps uncover hidden concerns or obstacles that may be contributing to substandard work.

Will a little straight talk from the boss help under-performing, over-inflated employees develop a more accurate self image—help them see room for improvement? Possibly. But, the bad news, according to an online survey by it’s not a panacea. “Only 39% of employees handle constructive criticism by systematically dissecting every step leading up to the thing they just got criticized for … wanting to understand and correct the underlying issues. The rest (61%) don’t see their deficiencies even after they’re pointed out and therefore don’t work to improve,” reports

As a young manager, I struggled to give honest assessments … get someone to see their flaws and try to improve. But, candid, timely performance conversations are a step in the right direction. And this ongoing dialog does help clarify expectations and  uncover instances where an employee simply doesn’t understand. Because just possibly (tiny, tiny chance), I, myself, underestimated my own inadequacies as a new manager.


  1. Pause.  Before you react, pause.  Find a comfortable seated position.  Bring your hands to your lap, lengthen your spine.  Begin by bringing air through your nose and exhaling through your nose.  Repeat 3-4 times, deepening your breath each time.
  2. Breath.  Deep breathing – 3 part breath.
    – Exhale completely
    – Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose.  Allow the stomach to expand like a balloon, continue sipping in air into the chest and lungs, raising the collarbone.
    – Hold the breath; exhale very slowly through the nose,  squeezing out all the stale air.
  3. Shrug It OFF.  Shoulder shrugs: Let your arms hang loosely along side your body.  As you inhale, shrug your shoulder up towards your ears – hold tight, then release your     shoulders as your exhale out of your mouth.  Repeat 2-3x.
  4. Shake It OFF.  Shake every body part your can identify:  legs, feet, arms, hands, head, hips, etc.
  5. Roar Like a Lion.  Stretch the jaw wide, stick out your tongue and roar like a lion.  Repeat 2-3x.
  6. Palms to Forehead.  Sitting in a chair begin by placing your palm on your forehead, you can rest your elbows on a desk or your lap.  Let your feet rest on the floor.  Breath deeply, letting your back    expand, exhale very slowly.  When you are ready to come out, on an inhale rise up VERY slowly – like to sun is rising.
  7. Turn Yourself Upside Down.  You can do a soft forward bend from a standing or seated position, or bring your legs up a wall or on a chair.  Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  When you are ready to come out, on an inhale rise up VERY slowly – like the sun is rising.

For a free 2 minute meditation, visit

Flexible Workforces on the Rise as Employees Look for New Jobs

By Steve Bent

A new study finds that that the average percentage of contingent workers (those that include contractors, freelancers and/or temporary workers) in their workforces has increased from 15% in 2017 to 29% in 2018. In fact, 41% of employees say they will only work for a company that offers agile employment opportunities.

Employers and employees largely agree on the benefits of an agile workforce. However, there are several areas where the two groups were less aligned, such as salary satisfaction and retention drivers. The study also uncovered data on several other key workplace trends. Among the findings:
– Workers are looking for new jobs – soon!: The number of employees looking to leave their current jobs is even higher among Millennials, with 48% saying they will likely look for a new job in the next three months and 56% in the next 12 months. The top reasons for moving on for all generations are unhappiness with their current salaries, growth opportunities and office culture. Overall, workers don’t feel that their employers are putting in the effort to retain them, with 20% saying their employers are making less effort.
– Salary satisfaction is an area of major disconnect: The study shows that 40% of employees are not happy with their current salary, and 83% believe they should be paid more in today’s market. Meanwhile, 61% of employers believe their employees are happy with their current salaries. Also, 68% of employers say they know they have to increase wages in order to compete for talent but are financially unable to do so at this time.
– Recruitment efforts must evolve: When looking for new jobs, employees consider the following: the experience they have during the hiring process (86%), the number of programs/benefits a company offers to help maintain work-life balance (85%) and connection with a company’s culture and values (78%). In addition, 65% say that a company’s online reputation is equally important as the offer in determining whether they will accept a job. While work-life balance ranks high on the list, only 45% of employees are very or extremely satisfied with their ability to maintain work-life balance.
– Diversity is still a goal versus a reality for most companies: Less than half (49%) of companies and employees (45%) describe their workforce as extremely or very diverse. In addition, equal pay continues to be problematic with 63% of male employees saying they believe employees at their company earn equal pay for a job, regardless of gender, versus only 49% of female employees who share that perception of equality
The 2018 Emerging Workforce Study was conducted online within the United States between February and March 2018 by Research Now Group, Inc., on behalf of Spherion.

4 Steps to Better Productivity

By Dan Rose

It’s South Florida and unless you work in an office with no windows, it can be hard not to catch yourself staring longingly out the window wishing you were somewhere else. And, that makes better productivity harder for most of the country.   Especially in the parts that actually have seasons that change. (Sorry, Southwest USA, Southern Cali, and the Gulf Coast … it stinks that most of the country hates you because of your weather, but at least we console ourselves to the fact that it’s never 120 degrees in Minneapolis or 90 degrees with 97 percent humidity in Vermont!)
Better productivity through improved time management doesn’t come easily to everyone. And, in today’s fast-paced workplace, it’s a battle to stay on task and productive. If you feel the crush of workloads and personal life pressures, here are some time management strategies to help. The keys to overcoming wasted time are identifying its sources and avoiding temptations.
1. Busy vs. better productivity
Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. There’s an old   saying that busy people talk about how little time they have, while  productive people make time for what’s important. Focus on the most important project on your desk and don’t stop until you finish it … or at least until you cannot do more on it for now.  There’s another saying that busy people say “yes” quickly while productive people say “yes” very slowly. It may sound harsh, but someone else’s emergency is really just extra work for you. You have enough on your plate without taking on co-workers’ projects, no matter how small. Think hard     before you automatically say yes to a co-worker’s request for help.
 2. Where does your time go?
Workers who feel that they have too many tasks to complete each day should take a good look at what they spend their time doing.    Everyone’s schedule has hidden periods of wasted time, including yours. Better time management starts by looking at your morning routine. Often, arriving to work on time means you don’t actually begin working until well into the morning.    Getting coffee, saying hello to co-workers and catching up on what they did the night before you start your day takes time. If your day officially begins at 9 a.m., arrive early enough to do the pleasantries and ensure you’re at your desk working at 9:00 sharp!
3. Be true to your capabilities
Getting ahead in your career often entails seeking new responsibilities at work. Taking on new tasks shows management you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and work hard. However, it’s important to turn down tasks that could be the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. With too much to complete in a given time, no matter how critical each  project seems, all the work will suffer if you spread yourself too thin.  To remedy this, don’t take on anything extra that does not have a direct, positive effect on your reputation and skills, or is a significant networking opportunity. You are your own brand and only choosing projects that reinforce that brand is a smart move. Though it’s tempting to accept anything offered, first determine how a task affects your reputation and then make your decision. Next, focus on building the skills necessary to reach your goal. For instance, if management and project coordination are your aspirations, avoid taking on anything that requires solitary work.
4. Stick to your schedule
When in doubt about how well you manage your time, design a schedule to stay on track. As stated earlier, arrive to work earlier so your day can start on time. Add in short “power breaks” that allow you to get away from the task at hand even for five minutes. Note: This does NOT mean checking out social networks, emails or instant messages, which might be some of the biggest time wasters ever invented. Sticking to a new schedule is difficult at first, but eventually a productive routine should become habit. Do not attempt multi-tasking or tackling two separate responsibilities at once. This only leads to    further distractions and less real work.
Finally, set aside some time at the end of each day to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, so that your time tomorrow can be spent even more efficiently. Physically write down your goals and tasks for tomorrow before going to bed and you will be stunned at your new-found better productivity.