How forces keep the best employees down

Two common effects keep the best workers from climbing as high in the corporate ladder as their often less competent colleagues:

High ethics and competence vs. low ethics and competence
Quite often, a subordinate with high competence and high ethics will report to a supervisor with low competence and low ethics. The subordinate may pose a threat to the often insecure supervisor. The best employees often do not rise to the top. Maneuvering and playing the kiss up political game most often get employee promoted rather than their accomplishments and work ethics.

The Dunning-Kruger effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect says that incompetent people overrate themselves, and competent people overrate others. According to Wikipedia, "the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average.... Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding."

The consequences

There are two main results from these two effects:

Highly competent and ethical employees either shine, get abused, and look for new jobs to escape the abuse or diminish their skill levels to not put bullseyes on their backs.

The incompetent demand promotions, while the competent miss out on them and don't see themselves as leaders.

Our impact

We don't have to resign ourselves to these two effects. Throughout history, cultures change when people begin to question the status quo and bring unjust situations to light. Just as sexual harassment law didn't get rid of sexual harassment but instead made it less common by serving as a reminder of workplace expectations and changing work cultures, workplace abuse legislation, when passed into law, will change how we view competence and accepted behavior in the workplace.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Find out more about workplace bullying

Subscribe to our blog to learn more about
how workplace bullying works and how to deal with it.