We all know someone like this; the guy in the office who thinks he’s all that, but is a complete jerk, terrible at his job, incompetent, criticizes everyone else, and is dead weight. He is oblivious to his failings, yet acts as if he is the best and brightest within the group. The person claims to have all the answer to the problems, can easily point out everyone else’s faults, and has little patience for management since they are so wrong-headed and dumb. He continually shoots down anyone’s ideas, whereas only he possesses the higher knowledge, wisdom, and is absolutely, with great assuredness, always right.
There is actually a scientific name for this type of person. In the field of psychology, this kind of attitude is referred to as the Dunning–Kruger effect (named after two professors who studied this phenomenon). This is one of the many reasons why my articles are so awesome; you can now use this bit of trivia to affix a scientific label to the dude in your office and share it with your colleagues, who will think you are so smart and well-educated.
Back to the Dunning-Kruger effect: “…this is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude; without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence.”
It occurs where people lack the self-awareness, reasoning powers, and end-up failing to realistically assess their actual level of competence or incompetence at a task. This failure results in the person believing themselves to be significantly more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence, robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves.
Strip down the highfalutin sciencey jargon, and it means stupid people don’t know that they are stupid– and because they are so stupid, they think that they are really smarter than everyone else.
The inverse also applies as sometimes competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others and this is known as impostor syndrome.
Here is a quick test to see if you are the Dunning-Kruger person in the office:
- You’re not punctual to work in the morning and constantly arrive late to meetings holding things up for everyone else. You are blissfully unaware of this, but posses the uncanny ability to point out the bathroom breaks, sick days, personal calls, and early departures that your co-workers take.
- You don’t get anything done within the allotted timelines and deadlines set by the firm. Instead, you blame management for poor planning, and colleagues for not pulling their weight. It is so frustrating for you to always have to cover for your teammates. To make matters worse, they never appreciate it and actually try to blame things on you. Its okay, you say, they can’t help the way they are. Since you are so kind and caring, you will take the heat for them because what would they ever do if they were to get fired, since your associates lack talent and smarts?
- You barely do the bare minimum to get the job done, which requires everyone else to pick-up your slack. Meanwhile, you wonder why everyone gives you dirty looks and the stink eye when they are tasked to partner with you for projects. Come to think of it, you noticed eye rolls and audible sighs when you opine in meetings. Being smart has its drawbacks, I guess. It stinks that people would be envious of your abilities.
- Rather than actually working, you spend an enormous amount of time gossiping, spreading rumors, and creating drama and controversies. It’s weird how you are the only one people turn to and share their inner feelings. It’s funny how they also want you to tell others about their secrets.
- You’re convinced you’re smarter than everyone else, and exasperated that everyone is so dumb that they can’t comprehend your genius.
- You are never aboard with company and your group’s missions and agenda, and need to insert your plans as they are far superior.
- You are frustrated how dumb the CEO and executive management team are. Obviously, they don’t teach anything at Harvard or Yale. Your studies at the ‘school of hard knocks’ has made you so much wiser and infused you with the street smarts that those fancy-pants Ivy leaguers will never have.
- You are always looking for a shortcut or a way to weasel out of doing work. You’re watching the countdown clock to bolt out of the office, Fred Flintsone style, at 5:00 pm sharp. You, spend more time hiding, evading, complaining, and shirking work than it would take to do your damn job.
- You can’t get along with anyone else at the company. You befriend someone and before you know it, they move on. It’s annoying how rude everyone is. After all, you cant help it if others dont get-it or understand politics, current events, who is the better sports team, where to go for the best vacation, which is the must watch television show, what movie will win the Oscar, what series must be binge-watched viewed on Netflix, where the best shopping deals are, who makes the best burrito, where you must go to eat for lunch, what’s best for your kids (even though he doesn’t have any), what you should do in your relationships (of course, he hasn’t been in one), how to train your pets (do I have to add that he never had any) and everything else you don’t care about.
- Sadly, you feel that it is time to leave the company because you are not getting raises or promotions. You know why; it’s because they are clearly jealous of your incredible talents, burning intensity, unbridled passion, and always getting involved with what other are working on to help them out. Yes, management is afraid that if you are promoted it is most likely, since you are a shining star, that you will steal your boss’ job, and be a threat to the higher-ups, so, of course, they keep holding you back out of fear.
If this describes you, I am so, so, sorry.