How Feeling Over-Qualified May Undercut You

Have a master's when everyone else in your department has only a bachelor's?  Don't get too ahead of yourself.  Your possible over-qualification for the job could actually hurt you.

According to, it may cause you to feel "pyschological strain."

If you’re an employee who perceives you’re over-qualified for your position, chances are you’re 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 (FAU) College of Business.
Perceived over-qualification – the belief that one has surplus skills compared to job requirements – can have negative implications for employees and employers alike, says Michael Harari, Ph.D., assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Management Programs. Harari, together with fellow researchers analyzed perceived over-qualification, synthesizing 25 years of research to clarify disparate and conflicting findings in the literature. 
Perceived overqualification occurs when an employee is expecting a job that utilizes their qualifications but does not find themselves in such a position, leaving them feeling essentially deprived.
“That deprivation is what is theorized to result in these negative job attitudes,” Harari reports. “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.”
Psychological strain can stem from employees who don’t feel they’re being rewarded for their efforts because there is an imbalance between their efforts and the reward structure of work.
“We invest effort at work and we expect rewards in return, such as esteem and career opportunities,” Harari adds. “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.”
Employees who feel over-qualified are also more likely to engage in deviant behaviors, Harari notes. This might range from coming in late or leaving early to theft or bullying co-workers. The more overqualified an employee feels, the more likely they are to engage in counter-productive behaviors that impair the effective functioning of organizations, Harari points out. Employees who were younger, over-educated and narcissistic tended to report higher levels of perceived over-qualification.
“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 states. But there's hope.  The older you are, the less likely you are to think you're over-qualified!


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