Employees who perceive themselves to be overqualified for their position may be unsatisfied with their job, uncommitted to their organisation and are likely to experience psychological strain, a study has found.
Perceived overqualification - the belief that one has surplus skills compared to job requirements - can have negative implications for employees and employers alike, said Michael Harari, assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University in the US.
Researchers found that perceived overqualification occurs when an employee is expecting a job that utilises their qualifications but does not find themselves in such a position, leaving them feeling essentially deprived.
"That deprivation is what is theorised to result in these negative job attitudes. There's a discrepancy between expectation and reality," researchers wrote in the study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour.
"Because of this, you are angry, you are frustrated and as a result you do not much care for the job that you have and feel unsatisfied," the researchers said.
Psychological strain can stem from employees who do not feel they are being rewarded for their efforts because there is an imbalance between their efforts and the reward structure of work, they said.
"We invest effort at work and we expect rewards in return, such as esteem and career opportunities. And for an overqualified employee, that expectation has been violated," Harari said.
This is a stressful experience for employees, which leads to poor psychological wellbeing, such as negative emotions and psychological strain, researchers said.
Employees who feel overqualified are also more likely to engage in deviant behaviours. 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 counterproductive behaviours that impair the effective functioning of organisations, Harari said.
Employees who were younger, overeducated and narcissistic tended to report higher levels of perceived overqualification.
Researchers carried out an analysis of perceived overqualification synthesising 25 years of research to clarify disparate and conflicting findings in the literature.
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