In 1999, two researchers, Dunning and Kruger, identified a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. Named Dunning-Kruger effect, it explains why some people we work with are over-confident in their self-assessment of their skills and abilities.

[EXAMPLE: Could this explain why some Millennials are getting fired? Having a superiority complex is an aspect of Dunning-Kruger effect. Raised on praise and taught to be extremely confident, are some Millennials entering the workplace with an over-inflated sense of their abilities?]

A Superiority Complex = Lack of Emotional Intelligence

Studies show long-term career success is directly tied to a person's emotional intelligence. The more self aware, and the greater the ability to self manage, the more successful a person becomes. Conversely, people with a superiority complex tend to have lower emotional intelligence, which could cause them to make a greater number of career mistakes.

Keep Yourself In-Check to Ensure Your Career Stays On-Track

Here are five ways you can make sure you aren't displaying a superiority complex in the office:

1) Try to identify and embrace at least one professional strength in everyone you work with. Recognizing the value your teammates bring to the office proves you understand no one person is the sole factor in workplace success. 

2) Be clear on how your own strengths create your weaknesses. This is especially important if you want to be a leader. The best leaders show humility. They're the first to say they're far from perfect. They have a keen understanding of their top professional personas, and are fully aware they can't do it all.

3) See the benefit in letting people do things their way, regardless of whether you think it's the right way. Each person is different. Allowing coworkers to figure things out on their own is how they learn and grow. Don't be the person that holds them back from that opportunity. Instead of telling a colleague he or she is doing it wrong, seek to understand why they think it's the right way to get the job done. Who knows? You might learn something in the process. Which leads to...

4) Bite your tongue before pointing out the mistakes of others. Telling people they're wrong is a blatant sign of superiority. Once you embarrass someone at work, it can be hard to earn their trust and respect. They'd rather avoid working with you than risk being humiliated. Keeping in mind you can't go it alone, consider this simple concept, "Ask, don't tell." Before you criticize, craft some questions that can help the person recognize the error on their own. Giving someone a chance to save face is one of the best relationship building techniques you can leverage in the office.

5) Give 3X as many compliments as you give criticism. People at work always, ALWAYS remember how you make them feel. If you only dish out criticism, you'll be labeled mean and your feedback will be dismissed as negativity. Use compliments to ensure your criticism isn't taken lightly.  If your co-workers know you love to make them feel good, then they'll take your criticism more seriously. The hardest part is learning how to craft an effective compliment.

By following the above, you can showcase your emotional intelligence to those you work with. More importantly, you can set the example of what good team behavior looks like. As they say, "treat others as you would want them to treat you."

Published on: Nov 29, 2015