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Greater Freedom For Overqualified Employees Can Improve Performance

Overqualified workers will improve their performance and wellbeing if they have greater freedom within their role, new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has found.

The research, published in Personnel Review, found that overqualified workers who are given higher levels of job autonomy are more likely to be motivated and embrace change.

The research concludes that improved job design, which allows workers greater autonomy in their roles, can act as a buffer to mitigate negative behaviour patterns of overqualified employees such as boredom and frustration.

Dr Chia-Huei Wu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at LSE and co-author of the research, said: “Poor performance from overqualified employees is often attributed to bad hiring practices, with organisations finding they have recruited the wrong person for the job.”

This study shows that job designs which include autonomy can act as a buffer for some of the negative effects of overqualification.”

Managers should be aware that the amount of freedom each employee has within their role will influence their performance and prospects for success.”

For the individual, better designed jobs for overqualified people will lead to improved well-being at work and allow them to achieve their career goals and ambitions.”


Overqualification is a form of underemployment where workers, who have more skills, experience, knowledge, and abilities than are required for their job, and can lead to poor productivity.

Overqualification has been negatively related to subjective well-being at work and lower job satisfaction.

The study analysed data from two culturally, demographically, and functionally diverse samples: sample 1 was based on North American community college employees (N = 215); sample 2 was based on full-time workers, employed in a Chinese state-owned enterprise specializing in shipping (N = 148).

On the association between perceived overqualification and adaptive behavior by Wu, Chia-Huei, Tian, Amy, Luksyte, Aleksandra and Spitzmueller, Christiane (2016).Personnel Review. ISSN 0048-3486 (In Press)

Source: London School of Economics, LSE

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