There's a reason why the most incompetent person at work firmly believes they're excellent.


You know how the person at the dinner table who appears to know the least about tennis spends a solid portion of the night explaining tennis to everyone else? Among those at the table might be a) a tennis coach b) someone who has written a book about tennis and c) Roger Federer, but none of that matters because Rick over here HAS SOME THOUGHTS.

Yes, well, the same principle applies to the workplace.

Sophia is very bad at her job.

Appalling, in fact.

She’s been working at the company for six years and doesn’t know how to work the computer system yet. She’s been the subject of so many complaints that no one records them anymore. The person doing their performance review hasn’t slept since their last performance review and everyone else is working 10 extra hours a week to undo what she spends her day doing.

But none of that is the biggest problem.

No. The issue is that Sophia thinks she’s f*cking Elon Musk.

If you asked Sophia how things are going, she would exclaim, “Great!” And it’s not a front. She just genuinely thinks she is really, very good at what she does.


When you have a problem at work, she’s the first person to offer some advice. She looks at you with an expression of sympathy – not empathy – because she genuinely has no idea what it feels like to think you might be a little bit bad at your job.

You see, Sophia isn’t the exception. She’s the rule.

Her apparent disconnect between thinking she knows things and actually knowing things, is explained by the Dunning-Kruger effect, a well documented psychological phenomenon.

In their 1999 paper, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, tested Greek philosopher Socrates’ theory that “the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”

In other words, the more you know… the more you realise you don’t know. And the less you know, the more you think you know.

Or simply: Idiots don’t know they’re idiots. Smart people think they’re idiots. And that’s why Donald Trump.

The researchers found, over and over again, that people who did very badly on a test, rated themselves as highly knowledgeable. They believed themselves to be sometimes as much as 60 per cent more competent than they actually were.

Interestingly, searches for the Dunning Kruger effect spiked in late 2015 – just as a man named Donald Trump began campaigning for president.

They’ve not dropped since.

What a coincidence.

President Trump will be the first to tell you how smart he is, and how great his ‘big words’ are, in a tweet that is simultaneously littered with typos.

It’s exactly the same as the co-worker who declares how accomplished they are, while the office literally burns behind them.

So, you’re not imagining it.
Sophia really is awful at her job. And deep down, in her soul, she has absolutely no idea.
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