After reading the FAQ, this question might be considered as too-broad and opinion based. So if such is the case, please let me know and I'll preemptively stop the question.

Dunning–Kruger effect

Nevertheless, there has been multiple occasions where an associate of mine has vastly underestimated their level of competence in their field and ability to complete their assignments. Although I have reiterated the glowing reviews and feedback they have received from others and how their work stands above others, it would appear however that such a strategy does not work. They remain convinced that they are behind the curve and act despondent as a result.

At the same time, there are occasions where I have pointed out that certain goals or objectives (for another associate) might be out of scope and the skill level of the individual to reach in reasonable amount of time, i.e. finding investors to sink $18k to buy a car chassis for an engineering team working on electric cars when the team isn't even out of the conceptual stage. But the team leaders remain adamant on their success and abilities.

How do I reconcile the two sides of this psychological phenomenon?

Be more direct?

Utilize stronger words?

Use reverse psychology?

  • 1
    Why do you need to reconcile such phenomena? It is preventing you from doing your work or just wanting to "help" this associate? – DarkCygnus Dec 6 '17 at 6:07
  • Generally at work you only try to solve/mitigate problems when they affect your work or the work of someone you manage or when you're managing the problem's origin. I think this is indeed too abstract for decent answers. – Lilienthal Dec 6 '17 at 7:25
  • Make them a deep analysis of the problem and produce a report that prove they have think enough how they will solve it to prove that they really can do it ? – Walfrat Dec 6 '17 at 8:32
  • @Lilienthal That's understandable, I will revisit this once I have a concrete situation where I can write down the specifics. In the meantime, I presume that someone will come along and close the question. Thanks for your input. – Frank FYC Dec 6 '17 at 8:47
  • @DarkCygnus Helping an associate in the first situation. The individual just finished a large project these past 10 weeks (often pulling all-nighters) and seems 'off'. When I asked, the associate mentioned as though they didn't accomplish anything, of which I reiterated everything that the associate has accomplished and that the associate may be experiencing the aforementioned effect. (The positive version) – Frank FYC Dec 6 '17 at 8:49

Use reverse psychology?

I am assuming you are not a psychologist yourself since you mentioned Engineering. Hence, I do not think you should use any psychology or even associate your team members situation to any psychological effect.

Be more direct?

Being direct is absolutely the right way to go here. It sounds like you have already done that in the first case and there may not be a lot more you can do. If they want to just think they are inferior even after positive feedback, then it is their decision.

This would hold true for second case as well but just have to be handled more delicately rather than being direct. People usually do not take "this is out of your scope" comments nicely. If you are their direct supervisor and if you think their approach is hurting the company, then you just instruct them to stop working on it and that should be end of it. If they are not reporting to you, there is nothing you can do other than subtle indication which you may have already done.

  • I was consulting on an undergraduate engineering team in the past, the example I mentioned was a situation where the team leads thought they could easily raise money towards the purchase of a Mustang Chassis for their electric car concept. My response was that it was wishful thinking and they should build a proof of concept first, then scale to a full size vehicle. – Frank FYC Dec 6 '17 at 8:46
  • 1
    @FrankFYC Ahh I see. Well even in that case, you could just raise your concern or make it officially noted and not necessarily go into psychology. Also undergraduate engineering team sounds like right place for 'wishful thinking' anyway ! – PagMax Dec 6 '17 at 9:06

One of the take-aways from the Wikipedia link seems to be: "Therefore, judges at all levels of skill are subject to similar degrees of error in the performance of tasks" and "... in contrast to high performers, poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve.”

Give your peers brief congratulations (don't pile it on) each time they do well and suggest to the team leaders that they would be a good candidate for an upcoming project, as opposed to the other person whom you feel unsuitable for the task.

Assigning work is the team leaders' call and the responsibility for success or failure of the project lies with them. Don't give them "I told you so's" but you should ensure that management knows of your suggestions (mention your idea in a morning meeting, accept it will either be welcomed or shot down).

If you're shot down offer less, if it's welcomed pipe up from time to time; be ready if it doesn't work out that the team leaders might say: "That was Frank's idea".

Guide each end of the problem into the correct direction and you may be promoted to lead, especially if the current leaders make costly mistakes and dismiss your pearls of wisdom.

Poke this with a stick carefully, lest the stick be taken from you.

See if you can find a 'Motivational Poster' with one of the historical antecedents mentioned at the end of that Wikipedia article.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.