Managers hold power. They have the ability to control and regulate the daily life of an employee. Their administrative mandate to observe, review, and divvy out work implicitly gives them the ability to determine how and when an employee works. Furthermore, the human condition subconsciously leads us to believe that those with such authoritative responsibility should be trusted more than those without.

This leads to a power dynamic. Every employee knows that their boss could make their life miserable. Furthermore, every employee knows that in the event of a dispute, the company is likely to take the side of the boss. This is especially true in workplaces where management consists of a very non-diverse group of people. 

This power dynamic is the fundamental reason why confidence is so often viewed as competence. In a recent podcast, with Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at Columbia University & UCL, we explored the notion that a fundamental problem with the nature of work today is promotions. Instead of promoting the person who is going to best lead the team, the person with the most confidence gets promoted. To listen to the rest of the podcast, visit Forging the Employee Experience. To connect with Dr Chamorro-Premuzic visit him on LinkedIn or visit his website.

This practice is a recipe for poor employee experience. When people work for bosses they don’t like, they start working just for the paycheck. No one should have to work just because they want the paycheck. Everyone should be able to work in a place where they can feel like they are contributing meaningfully to the work being done. 

When we prioritize confidence over competence, we undermine the integrity of the work ecosystem by telling our employees that their performance is less important than their personality … which, by the way, wasn’t good enough to get them that promotion.

Entry- and mid-level managers have the absolute greatest influence on an organization’s culture and each employee’s experience at work. The system is set up for failure if the wrong people get promoted into positions of authority. Instead, we need to ensure that competence and leadership are the prevailing characteristics of the next wave of managers.