Self-Promoter vs. Self-Deprecator: Which One Has Better Luck at Work?

This month’s HR Magazine reported two interesting studies about self-promoter and self-deprecator. They are:  

  • Leaders who rated their skills significantly higher than the ratings given by their bosses are six times more likely to derail than those who have a more realistic view of their work performance, according to a study with 39,000 global leaders.
  • While the self-deprecators are less likely to derail than self-promoters, they are also less likely to advance than those who are in touch with their actual work performance, according to Louis Quast, associate chair of the Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development Department at University of Minnesota. Self-deprecators are often overlooked even though they could be really good performers. 
  • Another study of 14,000 U.S.-based managers reveals that those seen by their immediate supervisors as lacking in self-awareness and tact were most likely to derail.


I am not sure whether being a self-promoter or a self-deprecator is also a cultural issue. I grew up in Canton, China. When I was a student, I was taught to remain humble all the time. Even when I achieved the highest score in class, for example, I learned to say: “I was doing just fine” or “I was doing OK; I could have done better.” If I did not get the highest score (it happened very often if you are interested) but was still among the top 10%, I learned to say: “I did not do well at all, and I must do a lot better in the next exam.” After I lived in the U.S. for a while, I have learned to be less humble and more honest with my true performance, but because I am so used to the idea of “being humble,” I still feel there are times when my potential has been overlooked.

I appreciate the idea of being honest as suggested by this HR Magazine report. It becomes obvious that neither self-promoter nor self-deprecator would get better luck at work. The key is to fully understand our ability and potential and be open to what we are capable of.

Do you believe your cultural background plays a role in making you more or less a self-promoter or a self-deprecator? How so? Furthermore, should employers consider such influence when assessing employees’ performance? In what way?

References:
HR Magazine. (2012, July). Self-promoters more likely to derail. p. 18.

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