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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.

Comments

  1. Well most of it depends on what the company is looking for, I think that a personal whit the right aptitudes and attitudes will be always notice.

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    Replies
    1. Very good point. Person-organization fit is very important.

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  2. I believe that there has to be a happy medium between being humble and being full of yourself. You need to show confidence and take pride in what you are doing, but at the same time know that there always is room for improvement. This way you can challenge yourself to do better in the future, without having too large of an ego or not enough pride in your work. -Amber Jones

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  3. I have been working at the largest dining hall on the Syracuse campus for three academic years now. I have been a student supervisor and hiring manager for three semesters now. With around 200 employees, there are students from all backgrounds, more than half being international. There is also potential for mobility as a student employee as I have taken advantage of. I do not like the term self-deprecating as it sounds harsh but I have come into contact with some employees presenting themselves this way. I feel an employee who feels this way is almost easier to work with because they tend to ask more questions, have the potential to gain more confidence, and tend not to slack off because they always feel they can improve. These employees tend to be really good workers but not necessarily considered for higher positions because they lack confidence at first which hurts them in that aspect. Self-promoter employees tend to have too much confidence, they think they are performing tasks right when in reality they may not be. Self-promoters are harder to bring back down to reality in my opinion. Considering the cultural aspect, I think those that are not as comfortable speaking English tend to be more self-deprecating because they are very self-conscious and somewhat assume they are less informed therefore they perform worse. Our international student employees primarily come from Asia; India or China, Japan, Korea. I would say the students from China, Japan, or Korea are considerably less confident and are definitely not self-promoters. The students from India are definitely more inclined to talk themselves up but then tend to receive more of the higher positions. I am not sure the reasons behind it but I would say culture effects these personalities and work style.
    -Erin Castle NSD 314

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. I like you have always had a very ambitious personality, although I wouldn't consider myself humble. All growing up in my Italian family, A's were expected and B's were ignored. C's never happened. I always strived for perfection and thought I could always do better. If I got an A I wanted an A+. If I got a B I was terribly disappointed in myself. When working I always had the same attitude that I could always do better and proof to be an excellent employee. In one situation I worked for 5 years at an establishment in which the management was not great at all. In fact they had no clue what I even did or how much effort I put into my job. At my evaluation (my only evaluation in 4 years) I did try to be humble, hoping for her to tell me I did better and looking for appreciation I had never gotten. I did not get that. She simply looked at what I wrote down and wrote the same thing. This made me stop over working, made me less dedicated to my job and truly unhappy that nobody showed any type of appreciation for all the hard work I did. I soon left this company and am now employed somewhere where I get texts almost every night from my boss thanking me for what I do and how much effort I put in. This has caused me to excel more and more. My point- give yourself credit for what you do, as sadly nobody else may care. Also if you are a manager show your employees appreciation and at least that you notice them, than you may get a better, honest response in their evaluations of themselves. I will am a firm believer that it takes good management to keep good employees and to get them to want to over succeed.

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    Replies
    1. You are not feeling the challenges. Plus, your hard work was not recognized. Thus, you do not feel motivated to work there anymore, right?

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