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Welcome to part two of our series, “The Internet Boom and Office Politics: Not A Match Made in Heaven.” While Charles Darwin once said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge,” David Dunning and Justin Krueger took the witticism to heart.

As discussed in our 1st post, Dunning and Krueger conducted a study to examine the relationship between personal competence and awareness. The findings suggested less competent people often fail to see their own inadequacy, and have difficulty recognizing value and skill in others, a phenomenon duly labeled “The Dunning-Krueger Effect.” The results of such egocentric thinking patterns are many: problematic personal relationships, frequent misunderstandings, and a lack of genuine support from one’s peers.

But the problem doesn’t stop there. Place a person under the influence of Dunning-Krueger in an office setting and relationships can suffer. In picking up where we left off last time, let’s look at some of the ways the Dunning-Krueger Effect can disrupt office peace.

The affect in the workplace

When interacting with a coworker who holds a skewed perception of reality (a defining characteristic of Dunning-Krueger), others can feel like hostages. Meetings are frequently held to achieve a common goal, but when a participant cannot see his or her role in the bigger picture, work can feel like an uphill battle – and gaining ground can be difficult. A team member who sees themselves as always correct can damn a group’s efforts with interruptions, misguided advice, and mistakes that result from a failure to cooperate. The rest of the group is left with the task of moving forward, despite internal sabotage, and many find themselves spending precious time brainstorming ways to work around the ‘problem.’ To say communication becomes strained is an understatement; to say productivity is halted is a fact.

The interoffice aftermath?

Frustration, for everyone, and in many cases, dissension among coworkers, a lack of motivation, and even bitterness – for being undervalued, under appreciated, and nary given credit for a job well done; after all, there’s little time for praise when the focus is on fighting fires.

Aside from dissension within the group, an even trickier consequence may surface, one that often involves some of the most talented individuals. If things do not improve, and the situation is not rectified by the powers that be, valuable and skilled but perhaps less vocal folks may seek refuge elsewhere, at a place growth and productivity is fostered, rather than stunted, by those unable to see the forest for the trees.

Why the spirit of the online sector compounds the problem

While Dunning-Krueger and related effects cause problems in all industries and walks of life, introduce them into the online sector, and things can get shifty fast. Whereas traditional brick-and-mortar operations tend to revolve around time-tested strategies, explicit job descriptions, and familiar modes of operation, in the online world things are less rigid, and rarely as defined.

The sheer nature of Internet marketing and technology is dynamic. Teams are made up of a slew of people with highly specialized talents, who may or may not understand the role played by their peers. Change is constant, strategic and technological developments are plenty, and knowledge is a mere click, study, or multi-variate test away. And while getting everyone on the same page is never easy, with key factors in flux, the challenge is magnified. Add a lack of insight on behalf of one or more parties to the mix, and it’s easy to see how quickly things can go awry.

The good news – there is hope

That’s right, folks. Where there is a will, there is a way. Since the prevalence of Dunning-Krueger and its toll on workplace relations has come to light, solutions have been investigated. There are innovative and exciting ways online companies can combat this thorny problem and improve workplace harmony…but you have to come back to find out what they are!

Until next time…


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