Do Your Top Performers Know How Good They Really Are?

© -
© -

Those in HR likely know the research that poor performers don’t actually know they are poor performers.

They think they are better than they are. (I’ve written before about the effect these employees have on your high performers.)

But what about your high performers? They know they’re the stars, right?

Not necessarily. The “worse-than-average effect” kicks in for the truly competent.

Do your top performers know how good they are?

From Psyblog:

This means that when you’re good at something, you tend to assume that other people are good at it as well. So, when you’re faced with a difficult task that you are good at, you underestimate your own ability.”

It’s quite possible that your top performers are so good, they don’t realize just how good they are. While interesting in itself, I’m more curious if this “worse-than-average” effect could explain some of the push back I often hear about the importance of employee recognition.

This is the difference with recognition that gets results (drives greater business goals, increases employee engagement, productivity and retention, etc.). Focusing recognition on the behaviors demonstrated and the greater meaning of the effort overcomes the stumbling block of, “Wait. Why am I being recognized for this? Isn’t it easy?

Article Continues Below

Recognizing the “how”

Recognizing behaviors demonstrated in line with your core values emphasizes the importance of getting results in the right way. Explaining the greater meaning or impact of the effort helps the recognition recipient see how their contribution helped another person, the team, the company or the customer.

This gives insight into the real outcomes of daily efforts done well.

The moral: Even if something is “easy” for you, it may not be for others. Recognize contributions, level of effort and impact, but never forget to also recognize the “how” – the way in which others work, too.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


1 Comment on “Do Your Top Performers Know How Good They Really Are?

  1. Great piece Derek. This is tied directly to the ‘self-efficacy’ trait of behavior. Those with a higher demonstration know how good they are and when coupled with a low modesty can show up as being arrogant. I like the idea of recognizing the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. The means justify the ends after all. I have the trait combination I mentioned above and have worked hard to not come off as arrogant, it was hard, but well worth it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *