HR Strange But True!
April 21, 2009

If you ever wondered how incompetent individuals are able to climb to the tops of organizations, researchers may have found the answer.

Researchers from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley found that if you are outspoken and confident, people will think you are competent, even if you aren't.

For the study, the researchers recruited 68 unacquainted students and separated them into teams to work on a project. During the project, the students were asked to rate their teammates on their level of competence and influence on the group.

The researchers found that individuals with dominant traits such as being outspoken and confident were rated as more competent by fellow group members, outside peer observers, and research staff members, even after the researchers controlled for the individuals' actual abilities.

The researchers conducted a second phase of testing in which the researchers asked teams of students to solve problems taken from old versions of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test and reveal answers out loud.

The researchers found that the students who gave more responses out loud were deemed the leaders even if they offered the incorrect responses.

“These findings suggest that dominant individuals may ascent group hierarchies by appearing helpful to the group's overall success as opposed to aggressively grabbing power,” the researchers conclude.

The research was published in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Source: Haas School of Business

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