Overqualification in the Workplace
- Berrin Erdogan, Berrin ErdoganPortland State University
- Talya N. BauerTalya N. BauerPortland State University
- and Aysegul KaraeminogullariAysegul KaraeminogullariIstanbul University
Overqualification is a unique form of underemployment, which represents a state where the employee’s education, abilities, knowledge, skills, and/or experience exceed job requirements and are not utilized on the job. Potentially conflicting upsides and downsides of the phenomenon created a fruitful area of research. Thus, overqualification has received considerable attention both in the academic literature and popular press.
Studies of overqualification have emerged and received considerable attention in diverse fields including education, labor economics, sociology, management, and psychology. Antecedents of overqualification include individual differences (such as education, personality, age, sex, job search attitudes, previous work experience, past employment history, vocational training and type of degree, migrant status) and environmental dynamics (such as the characteristics of the position held and size of the job market). Commonly studied outcomes of overqualification include job attitudes, performance, proactive behaviors and creativity, counterproductive behaviors, absenteeism and turnover, health and well-being, feelings of job security, wages, upward mobility, and interpersonal relationships. While the effects are typically negative, there are some contemporary findings revealing the potential benefits of overqualified employees for their work groups and organizations. In recent years, boundary conditions shaping the effects of overqualification have also been identified, including factors such as empowerment and autonomy, overqualification of referent others, personality traits, and values.
Despite the accumulating research on this topic, many unanswered questions remain. Conflicting findings on some of the outcomes and limited empirical investigations of theory-based mediators promise a lively and still developing field of research.