Despite the importance of self-awareness for managerial success, many organizational members hold overly optimistic views of their expertise and performance — a phenomenon particularly prevalent among those least skilled in a given domain. We examined whether this same pattern extends to appraisals of emotional intelligence (EI), a critical managerial competency. We also examined why this overoptimism tends to survive explicit feedback about performance. Across 3 studies involving professional students, we found that the least skilled had limited insight into deficits in their performance. Moreover, when given concrete feedback, low performers disparaged either the accuracy or the relevance of that feedback, depending on how expediently they could do so. Consequently, they expressed more reluctance than top performers to pursue various paths to self-improvement, including purchasing a book on EI or paying for professional coaching. Paradoxically, it was top performers who indicated a stronger desire to improve their EI following feedback.

Oliver Sheldon, David Dunning, and Daniel Ames
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Applied Psychology

Full Citation

Sheldon, Oliver, David Dunning, and Daniel Ames
. “Emotionally unskilled, unaware, and uninterested in learning more: Reactions to feedback about deficits in emotional intelligence.”
Journal of Applied Psychology
, (January 01, 2014):