5 Scientific Reasons You're a Bad Employee

#2. We're More Racist at Work Than We Think

Racism, much like that muttering hobo that has slept in the parking garage for the last five years, still lives in the workplace even if no one wants to acknowledge it. For instance, a study at the University of Chicago, analyzing five thousand resumes, determined that an applicant's name can determine whether or not they'll get a call back--that is, whether or not their name sounded white.


"Mr. Ulammabat, would you consider switching to 'Rick'?"

People sporting names like Kathleen or Pam got 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than people with names like Lakisha or Shaniqua. A follow up experiment by 20/20 found that when posting two identical resumes, one with a "white name" and one with a "black name," at a job website, the "white named resume" got contacted 17 percent more often than its black counterpart.

Well, you think, everyone knows that people who work in HR are jerks. After all, they consistently reject you from any jobs you apply to, just because you Photoshopped some boobs on the CEO that one time. But you're not racist, right? In fact, if you heard someone make so much as an offhand racial insult, you'd confront them and/or avoid them at all costs from that point forward. Right?


"...maybe I stop parking next to Bob."

Well, an experiment at York University showed that people vastly overestimate their reactions to racism, as long as they're not a member of the race being discriminated against. The experiment took 120 people (no minorities) and split them into two groups. Sixty of them were asked, as a hypothetical, would they be willing to partner up with a person after hearing them make racist comments. Only 10 to 20 percent said they would.

The other 60 subjects, meanwhile, were put in a waiting room along with two people in on the experiment--one white, one black. The black person got up and "accidentally" bumped the white person's knee before leaving the room. The white person would then turn to the subject and say a phrase like, "Typical, I hate it when black people do that," or in some cases, use an outright racial slur. When those subjects were then given the chance to partner up with the racist to complete a task... 63 percent did.

Instead of meeting the racism with fury, it was met with relative indifference. The attitude seemed to be, "I'm totally against racism in all circumstances, unless the person I'm working with hates black people."


"Why isn't Terrence laughing at Jen's Lil Kim impression? She said her black sorority sister thought it was funny."

#1. We Are Bad Judges of Our Own Competence

How many subjects would you say you're an expert on? Well, you're safe in claiming at least one: yourself. After all, you have intimate knowledge of every one of your own secrets, shames, talents and failings. You spend every day with yourself. If a boss says you're incompetent, your first reaction will be to wonder what gave him this clearly false impression. Whether you say it out loud or not, a part of you is always thinking, He doesn't know me!

Well... science says otherwise.


We hope you like eating alone at lunch, Science.

Surveys asking people about how they compare with their peers have turned up a surprising result: Almost no one thinks that they're comparatively bad at anything. One study showed that 94 percent of college professors thought they did above average work. Another one involving students had 70 percent claiming to have above average leadership skills. That's physically impossible, obviously. Everyone can't be above average. The average wouldn't be average any more.


"Above average shape, yeah."

This trend exists in most areas of expertise, and it's caused by illusory superiority. If you're wondering how a person can screw up time and time again and still think they're better than those other "below average" folk, you can thank the infamous Dunning-Kruger effect, a catch-22 seemingly designed by Satan himself that makes incompetent people unable to judge their own incompetence because measuring competence is the thing they're least competent at.

Our delusions about ourselves are so bad that total strangers can take one look at us and gauge our own skills as effectively as we can. One study had people being recorded while reading some text, and then showed the resulting tape to a stranger. The stranger's assessment of the subjects IQ scores was just as good as the subject's self-ratings.

Meanwhile, research has also shown that we tend to overestimate our knowledge of a subject, while underestimating how much we'd benefit from studying it. Like the aforementioned employees trying to adjust to their new computers, we assume every subject is easy until we find out otherwise, at which point we immediately declare it impossible. It's amazing we ever even learned how to operate a broom.


"So ... now what?"

So, be honest:

When you read this article, did you honestly think it applied to you? Or were you spending the whole time thinking that it finally explained those other incompetent fools--you know, the ones you work with? If it's the latter, don't worry: They're thinking the same thing about you. It's science!


Science: Because suck it.

In case you now have it in your head that you need to leave your job, check out The 7 Ballsiest Ways Anyone Ever Quit Their Job. Or learn about how Daniel-san ruined our lives, in How 'The Karate Kid' Ruined The Modern World.

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