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Jerks Have No Clue How They're Perceived

Good_guy_jerkA new Columbia Business School study tells us that people don't see themselves as others see them at work. The study, "Pushing in the Dark: Causes and Consequences of Limited Self-Awareness for Interpersonal Assertiveness," to be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concludes that people either over- or under-estimate their assertiveness. Jerks don't know they're jerks, and people who feel like jerks aren't thought of that way.

A Columbia Business School press release summarizes the results of one of the four studies to be published:

  • 57 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as under-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even over-assertive.
  • 56 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as over-assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even under-assertive.

In other words, people have a 50/50 chance of accurately assessing how they were perceived. As the authors say, "Surprisingly, many people seen as appropriately assertive by counterparts mistakenly thought they were seen as having been over-assertive, a novel effect we call the line crossing illusion." Studies involved an online survey and MBA students enrolled in a negotiations course at Columbia. 

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Discussion Starters: 

  • Are you a jerk? Do you think you may have been overly assertive at some point without realizing it? 
  • How about the opposite: Can you think of a time when you may have felt too assertive, but others perceived you as acting appropriately? 
  • How do these study results help managers and employees?