Why employers weed out people who are too intelligent

Frederick Dodson

Frederick Dodson

The smarter you are, the better your chances of employment, right? Well, not always. The really smart ones favor self-employment to employment. And being too intelligent, can make you “overqualified”.

People who are “too smart” are said to be “prone to questioning authority” and “easily bored“. These are good traits, but in an employer-employee relationship, they can be seen as a disadvantage. An employer that feels insecure, prefers inept staff.

If you get bored too quickly, it means you process things quickly. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Boredom shows you are ready to move upwards. People like you don’t struggle with overwhelm, the issue is underwhelm. Questioning authority is a sign of  high intelligence and of having a will of your own (but too much of it can also be a sign of immaturity). In school, those who always submit to the will of the teacher, get rewarded and progress quickly, but that doesn’t mean they are the smartest. A little willfulness and contrarianism in teenagers is a good sign, not cause for consternation. How are they supposed to become adults if they don’t develop a will of their own?

As strange as it sounds, many employers prefer their workers to be compliant simpletons, without  much original thought. You can find examples of this in every field of Business. Here’s just one, from an article titled “Too smart to be a cop“:

Forty-five-year-old Corrections Officer Robert Jordan believes he has been discriminated against after the city of New London, Conn., deemed him too smart to be an enforcement officer and denied him employment.

After he filed a lawsuit, the federal judge dismissed it, ruling that the police department’s rejection of Jordan did not violate his rights. 

“I was just taken aback,” Jordan says. “Philosophically, I found it offensive to the entire profession of law enforcement. We all know talented, intelligent people that pursue successful careers in law enforcement.”

In May 1997 Jordan filed a lawsuit against the New London Police Department for denying him the opportunity of becoming a law enforcement officer in the city where he was born and raised and which he still lives nearby.

“I just couldn’t accept it. And I found out there is absolutely no evidence. There is no connection between your basic intelligence and job satisfaction or longevity on the job,” he says.

Jordan was deemed too smart for the police force because he received a high score on an intelligence test. Jordan, then 45, scored a 33, the equivalent of having an IQ of 125.

The average score nationally for police officers as well as for office workers, bank tellers and salespeople is 21 or 22, the equivalent of having an IQ of 104″.

The practice is more common than you know. You don’t hear about it because it’s outrageous. Discrimination based on being too smart! You complain that we live in an Idiocracy? We choose to. Subdued people allow us to remain in our comfort zone. If a person is too smart, it could shake things up and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

I once talked to the manager of a well known European soccer club, my student at the time. He flat out admitted that they choose intelligent players for midfield positions, but choose less intelligent players for other positions, because those are the ones that “need to follow orders”. The statement took me by surprise, but I kept my poker-face. I had never expected 1-Billion-Dollar club to intentionally seek out dimwitted players. Up to that point in my life, I hadn’t even considered the possibility. My mind kept replaying the conversation kept replaying the conversation, because it was so out of the ordinary. But to him it was like a perfectly normal fact of life. I don’t know why he confided in me. “We are looking for dumb players who will do only as we say“. It’s not something you’d necessarily say publicly.

A few years later I talked to a CEO of a mid size company who made the same claims: “Employees with average intelligence are better. Their performance is better. They put in the work hours”. What? Really? Does that mean that people who are too smart are lazier? Possibly. They prefer creative problem solving to rote repetition.

I doubt that intelligence is a fixed genetic thing. In my experience, it changes according to emotional state. Whether someone scores high or low on an intelligence test, partially depends on ones general and current state. Sometimes we subconsciously reduce our intelligence to better adapt to the world around us. Sometimes, freeing up energy that was stuck in emotional issues, increases our lucidity, ability to learn, pattern recognition and yes, intelligence.

Some argue: “If we suddenly increase the intelligence of the world as a whole – who is going to do the “bad” jobs?” But that’s no valid reason to keep people dumbed down. With our newly found ingenuity, we can surely find better ways to get jobs done. Large parts of the workforce are being taken over by robots, putting many into unemployment. This could be a looming problem for society. Unless we see it positively and realize that this workforce no longer needs to be dumbed down for menial tasks and can now develop more creative avenues of making a living.

Many I’ve had in Coaching, are unhappy with their employment. Most of them are actually too intelligent and creative to  be employees. They are frustrated with the lack of change and improvement in their companies. But what if the employer doesn’t intend to change or improve things? Why wouldn’t they want things to change? Maybe because things are working to their benefit! Just because you want change, doesn’t mean others do. If you often find yourself in conflict with bosses, maybe it’s time to create your own Business.

Wise employers want, seek and recruit creative and smart people. They are not afraid to have employees who know more or can do more than them. Their success is more fun than the success of the person who seeks out a mindless workforce. If you are confident, you surround yourself with great talent.

I’m not a fan of you dumbing yourself down so that you fit in better. As I often say, if you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room. If you wish to increase your intelligence and willpower, develop original and creative thinking, to transcend the programmed mind.

If you wish to increase the intelligence in the world, stop seeing people as dumb. Every human being has a bright side to them. Look for it and then look at it. If you are an employer, let go of Ego and look to employ people who are smarter than you. Stop mocking and ridiculing people who have far-out ideas or question things. And do not dumb down your language, thoughts and actions just to “find acceptance”. Smartness is contagious and people will catch up with you.

 

 

 

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