Why are gifted individuals not succesful in the workplace?

While working together with exceptionally gifted individuals, I often hear about numerous challenges they encounter when trying to find their ideal positions within the workplace. This challenge is especially hard for gifted women. Despite their capacity for innovation, flexibility, creativity, and exceptional problem-solving skills, they frequently encounter rejection and invisibility for their critical thinking, attempts for leadership positions, and contributions. 

Gifted individuals can bring unique talents, insights, ideas, a broader & deeper picture, new & unconventional solutions, creativity, and a different perspective to the workplace. However, it’s not always smooth sailing for them to succeed. Many gifted individuals face challenges that can hinder their success. Let’s explore why this happens and how we can solve it.

Why it’s hard for gifted people to succeed at work:

  1. Underappreciation of skills: Gifted individuals often find themselves in roles that don’t fully fit their abilities. They may feel unchallenged and underwhelmed, leading to disengagement and further toward passivity and ignorance.
  2. Mismatched expectations: Gifted employees may have high expectations of themselves, their colleagues, their bosses, and the work environment. When these expectations aren’t met, it can lead to frustration and disappointment. They long for deep and fruitful mentoring from bosses or at least cooperation and openness to their ideas when they surpass the bosses’ level.
  3. Isolation: Gifted individuals may struggle to connect with colleagues who don’t share their intensity or interests. They also struggle to understand social interactions and often feel like a total mismatch in the workplace. This isolation can affect teamwork and collaboration.
  4. Impostor syndrome: Paradoxically, many gifted individuals suffer from imposter syndrome. They doubt their abilities, fearing they will be exposed as frauds. They contribute their success to pure luck. Gifted women are hiding their giftedness to stay small and insignificant. Their fear of being exposed is deeply rooted in childhood.

How to solve these challenges

  1. Recognize and utilize giftedness: Employers should identify the unique strengths of gifted employees and create roles that allow them to utilize these capabilities by encouraging innovation and providing growth opportunities.
  2. Recognize the needs of gifted: It is essential for gifted individuals to be able to recognize their gifted needs that come either from their curiosity and drive (working with gifted peers, appropriate mentoring, opportunities for growth, material…) or their sensitivity (working alone, no noise working place…) and for the employers to help align personal goals and needs with workplace realities.
  3. Address impostor syndrome: Encourage gifted individuals to seek professional development and mentorship to build confidence in their abilities. Provide constructive feedback and recognition for their contributions.
  4. Flexibility: Allow for flexibility in work arrangements, including remote work or flexible hours, to accommodate the unique needs and preferences of gifted employees.
  5. Continuous learning: Support a culture of continuous learning and growth. Gifted individuals thrive when they have opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills.
  6. Mental health support: Recognize that the intensity experienced by some gifted individuals can lead to burnout and stress. Offer access to mental health resources and encourage self-care.

On many occasions, I am also invited to companies (having completed my MBA and held leadership positions throughout my career) with the strategic goal of identifying gifted employees and assisting them in recognizing their talents and special needs. So important for the future of the companies! All companies have made the proactive choice to advance and promote these gifted individuals and provide for their specific needs while empowering them to contribute to the company. 

The success of gifted individuals in the workplace requires a collaborative effort from BOTH employers and employees. By recognizing their unique abilities, creating a supportive environment, and addressing challenges head-on, we, the employers, can help gifted individuals reach their full potential and make valuable contributions to their organizations.


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