Article: How big is your professional ego?

Employee Relations

How big is your professional ego?

Approximately 78% of the workers agree (to varying degrees) that they are a top performer in their organisation.
How big is your professional ego?

"I am the top performer at my company for jobs similar to mine."

How would you react to the statement? Would you strongly agree, strongly disagree, or be somewhere in the middle?

PayScale Inc., the leader of providing of on-demand compensation solutions, asked exactly the same question to 383,028 American workers over a period of two years. And it would be safe to say that findings from the responses were interesting to observe. The results were compiled and published under the report, “America’s Biggest Ego Workers: Professional Confidence Explored”.

Approximately 78% of the respondents agree (to varying degrees) that they are a top performer in their organisation. This massive sense of confidence, as the study notes, reflects “either a high level of professional confidence, an inflated sense of self, or both.” Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • 43% of the respondents strongly agree, 35% agree, 18% neither agree nor disagree, 2% disagree, and 1% strongly disagree, that they are the top performer in their organisation.

  • The Top Most Confident Job Titles are, Cooks (Private Household), Chief Executives, Art Directors, followed by Airfield Operation Specialists, Floral Designers, and Plant and System Operators.

  • Those with most education and highest salary had the smallest ego. For example, 39% of the doctors (median salary $116,200)responded by saying they were a top performer, as opposed to 44% of those who completed some college coursework but had no degree agreed with the statement.

  • The level of confidence goes up as your salary increases. While 37% of the workers making $25,000 annually were confident, 56% of the reports earning $2, 00,000 a year said the same. “Beyond simply being curious as to which workers are the most confident in their professional ability—which we tied to ego—we also wanted to see whether there was a tie to salary and confidence,” said Sean Leslie, senior content strategist at PayScale. “And in general, it turns out there is.”

  • Millennials report the lowest generational self-assessment of performance level (40%), and baby boomers the highest (48%). Baby boomers reportedly have bigger egos than Gen X or Gen Y.

  • Gender –wise, the results were almost at par, with 44% males and 43% of the women saying they were the top performers.


The report provides an interesting glimpse into how an employee perceives his or her work. But since there is no way of verifying that the understanding and evaluation of their work and performance is in alignment with the reality, confidence and ego have blurred lines here. “What we do know is that it’s not possible for 43 percent of workers to be the top performer at their workplace unless the definition of ‘top performer’ varies greatly worker to worker,” said Katie Bardaro, VP of Data Analytics and Lead Economist, PayScale. “We don’t know which of these workers are justified in their high level of confidence and which are not.” The study looked at the responses through the lens of education, gender, pay, job title, company size, and generation, and reached the conclusion regarding which workers had the healthiest egos. 

Although the study was undertaken with an American population, it stands to be of relevance worldwide, as an employee’s evaluation of his or her performance, is rightly, either founded in confidence or inflated ego. Furthermore, the coupling of one’s salary with confidence levels is, although expected, but misplaced, for an increase in salary does not necessarily reflect an increase in one’s skill or capability. A similar study undertaken in India would be exceptionally intriguing, for it will present an understanding of how employees of the overstaffed IT sector, or the understaffed medical sector view their work performances, and tie all of this with the rather unique (or peculiar?) Indian attitude. However, it is also likely that most of the titles that made it to the list of being most confident, i.e., with the highest ego percentage, will not feature in the Indian version of the list. The services of households cooks, floral designers, farmers are largely in the unorganised sector, and hence, unlikely to be covered. Furthermore, the comparison between workers of varying education levels, different generational workers, and genders would make for an interesting reading. But for now, the American study has proven that confidence goes up with salary, millennials are the least confident about being top performers, and almost half the workforce considers their work to be of top quality, which points to a rather inflated evaluation and worth of one’s role – a trend that might as well be the biggest contributor to inefficiencies, if left unchecked. 

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Topics: Employee Relations

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