Karin’s Leadership Articles

7 Ways Overconfidence is Sabotoging Your Career

by | Nov 5, 2014 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Frank is bright, confident, with an MBA from a top 25 and a long-track record of success. He moved up quickly and has a wall full of awards. He’s checked all the boxes: special assignments, line and staff jobs, late nights; but the last three promotions have gone to someone else. When he asks why, he’s told to “Be patient,” and that “Your time will come.” Hardly actionable feedback. He wants to DO something, so he goes on a self-promotion campaign, sharing his laundry list of reasons why he’s qualified. He reminds anyone that matters of his MBA, his contributions and his sacrifices. Frank wants to be sure it’s crystal clear that he deserves the next promotion.

The next promotional opportunity comes and goes.

This time he’s told why. “You’re driving everyone crazy.” “It’s all about you, not the work.” “You’ve got a sense of entitlement.” “You’re over-confident. Instead of asking how you can improve, you’re telling everyone why you don’t need to.”

Confidence without humility will sabotage your career.

7 Ways Overconfidence Will Sabotage Your Career

1. You Come Across as Entitled

Entitled, whiny, “What about me?” makes even the most competent and confident person look weak. Let your work and actions speak for themselves.

2. You Over-Rely on Past Strategy

It worked last time so you do it the same way. You move quickly, not stopping to consider that this situation or team is different. Lather, rinse, repeat is not a leadership strategy.

3. You Stop Learning

Lots of reasons for this. See these 60 reasons

4. You Stop Asking For Feedback

You think you know what to do and how to lead, so you stop asking for feedback. Leadership is never handled. Never stop asking.

5. You Under-Prepare

You’ve got this, it’s easy, so you back off the effort. You just didn’t anticipate what happened next.

6. You’ve Got No Plan B

You’re so confident you’re on the fast track, you stop networking or creating contingency plans. Never take your career path for granted.

7. You Ignore Data

When you think you know what to do, it’s easy to ignore data that doesn’t fit your plan. Great leaders have extraordinary peripheral vision.

Never underestimate the importance of confident humility.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Karticv

    Thanks for this insightful article. Lots of lessons that one tends to overlook, specially around why past successes will not hold good for ever, why its not about me but about we and also about no plan B.

    • Karin Hurt

      Karticv, So great to have you join the conversation. Thanks for your insights. Hope you will continue to participate– love to have new voices.

  2. Steve Borek

    Many times politics plays a major part in who gets the promotion. Confidence or no confidence.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, That is true….I’ve also found that it’s very important how you respond to those politics. If you start acting over-confident or under-confident it will only make matters worse. Thanks as always for your expanding the conversation.

  3. Terri Klass

    Great post, Karin with terrific points!

    What I have seen a lot is that when people appear to be be over confident it is because they are insecure and feeling uncomfortable.

    Looking inside and asking others for honest feedback can be so helpful when there is a disconnect with how you think you are being viewed.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, That has been my experience as well. Sometimes what appears as overconfidence is really under confidence, that’s what makes this so tricky. Thank you.

  4. Lisa Hamaker

    I think that I rarely am overconfident, yet each of these speak to me. Am I delusional or human? Either way–great ideas to keep in mind. I am printing this to post on my wall! Thank you Karin.

    • Karin Hurt

      Lisa, Human for sure.

  5. LaRae Quy

    This is a great list, Karin!

    For me, I think relying upon past successes has often given me a false sense of security. Often what worked before will also work in the future, but we can’t rely on it.

    Being agile and flexible is truly the key to working our way through the inevitable roadblocks that will keep showing up in life. If we’re over-confident, we’re not going to know how to deal with them.

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Thanks so much. After we’ve been around the blocks a few times, it’s easy to think we “know.” I’m with you, it’s so important to stay humble within our confidence.

  6. Greg Marcus

    How you treat people trumps every accomplishment you’ve ever had. Arrogance held me back for a long time, and made me less happy to boot. Another great post Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Greg, So agree. Thanks for adding that!

  7. Mitch Mitchell

    Now that’s interesting. I agree that overconfidence is a bad trait and can come across as arrogant. At the same time, I also understand that in today’s world, when people are getting passed over, that sometimes it’s because those in charge of making the decisions either forget or don’t know all the contributions someone has provided to the company. The book Brag! by Peggy Klaus talks about this. In your example I think leadership failed this guy by not telling him earlier what he needed to do to be considered for a promotion. Sure, it’s up to employees to ask those questions also, but I always feel that good leadership would have taken it upon themselves first.

    • Karin Hurt

      Mitch, Sounds like an interesting book. I think there’s a fine line between showcasing your accomplishments and going down the slippery slope of entitlement.

  8. Manny Ambrocio

    Hi Karin,
    What I experienced to be so troublesome is when a leader, taken into the organization thru internal politics (as mentioned by Mr. Steve Borek), naturally tends to become over-confident by virtue of higher level connections. As expected, becoming complacent and apathetic follows and that affects employee morale. The clout of an I, Me, Mine aura of leadership becomes irritating and counterproductive! As we commonly say, leaders like that oftentimes ASSUME.. A Sure System of Undermining Management Excellence resulting in a A Sad State of Undetermined Management Errors!

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