By Cat Robson
So many failed idealistic attempts to change things. So many years working at jobs where I didn’t fit and wasn’t using my talents.
If I’d understood a bit more about giftedness, I might have sought out more appropriate situations.
The research of Roland S. Persson, Ph.D. focuses on giftedness and talent, with an emphasis on gifted individuals in society.
Dr. Persson says the workplace can often be difficult for high ability people, as he describes in a SENG article:
[Question: Tell us about the 4 different problems gifted individuals face in the world of work.]
The gifted have problems with co-workers because of being more efficient, knowing more, and learning faster than the more regular workforce. This creates social tension.
They also tend to run into trouble with their managers, who do not understand them and who fail to provide appropriate work suited to their skills and efficiency.
However, 25% of the studied group did indeed thrive and could not imagine having a better and more rewarding job than they already had. This group was comprised of top executives and individuals running their own business. This is not a surprising finding.
It has been known for a long time that one of the main factors in creating work satisfaction is to experience that your own effort, suggestions, and decisions have a direct influence on your work situation.
In other words, you have to be allowed to perceive yourself as being important, with a view to making a difference where you work.
For the academically gifted, this seems only possible if they position themselves as top executives or run their own business. In most other types of work, they risk becoming misfits of sorts…
Gifted individuals interested in, for example, technology, medicine, or finance—“the nerds”—all serve supportive functions in society. They are rarely controversial because their skills contribute towards maintaining society, its leaders on all levels, and its power structure as a whole.
Also individuals gifted in sports, music, and the arts are much appreciated. A few are rewarded more for the moments of release from stress that their gifts offer. They allow us for a moment to escape into a very positive experience…
The greater the prestige to be lost, the more severe the battle to retain dominance and authority. Or, as Ellen Winner (1996) put it Gifted Children: The gifted are risk-takers with a desire to shake things up.
Most of all they have the desire to set things straight, to alter the status quo and shake up established tradition. Creators do not accept the prevailing view. They are oppositional and discontented.
[Question: Why are gifted adults often “inconvenient” in their place of work?]
Answer: Interestingly, there is not much research done of this. Apart from my own study, I have only managed to find one other Dutch study. However, there is anecdotal evidence of managers resisting to employ academically gifted individuals because they “tend to be a nuisance.” Kelly Streznewski provides a few horrifying examples in her book Gifted Grown-ups.
[Additions by site author Douglas Eby:]
Article: Giftedness in the work environment.
More articles: High Ability – gifted/talented
Heroes, Nerds or Martyrs? On Giftedness and the Leaderships of Tomorrow, by Roland S Persson.
The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius, by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen
Psychologist and creativity coach Eric Maisel notes how intelligence – one of the key qualities of giftedness, though not the only one – is such a central aspect of our identity, and notes that every smart person experiences challenges.
He lists fifteen of them that many people have in common, including:
“Living in a society and a world that does more than disparage smartness, that actually silences smart people (because the power and privilege of leaders is undercut by smart people like you pointing out fraud, illogic, and injustice).
“Doing work day after day and year after year that fails to make real use of your brainpower…”
See more in article: Brainpower and The Smart Gap.
One of his related books: Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative.
His Academy for Optimal Living online course: Why Smart People Hurt.