Confident or Competent Employee?

Confidence in employees does not equal competence

Hiring competent employees is one of the top complaints of human resource managers. Virtual hiring, work-from-home tasks make it an easy mistake to confuse employee competence with confidence. Reacting to this complaint, we’ve singled out a few signs that separate the 2. So a simple observation practice with the focus on those aspects should help HR make the right judgment.

Level of Loudness

You know what they say: the quiet one in the room has the loudest mind. Likewise, the competent feel no need to prove their point. But the confident usually do. Therefore the loud employees should always be treated with more caution than the quiet ones. Funny thing is, usually it is the other way around. Since the loud ones are so well able to make themselves visible and jump in whenever anything good happens, they can be mistakenly classified as the competent. But a closer look needs to be taken before credit is rewarded, as the quiet competent may have done the job and are already working on the next best thing, while the confident are still celebrating the success.


The confident at work usually have less flexibility because they think they know better. Thus the confidence. But the competent usually know enough to realize that there are 100 ways to do any kind of work. What deserves attention is the inclination of the HR to mix flexibility with lack of knowledge. Which is sad because it is this type of employees who question the old ways and push the progress forward. So the flexible approach should be more welcome in the workplace as it is in fact a sign of competence. Rigid approach may work for some time, but it has the tendency to grow old as confidence alone cannot be trusted for long.


Not what the HRD wants to hear but here’s the ugly truth: both confident and competent employees will make mistakes. In other words, this criterion has nothing to do with either confidence or competence at work. We do not encourage thus to rely on the No. of mistakes when assessing employees. Because it can show inability as much as it can show initiative. If in choice, we should say that the higher No. of mistakes does indicate the higher level of competence. Because it can only come if the employee is at ease to create. Which is directly related to the competence to do the work well.

All in all, while hiring and keeping competent rather than confident employees is hard, it is not impossible. Paying attention to the right criteria and reading it the right way usually does the job. Not to say that competence never goes hand in hand with confidence. But the link is not guaranteed. And so the 2 need to be discerned.

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