A new study called “Tainted Recommendations: The Social Comparison Bias” reports that when an employee recommends someone to hire or promote, they might be hurting your company in order to boost their self-esteem. The study found that employees tend to recommend people who they know can’t outperform them at tasks they feel they are good at doing. It was the same thing with picking partners for team projects. The majority picked a partner who wouldn’t outshine them in their strong subject.
The researchers say that this might be a key reason top organizations decline over time. Fearing threats to their egos, managers tend to hire others who aren’t as good as they are. As a result, over time, the impact of hiring less capable people impacts the entire organization.
The lesson? Be care with recommendations from the inside of your organization. Get the bigger picture so you can analyze potential employees as objectively as possible. It’s a function where outside consultants, coaches, and advisors can really make a positive difference.