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Dunning Kruger Effect and Its Impact on Negotiation Skills

Keith Stacey
Dunning Kruger Effect And Its Impact On Negotiation Skills

In our recent blog ‘Imposter Syndrome and Its Impact on Negotiation Skills’ we learnt that many people deny themselves the opportunity to develop as top level negotiators as a result of believing they are unworthy (or they lack the talent to succeed) in challenging situations. Companies need to take this phenomenon seriously if they have aspirations for staff to reach their full potential.


Today we will consider the opposite - people who claim skills and attributes they do not possess. This phenomenon has a name, the Dunning Kruger Effect, after the academics who first identified it. The Dunning Kruger effect is the reverse of imposter syndrome and is possibly more dangerous in organisations. A common example is that a majority of drivers nominate their skills as ‘better than average’ which is a statistical impossibility!! The danger at work is that someone will volunteer to manage a complex task without having the necessary skills to complete the requirements.


And then there’s always the boss who has the Dunning Kruger delusion! We’ve probably all worked with one of those, but it’s a focus for a third blog in this series. 


The often-quoted example of the Dunning Kruger syndrome is ‘the lemon juice bandits’ who robbed a bank while making no attempt to hide their faces from the security cameras. When arrested the same day, they were incredulous that they had been identified, as they had rubbed their faces with lemon juice to be invisible to the cameras:  an urban myth they had taken literally!


They would be described as someone who is unconsciously incompetent - so lacking in judgement and awareness as to not recognise their own shortcomings.


One way of describing the journey we must all undertake to further develop our negotiating skills is through the stages of increasing understanding and self-awareness. This is a journey we all undertake when developing a new and complex skill. It will not happen overnight and requires personal discipline and motivation to achieve.


As negotiators we should never be a victim of either Imposter Syndrome or Dunning Kruger. The way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to surround ourselves with good people who are prepared to provide constructive feedback on our performance in negotiations and provide assistance in filling any skills and process gaps identified. At this stage of our development as a negotiator, we would classified as consciously incompetent. We are not yet semi-skilled but we are aware of our shortcomings and have a variety of ways to develop the necessary skills.


After more training and practice, we now have the means of addressing our major weaknesses. We are now consciously competent – we have to think before making the right choice of actions and be seen as not being particularly fluent, but we are following a process that we know is correct and will lead to the right outcome. Finally, after many years of negotiating, we have honed the skills many times and they have become embedded in our natural behaviour. We have reached the stage of unconscious competence.


We can then claim we are a master negotiator.


Happy negotiating!

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