Perceived Overqualification and Its Outcomes: The Moderating Role
Berrin Erdogan and Talya N. Bauer
Portland State University
Research shows that perceived overqualification is related to lower job attitudes and greater withdrawal
behaviors but to higher supervisor ratings of performance. Drawing upon relative deprivation theory, the
authors proposed and tested empowerment as a moderator of the relationship between perceived
overqualification and job satisfaction, intentions to remain, voluntary turnover, and objective sales
performance to examine if negative outcomes could be lessened while stimulating even higher perfor-
mance. Hierarchical linear modeling results from a sample of 244 sales associates working in 25 stores
of a Turkish retail chain show that empowerment ameliorated the negative effects of perceived
overqualification on job satisfaction, intentions to remain, and voluntary turnover. Empowerment did not
affect the positive relationship between perceived overqualification and objective sales performance.
Keywords: overqualification, person–job fit, empowerment, turnover, sales performance
Overqualification, or its flip side, underemployment, is the
situation where individuals have qualifications such as education
and skills that exceed job requirements (Khan & Morrow, 1991).
Following the publication of Freeman’s (1976) seminal book titled
The Overeducated American, overqualification became a topic of
interest to both labor economists and management researchers.
Overqualification has been operationalized in a number of differ-
ent ways, ranging from perceptions of being overqualified (G. J.
Johnson & Johnson, 1996, 1997) to actually possessing skills and
education exceeding specific job requirements (Green & McIntosh,
2007; Verhaest & Omey, 2006). According to one estimate, 20%–
25% of the U.S. workforce is overqualified for their jobs (Feldman
& Turnley, 1995). Concern regarding overqualification has also
been reported in Canada (Sadava, O’Connor, & McCreary, 2000),
Europe (Bu¨chel & Mertens, 2004), and developing countries (Go¨rg
& Strobl, 2003).
The literature tends to treat overqualification as a negative
phenomenon. This is largely due to the body of research demon-
strating that when employees perceive themselves as overquali-
fied, they have more negative job attitudes (Burris, 1983; W. R.
Johnson, Morrow, & Johnson, 2002; Maynard, Joseph, & May-
nard, 2006) and are more likely to leave (Verhaest & Omey, 2006).
There is also evidence that some recruiters screen out seemingly
overqualified candidates with the assumption that those who per-
ceive themselves as overqualified are more likely to leave (Allan,
1990; Bills, 1992; Wells, 2004). At the same time, there is research
that indicates that employees who feel overqualified perform bet-
ter. For example, even though they rate themselves lower (Bolino
& Feldman, 2000), overqualified employees are rated as higher
performers by their supervisors (Fine & Nevo, 2008; Holtom, Lee,
& Tidd, 2002). Thus, a paradox exists. Overqualified individuals
may be less satisfied and more likely to leave an organization, but
according to supervisors, they also perform at a higher level.
An important gap in the literature is identifying theoretically
derived variables that might mitigate the potentially negative ef-
fects of overqualification. This gap is problematic from both a
theoretical and a practical standpoint. From a theoretical stand-
point, examining moderators is an important next step in the
evolution of the overqualification literature. It is important to
delineate boundary conditions (Bacharach, 1989; Colquitt &
Zapata-Phelan, 2007; Fry & Smith, 1987) under which perceived
overqualification is related to attitudes and behaviors. In regard to
practice, identifying moderators may help organizations benefit
from the potentially high performance of these employees while
dealing with overqualification’s harmful effects on attitudes and
To date, three studies have identified variables that significantly
interacted with overqualification with respect to outcomes. Spe-
cifically, marital status (Dooley, Prause, & Ham-Rowbottom,
2000), gender, prior self-esteem (Prause & Dooley, 1997), and
availability of emotional support in one’s life (G. J. Johnson &
Johnson, 1997) moderated the effects of overqualification on out-
comes such as depression, perceived health, and future self-
esteem. Although these studies represent important contributions
to the literature, with the potential exception of emotional support
these moderators are personal in nature and are not within an
organization’s control. Moreover, the outcomes examined in these
particular studies did not include employees’ work attitudes and
behaviors. In other words, we know little about whether factors
Berrin Erdogan and Talya N. Bauer, School of Business, Portland State
We would like to thank Fulda Erdogan for her assistance with the data
collection and Greg Tensa for his help in data input. We also thank
Deborah Ford and Donald Truxillo for their valuable suggestions on earlier
versions of this article. An earlier version of this article was presented at
the 2007 annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, and a brief version was published in the best papers pro-
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Berrin
Erdogan, School of Business, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751,
Portland, OR 97207-0751. E-mail: email@example.com
Journal of Applied Psychology © 2009 American Psychological Association
2009, Vol. 94, No. 2, 557–565 0021-9010/09/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013528
within an organization’s control such as empowerment can allevi-
ate the negative effects of perceived overqualification with respect
to outcomes such as work attitudes or turnover.
The present study contributes to the literature in three specific
ways. First, we examine a key boundary condition or moderator of
the relationship between perceived overqualification and its out-
comes. By examining empowerment as a moderator, we contribute
to the small but growing literature delineating and testing theoret-
ically derived boundary conditions of overqualification and expli-
cate how organizations can benefit from employing workers who
Second, we contribute to the overqualification literature by
adding objective sales performance to the outcomes of perceived
overqualification. To date, research has related overqualification to
either self-reported performance (Bolino & Feldman, 2000) or
supervisor reports (Fine & Nevo, 2008; Holtom et al., 2002), with
different patterns of results. Relating an objective performance
indicator to overqualification will answer more definitively the
question of whether perceived overqualification adds value to
organizations in terms of performance.
Finally, we chose to conduct the present study in Turkey. A
majority of the research conducted on overqualification has been
in Western countries including Canada (Sadava et al., 2000) and
Western Europe (Verhaest & Omey, 2006). Overqualification is
even more widespread in developing countries (Go¨rg & Strobl,
2003), and yet few overqualification studies have been conducted
outside of the West. Sampling a Turkish organization is a natural
next research step, as it is a country where “East meets West” and
is an important gateway to Eastern parts of the world. Overquali-
fication is a major concern in Turkey, as 9.5% of the unemployed
are college graduates (Turkish Statistics Institute, 2007), making it
possible for individuals to accept jobs that are below their expec-
tations, which can lead to perceptions of overqualification.
Overqualification, Job Satisfaction, and Turnover
Employees who perceive themselves as overqualified report
lower levels of job attitudes, including job satisfaction (W. R.
Johnson et al., 2002; Maynard et al., 2006; Verhaest & Omey,
2006). This relationship has been explained in the overqualifica-
tion literature using a relative deprivation theory framework (Feld-
man, Leana, & Bolino, 2002; G. J. Johnson & Johnson, 2000;
W. R. Johnson et al., 2002). Relative deprivation theory contends
that the objective situation of individuals is rarely sufficient to
explain how they feel and behave. Instead, individual reactions to
a situation depend on subjective evaluations. More specifically,
relative deprivation theory predicts that when individuals want an
object and feel they deserve to get it but do not, they become
frustrated (Crosby, 1984). The greater the sense of entitlement, the
greater the sense of frustration will be. The theory states that the
discrepancy between what one has and what one feels entitled to
will cause negative reactions (Gurr, 1970). In fact, relative depri-
vation has been linked to lower levels of satisfaction with pay
(Sweeney, McFarlin, & Inderrieden, 1990) as well as mental and
physical health consequences (Buunk & Janssen, 1992).
Perceived overqualification is likely to trigger feelings of rela-
tive deprivation because as individuals go through the education
system, and as they build their repertoire of skills, knowledge, and
abilities, they come to develop higher expectations about their
place in society and the type of job they deserve to occupy (Vaisey,
2006) and increase their desire for autonomy at work (Vecchio &
Boatwright, 2002). For example, going through the higher educa-
tion system creates expectations regarding the status and prestige
of the job one expects to hold, the nature of social relationships,
and expected treatment by the organization (Rose, 2005). Thus,
when employees find themselves in a job that they see as beneath
what they were expecting, they experience a sense of status de-
privation, leading to low job satisfaction.
The Moderating Role of Empowerment
The sense of deprivation experienced by employees who feel
overqualified may be alleviated through the characteristics of the
work environment that provide autonomy while communicating to
employees that they are valued and respected in their work envi-
ronment. Thus, we introduce empowerment as a moderator of the
relationship between perceived overqualification and job satisfac-
tion. Although no empirical work has tested this prediction before,
empowerment has been shown to be related to positive attitudes
and behaviors (Ahearne, Mathieu, & Rapp, 2005; Kark, Shamir, &
Chen, 2003; Liden, Wayne, & Sparrowe, 2000), and concepts
relating to empowerment have been proposed as moderators of
perceived overqualification in the past. For example, Ritti (1970)
proposed that giving engineers full responsibility for accounts they
worked on and ensuring that they are directly responsible for
outcomes could alleviate the consequences of feeling overquali-
fied. Later, Khan and Morrow (1991) argued that job enrichment
(or giving employees control over how they perform their jobs)
could be a way to deal with perceived overqualification. Battu,
Belfield, and Sloane (2000) argued that employers should offer
employees greater initiative to deal with the negative effects of
overqualification on employee morale. Indirectly supporting this
assertion, research also shows that perceived control over the
situation is an effective way to deal with feelings of relative
deprivation (Abrams, Hinkle, & Tomlins, 1999).
When empowered, employees feel that they have the ability to
determine work outcomes, and feel competent to achieve their
goals, and believe that they have an impact on the work environ-
ment (Spreitzer, 1995, 1996). Empowerment signals to employees
that the organization trusts their judgment and competence (Chen
& Aryee, 2007; Eisenberger, Rhoades, & Cameron, 1999; Rhoades
& Eisenberger, 2002), which may convey to employees that they
have high status within the organization. Thus, the negative rela-
tionship between perceived overqualification and job satisfaction
should be alleviated for employees who perceive high levels of
Hypothesis 1: Empowerment will moderate the negative re-
lationship between perceived overqualification and job satis-
faction such that the relationship will be weaker when em-
powerment is high.
We posit a similar rationale for the relationship between per-
ceived overqualification and withdrawal behaviors. Past research
has demonstrated that employees who perceive themselves as
overqualified for their jobs are less likely to report intentions to
remain at their jobs (Maynard et al., 2006) and are more likely to
voluntarily leave their organizations (Holtom et al., 2002; Verhaest
558 RESEARCH REPORTS
& Omey, 2006). Relative status deprivation can be discomforting,
and leaving the situation should resolve the sense of frustration.
Consistent with relative deprivation theory, such employees may
want to extricate themselves from their current positions by in-
tending to remain in the organization for a shorter period of time,
as well as voluntarily leaving their organizations. However, to the
extent that empowerment conveys to them that they are valued and
trusted members of the organization, the sense of deprivation
emanating from perceived overqualification may be alleviated.
Hypothesis 2a: Empowerment will moderate the negative
relationship between perceived overqualification and inten-
tions to remain such that the relationship will be weaker when
empowerment is high.
Hypothesis 2b: Empowerment will moderate the positive
relationship between perceived overqualification and volun-
tary turnover such that the relationship will be weaker when
empowerment is high.
Finally, we predicted that empowerment would moderate the
relationship between overqualification and job performance. Past
research indicates a positive relationship between perceived over-
qualification and job performance. For example, Fine and Nevo
(2008) demonstrated in a sample of call center employees that
perceived overqualification was positively related to supervisor
ratings of performance. Holtom et al. (2002) also observed a
positive relationship with supervisor ratings in a sample of retail
employees. However, in a sample of expatriates, Bolino and Feld-
man (2000) found a negative relationship with self-reported per-
formance. They noted that this observed relationship could be
because employees who feel overqualified may know that they are
capable of higher performance, leading to the observed negative
association. Given that research to date has not examined this
relationship with an objective performance indicator, focusing on
this relationship is important.
We expect a positive relationship between perceived overquali-
fication and objective job performance for three specific reasons.
First, to the degree to which employee perceptions of overquali-
fication have a basis in reality, employees will be in possession of
skills exceeding job requirements, which should lead to higher
performance. Second, objective performance ratings are more eas-
ily tied to rewards such as bonuses, and the presence of extrinsic
rewards will motivate overqualified employees to exert extra ef-
fort. Third, in a setting where objective performance feedback is
available and salient, low objective performance would provide
feedback that is inconsistent with the overqualified employee’s
self-image, which should cause dissonance (Korman, 1971). Em-
ployees who perceive overqualification will have a self-image that
holds that they have more skills than the job requires. Demonstrat-
ing low levels of performance and receiving objective negative
feedback would be a challenge to their sense of self (J. W. Johnson
& Ferstl, 1999), thus providing the motivation to maintain high
We expect the positive relationship between perceived over-
qualification and objective performance to be more pronounced
when employees perceive empowerment. Employees who are
able and motivated should have greater performance when they
are empowered because, by definition, empowerment involves
the removal of factors that prevent employees from being
effective (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). Moreover, employees
who perceive themselves as overqualified and empowered will
find low performance to be a greater threat to their self-image.
Conversely, if they perceive low levels of empowerment and
instead believe that their roles are fixed and that they have little
impact on shaping their environment, overqualified employees
may feel constrained in their given roles, and performing at lower
levels will not necessarily threaten their self-concept. Supporting
this prediction, past research found that lack of choice in a matter
reduced discomfort resulting from cognitive dissonance (Linder,
Cooper, & Jones, 1967; Matz & Wood, 2005). In other words,
those who perceive overqualification will be motivated to perform
at high levels to the degree to which they feel control over their
environment, or empowered.
Hypothesis 3: Empowerment will moderate the positive rela-
tionship between overqualification and objective job perfor-
mance such that the relationship will be stronger when em-
powerment is high.
Sample and Procedures
We gathered data from a major retail clothing chain in Turkey
with 135 stores that manufactures children’s and adult clothing
under its own brand and markets its products in company-owned
stores. Over 4 weeks, human resources (HR) specialists working at
the company’s headquarters in Istanbul scheduled visits to 25
Istanbul stores, and employees were invited to attend one of these
meetings. During the meetings, they explained the study objec-
tives, its voluntary nature, and assured employees of confidential-
ity. HR specialists then left the room to ensure respondent privacy.
Participants completed the surveys on company time. The com-
pleted surveys were placed in sealed envelopes, which were then
put inside a larger sealed envelope and given to the HR specialists,
who forwarded them to our Turkish research affiliate.
Employees received a survey containing questions assessing
perceptions of overqualification, job satisfaction, intentions to
remain, and demographics. This survey was completed by 258
sales associates from 25 stores. The number of respondents from
each store ranged from 3 to 24, with an average of 10, and
response rates within stores ranged from 43% to 100%, with an
overall response rate of 74%. All employees held the job title of
“sales consultant” and did not have managerial responsibilities.
We gathered objective job performance (operationalized as sales
performance) and voluntary turnover information from company
records. Because there were missing data in performance and
demographic variables, the effective sample size used to test the
hypotheses was 244. Of the 244 employees, 55.7% were female,
44.3% were male, and 86.9% were employed full-time. In terms of
education levels, 37.3% were high school graduates, 26.6% were
college students, and 36.1% were college graduates. The average
age of employees was 22 years, with a range of 18 to 32 years. On
average, participants had worked for this company for 1 year and
Surveys were administered in Turkish following a back-
translation procedure (Brislin, Lonner, & Thorndike, 1973). A
native speaker of Turkish translated the surveys from English into
Turkish, and an independent expert translated the surveys back
into English to assure that the original meaning of the items was
retained. For all scales, a 7-point Likert scale was used (1 ⫽
strongly disagree to7⫽strongly agree).
Perceived overqualification. We used the four-item measure
of mismatch by G. J. Johnson and Johnson (1996, 1997). A sample
item was “My formal education overqualifies me for my present
Objective job performance. Because employees in our sample
were sales associates, sales performance is a relevant performance
criterion. Sales associate commission was set at 1.2% of their sales
volume in a given month. The sales commissions earned during the
month the surveys were gathered were used as an indicator of job
performance. This number was expressed in Turkish lira (TL).
During the study month, 1 TL was the equivalent of U.S. $0.71 and
€0.54 (Financial Management Service, 2007).
Job satisfaction. We used a three-item measure developed by
Cammann, Fichman, Jenkins, and Klesh (1983) to assess job
satisfaction. A sample item was “All in all, I am satisfied with my
Intentions to remain. We used the three-item measure by Cam-
mann et al. (1983) to assess intentions to remain. We reworded the
items so that higher scores reflected intentions to remain. A sample
item was “I rarely think about quitting” (␣⫽.91).
Voluntary turnover. Six months after the completion of the
study, we obtained information regarding whether the employee
had voluntarily left the company or not (1 ⫽voluntarily left the
company,0⫽all others). Of the 244 study participants, 45
(18.4%) had left the company voluntarily by 6 months after the
initial data collection.
Empowerment. We measured empowerment using the 12-item
scale developed by Spreitzer (1995). The scale conceptualizes
empowerment as four dimensions (meaning, self-determination,
competence, and impact) combined additively to form the overall
empowerment construct (Spreitzer, 1995). A sample item was “I
have significant autonomy in determining how I do my job.”
Consistent with prior research (Chen, Lam, & Zhong, 2007; Seib-
ert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004; Spreitzer, 1995, 1996), we aggre-
gated all items (␣⫽.80).
Control variables. We controlled for the number of hours
employees worked because this variable was strongly related to
their sales performance. Following past research (e.g., Dooley et
al., 2000; G. J. Johnson & Johnson, 1996; Maynard et al., 2006),
we controlled for age and organizational tenure. In our study,
gender (coded as female ⫽0, male ⫽1) was correlated with
perceived overqualification (r⫽.14, p⬍.05) but was not corre-
lated with any of the outcome variables. Thus, we excluded gender
from our analyses to preserve power (Becker, 2005). We con-
trolled for education level of the participants, as it was correlated
with perceived overqualification, job satisfaction, and intentions to
remain. Because education had three categories, we included two
dummy variables for education: college graduate and college stu-
dent, with high school graduate serving as a comparison group.
Finally, the number of sales associates working in each store
did not have significant correlations with any of the study
variables, and inclusion of a store size variable did not change
the observed relationships. Thus, we did not control for store
size in our analyses.
Means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations among vari-
ables are presented in Table 1. Because we measured perceived
overqualification, job satisfaction, intentions to remain, and em-
powerment from the same source and used translated measures, we
performed a confirmatory factor analysis to establish the validity
of our hypothesized measurement model. We specified four first-
order factors and one second-order factor for empowerment (fol-
lowing Spreitzer, 1995) and separate factors for perceived over-
qualification, job satisfaction, and intentions to remain. We
modeled each item to load on a single factor and allowed the
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations Among Variables
Variable MSD 123456789101112
1. Perceived overqualification 4.35 1.35 —
2. Job satisfaction 5.80 0.86 ⫺.19
3. Intentions to remain 4.77 1.61 ⫺.21
4. Voluntary turnover 0.18 0.39 .09 ⫺.06 ⫺.09 —
5. Objective job performance 321.98 150.61 .12 ⫺.02 ⫺.01 ⫺.02 —
6. Empowerment 5.42 0.72 .03 .43
7. Hours worked 192.91 55.01 ⫺.11 .02 .00 .04 .42
8. Age 21.90 2.47 .22
⫺.11 ⫺.04 .05 .22
9. Organizational tenure 13.52 11.69 ⫺.02 .01 .05 ⫺.04 .25
10. College graduate 0.36 0.48 .16
.04 .03 ⫺.04 ⫺.03 .08 .02 —
11. College student 0.27 0.44 .05 ⫺.03 ⫺.04 .00 .03 ⫺.01 ⫺.01 ⫺.04 .02 ⫺.45
12. High school graduate 0.37 0.48 ⫺.21
⫺.04 ⫺.07 .05 .04 ⫺.05 ⫺.04 ⫺.58
Note. N ⫽244. Voluntary turnover was measured 6 months after the completion of the study and was coded as 1 ⫽voluntarily left the company,0⫽
all others. Objective job performance refers to monthly sales commission earned during the study month, measured in Turkish lira (TL). During the study
month, 1 TL was the equivalent of U.S. $0.71 and €0.54. Hours worked is the number of hours worked during the study month. Organizational tenure was
measured in months.
560 RESEARCH REPORTS
factors to correlate. The fit statistics indicated acceptable fit for the
(199) ⫽327.29, p⬍.01; confirmatory fit
index ⫽.95; goodness-of-fit index ⫽.90; root-mean-square error
of approximation ⫽.05. This model was superior to five alterna-
tive models in which (a) perceived overqualification – job satis-
(1) ⫽74.64, p⬍.01, (b) perceived overqualification
– intentions to remain, ⌬
(1) ⫽36.10, p⬍.01, (c) job satisfac-
tion – intentions to remain, ⌬
(1) ⫽4.32, p⬍.05, (d) job
satisfaction – empowerment, ⌬
(1) ⫽20.13, p⬍.01), and (e)
empowerment – intentions to remain, ⌬
(1) ⫽111.29, p⬍.01,
fell under the same factor, suggesting that participants differenti-
ated between the study variables.
Even though our hypotheses predicted relationships among
individual-level variables, in our sample individuals were nested
within the 25 stores studied. Cohen, Cohen, West, and Aiken
(2003) cautioned that when individuals are nested within groups,
ordinary least squares (OLS) regression can lead to inaccurate
estimates. Thus, we used the random coefficient regression proce-
dure in hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to test all hypotheses.
HLM partitions variance occurring at the individual and group
levels and provides an estimate of the relationship between
individual-level variables that is pooled across all groups. In other
words, HLM estimates a separate regression equation for each
store, and the final results represent an average of these separate
regression equations (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992). Thus, HLM
allows us to control for variation occurring at the store level while
estimating individual-level relationships, and the standard error
estimates are more accurate compared to an OLS regression. In all
analyses, we centered our variables by the grand mean, following
the suggestion of Hofmann and Gavin (1998).
Hypothesis 1 predicted that empowerment would moderate the
relationship between perceived overqualification and job satisfac-
tion. As presented in Table 2, the interaction term of empowerment
with perceived overqualification was significant with respect to
job satisfaction. We plotted the interaction at high and low levels
of empowerment (defined as one standard deviation above and
below the mean). The plot is presented in Figure 1. Simple slope
analyses indicated that at low levels of empowerment, perceived
overqualification was negatively related to job satisfaction (␥⫽
⫺0.16, SE ⫽0.05; t⫽⫺3.24, p⬍.01), whereas at high levels of
empowerment, perceived overqualification was not related to job
satisfaction (␥⫽⫺0.01, SE ⫽0.05; t⫽⫺0.03, ns). These results
were consistent with Hypothesis 1.
Hypothesis 2a predicted that empowerment would moderate the
relationship between perceived overqualification and intentions to
remain. As shown in Table 2, the interaction of perceived over-
qualification with empowerment was significantly related to inten-
tions to remain. The plot of this interaction is presented in Figure 2.
Simple slope analyses indicated that at low levels of empowerment,
perceived overqualification was negatively related to intentions to
remain (␥⫽⫺0.38, SE ⫽0.10; t⫽⫺3.78, p⬍.01), whereas at
high levels of empowerment, perceived overqualification was not
related to intentions to remain (␥⫽⫺0.10, SE ⫽0.07; t⫽⫺1.38,
ns). These results support Hypothesis 2a.
Hypothesis 2b predicted that empowerment would moderate the
relationship between overqualification and voluntary turnover. Be-
Random Coefficient Regression Model Results Testing the Moderating Role of Empowerment for Job Satisfaction, Intentions to
Remain, and Objective Job Performance
Intentions to remain
Objective job performance
Estimate SE t Estimate SE t Estimate SE t
5.83 0.05 110.70
4.74 0.12 40.96
302.43 13.25 22.81
Hours worked ␤
⫺0.00 0.00 ⫺1.30 ⫺0.00 0.00 ⫺2.73
1.55 0.29 5.37
⫺0.02 0.01 ⫺0.17 ⫺0.00 0.06 ⫺0.04 2.73 3.44 0.79
Organizational tenure ␤
⫺0.12 0.06 ⫺1.82 ⫺0.01 0.01 ⫺0.70 0.96 0.95 1.01
College graduate ␤
⫺0.23 0.11 ⫺2.01 ⫺0.35 0.21 ⫺1.66 19.64 17.99 1.09
College student ␤
⫺0.25 0.09 ⫺2.85
⫺0.33 0.21 ⫺1.55 7.68 13.75 0.56
Perceived overqualification ␤
⫺0.08 0.03 ⫺2.39
⫺0.23 0.07 ⫺3.53
17.02 7.60 2.24
0.56 0.09 6.14
0.74 0.17 4.36
27.00 10.25 2.64
Overqualification ⫻Empowerment ␤
0.11 0.05 2.29
0.20 0.07 2.66
10.42 7.31 1.43
.47 .41 .51
.05 .03 .03
Note. N ⫽244. Hours worked is the number of hours worked in the study month. Organizational tenure was in months. Model R
is the proportional
reduction in the Level 1 variance component (see Hofmann, 1997). ⌬R
is the increase in R
when the interaction term was entered in a separate step.
cause turnover is a binary outcome, we tested this hypothesis using
multilevel logistic regression within the HLM program (Snijders &
Bosker, 2003) by specifying a hierarchical generalized linear
model with a Bernoulli distribution. In this model, the predicted
outcome variable is the natural logarithm of the odds that turnover
will take the value of 1. The results of these analyses are presented
in Table 3.
The interaction term of perceived overqualification with em-
powerment was significantly related to voluntary turnover. In
order to illustrate the nature of the interaction, we plotted the
equation at one standard deviation above and below the mean of
both predictors. A logistic regression equation predicts logit of the
probability of turnover. We transformed the predicted values of
the dependent variable to the probability of turnover following
the formula presented in Cohen et al. (2003, p. 491). The plot
of the interaction is presented in Figure 3. Perceived overquali-
fication was positively related to the probability of turnover
only at low levels of empowerment (␥⫽0.39, SE ⫽0.16; t⫽
2.48, p⬍.05). For high levels of empowerment there was no
relationship between perceived overqualification and the prob-
ability of turnover (␥⫽⫺0.04, SE ⫽0.13; t⫽⫺0.33, ns), thus
supporting Hypothesis 2b.
Finally, Hypothesis 3 predicted that empowerment would mod-
erate the relationship between perceived overqualification and
objective job performance. The results for these analyses are
presented in Table 2. The interaction term of empowerment and
overqualification was not related to either indicator of job perfor-
mance, failing to provide support for this hypothesis. Instead,
perceived overqualification was positively related to objective job
performance at all levels of empowerment (␥⫽17.02, SE ⫽7.60,
In this study, we made a contribution to the overqualification
literature by identifying empowerment as a key boundary condi-
tion of the relationship between overqualification and outcomes.
We found that perceptions of overqualification were negatively
related to job satisfaction only when employees reported low
levels of empowerment. High levels of empowerment nullified the
relationships between perceived overqualification, intentions to
remain, and voluntary turnover. These findings indicate that em-
ployees experience negative consequences as a result of feeling
overqualified only when they do not feel empowered.
Our second contribution is studying objective performance in an
overqualification context. Empowerment did not emerge as a mod-
erator of the relationship between overqualification and job per-
formance. Instead, we found that overqualified employees demon-
strated higher levels of performance regardless of their
empowerment levels. Thus, our study contributes to the literature
Figure 1. Empowerment as a moderator of the relationship between perceived overqualification and job
Figure 2. Empowerment as a moderator of the relationship between perceived overqualification and intentions
562 RESEARCH REPORTS
by adding to the small number of studies on the relationship
between perceived overqualification and job performance, show-
ing that consistent with results found with supervisor ratings (Fine
& Nevo, 2008; Holtom et al., 2002), perceived overqualification is
positively related to objective job performance. It seems that
empowerment is an effective intervention that alleviates the neg-
ative consequences of overqualification while not curbing its per-
Our third contribution is focusing on Turkey as the national
context, as it extends work on overqualification to a developing
country. It has been noted that overqualification is a widespread
issue in developing countries (Go¨rg & Strobl, 2003), and the
overall pattern of relationships between overqualification, work
attitudes, and turnover is parallel to what has been observed in
Western nations. We should also note that our results may more
readily generalize to countries that value empowerment. For ex-
ample, Robert, Probst, Martocchio, Drasgow, and Lawler (2000)
found that although Mexican employees responded positively to
empowerment, employees in India showed lower coworker and
work satisfaction as a result of empowerment. Even though both
Mexico and India are countries that are high in power distance,
Mexico is one in which empowerment may be appreciated,
whereas India may be one in which people feel uncomfortable with
empowerment. Similarly, Turkey is a country where empower-
ment is well accepted and desired (Aycan et al., 2000). Thus, our
results may more readily generalize to countries where empower-
ment is a culturally acceptable intervention.
Empowerment was not a moderator of the relationship between
perceived overqualification and objective job performance. It is
likely that this relationship is moderated by other variables. Char-
acteristics of the reward system in place may weaken the relation-
ship. For example, when pay is perceived to have a weak tie to
performance, the relationship between overqualification and ob-
jective performance may be weakened. Similarly, when objective
performance is visible to peers, overqualified employees may
perform at a higher level because low performance would consti-
tute a serious threat to their self-image, whereas nonvisible re-
wards may weaken the relationship between perceived overquali-
fication and performance. Feldman (1996) also noted the
conditional nature of the relationship and argued that the relation-
ship between underemployment and performance may depend on
how underemployment is operationalized. It seems that more re-
search into the moderators of the overqualification–performance
relationship is warranted.
Like any study, our study has potential limitations. We at-
tempted to minimize common method bias by gathering job per-
formance and turnover data from company records. Despite these
efforts, due to the nature of the variables of interest, we measured
Results of Multilevel Logistic Regression Analysis Testing the
Moderating Role of Empowerment for Voluntary Turnover
⫺1.47 0.11 ⫺13.16
Hours worked ␤
0.00 0.00 2.82
0.03 0.04 0.85
Organizational tenure ␤
⫺0.01 0.01 ⫺1.29
College graduate ␤
0.05 0.27 0.18
College student ␤
0.04 0.28 0.15
Perceived overqualification ␤
0.17 0.11 1.59
⫺0.28 0.14 ⫺2.03
Overqualification ⫻Empowerment ␤
⫺0.30 0.13 ⫺2.35
Note. N ⫽244. Hours worked is the number of hours worked in the study
month. Organizational tenure was in months. Model R
calculated using the formula presented by Snijders and Bosker (2003,
Figure 3. Empowerment as a moderator of the relationship between perceived overqualification and
perceived overqualification, satisfaction, intentions to remain, and
empowerment from the same source in a single survey. Although
we believe that this design did not overly threaten our findings
because common source bias actually reduces the power to detect
interactions (Evans, 1985), it would have been preferable to further
reduce common method variance by introducing a time lag be-
tween the measurement of overqualification and perceptual out-
comes. We encourage future studies to examine the temporal
element of perceptions of overqualification.
Our results are likely to generalize to younger overqualified
employees, but generalizability to other employee groups should
be investigated in future research. Past research has shown that
younger employees and recent graduates constitute a particularly
large group that is affected by overqualification (e.g., Battu et al.,
2000; Di Pietro & Urwin, 2006; Feldman & Turnley, 1995).
However, overqualification is also widespread among laid-off
executives (Feldman et al., 2002), expatriates (Bolino & Feldman,
2000), and older employees changing careers (Allan, 1990). Our
sample did not include employees who were at advanced stages in
their careers and who had taken jobs that were clearly below their
level of experience. Before generalizing our findings to different
overqualified populations, replicating the results with a more di-
verse sample would be preferable.
For individuals to work in a position where they feel overqual-
ified is becoming increasingly widespread around the world, at
least partly because of the rapid increase in service sector jobs and
the rising number of college graduates entering the job market
(Khan & Morrow, 1991). Our findings indicate that there are
distinct advantages to hiring employees who perceive that they are
overqualified. Consistent with past research, we found that these
employees may make valuable contributions to the organization by
performing at higher levels, so although they may stay for a shorter
period, their time in the organization may be valuable. Moreover,
we found that empowerment moderated the negative effects of
perceived overqualification on work attitudes and turnover, but not
performance. It seems that the assumption that overqualified em-
ployees will suffer from low morale and that they are a “flight
risk” is true only part of the time and that empowering employees
is an effective way in which organizations can benefit from the
performance advantages of overqualified employees while keeping
them as members of the organization longer. Our study empirically
shows that the negative consequences of perceived overqualifica-
tion are avoidable. Further research on the boundary conditions of
overqualification will aid organizations and employees in the
management of overqualified employees.
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Received December 20, 2007
Revision received June 30, 2008
Accepted July 8, 2008 䡲