Giftedness in the Workplace

Giftedness in the Workplace

Giftedness in the Workplace: Can the Bright Mind Thrive in Today’s Organizations?

By Dr. Mary E. Jacobsen
MENSA Research Journal, Vol. 39 (2), Summer, 2008

“No matter how brilliant they may be, gifted adults who have received inaccurate or scant information about what it means to be gifted often have no way to make sense of their unusual abilities, conspicuous differences, or uncomfortable relationships with work.  Unfortunately, most gifted adults are no better informed on the subject than anyone else.  Even if they were identified as gifted youngsters few gifted adults really understand how their minds operate, and most know even less about their innate intensity, complexity, and drive (Jacobsen, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2008).   What they have learned is that who they are, what they do, and how they do it are usually “too much” for other people.  Throughout their lives most have experienced an array of confusing criticisms about their differences (e.g., “You’re too smart for your own good!”  “Why can’t you just go with the flow?”).

. . . Within the confines of coaching or counseling sessions gifted adults can take a different look at themselves, talk about bewildering experiences at work, and construct new ways of dealing with their needs and reactions that better fit the expectations on their job.  But that is not enough.

Employers of the gifted need to understand that giftedness impacts and underlies everything because it is quantitatively, qualitatively, and motivationally different way of experiencing life (Jacobsen, 2007, 2005, 2000).  When gifted adults feel understood and valued by those around them, it is much more likely that they will go with the flow and readily contribute to team efforts.  And if managers and talent developers are accurately informed about giftedness, they may come to realize that distinctive features of giftedness that seem excessive at first glance might be in just the right proportion for brilliant innovation and extraordinary contributions.  The wise employer knows that excellence and creative productivity are the result of a particular blend of internal and external factors: awareness, a supportive work atmosphere, appreciation, a great deal of challenge, and as much professional freedom as possible.

Can employers and talent developers who understand the value of top talent adequately adjust their attitudes to welcome gifted employees as individuals instead of stereotypes and create a suitable environment for them?  Can gifted individuals find ways to reasonably compromise and adapt to organizational processes without denying their gifts in order to belong or to be appreciated?  These are the challenges for gifted adults as employees and for employers whose organizations need what the gifted can bring to the table.”

~~~ Excerpt from © Mary E. Jacobsen, 2008, Giftedness in the Workplace: Can the Bright Mind Thrive in Today’s Organizations? The MENSA Research Journal, Vol. 39 (2), Summer, 2008, MENSA Education and Research Foundation and MENSA International.

For more information see the Mensa Research Journal (Vol. 39, No. 2 – Summer, 2008).


  1. […] her post Giftedness in the workplace (on the Talent Psychology site), Dr. Mary E. Jacobsen writes about some of the social challenges of […]

  2. Rick Martinez says:

    Mary: Thanks for an insightful article on the gifted among us, as I believe there are more than a few, and we must recognize them and even nurture them so they can do what God has meant for them to do: CONTRIBUTE! I also believe the “smartest” people in this world work for others, and do not necessarily create and launch their own enterprises. So, these gifted types are definitely in our midst. At the same time, I also think the gifted really and truly need us “regular and common folk” for several reasons. One reason is for “common sense”–which isn’t all that common to them…or to us for that matter. Also, gifted persons need dimension and distraction every once in a while–and who better to do that than a “casual” person who speaks of nothing more than “casual” delights. Yet, ask any gifted person and they’ll tell you: They do not see or hear or know any “common person.” No one is a commoner to them. Everyone is someone special. Why? Because to the gifted, they respect themselves and their inner sense of life, living, doing, and being–and they believe everyone else should too.

    What’s truly unfortunate is how employers hire us because of our individual qualities and how they envision us contributing to their organization. But once we come aboard, they socialize us to be like everyone else and to do things like they’ve always been done. Thinkers, doers, contributors and gifted persons be
    damned! It’s serve the organization, rather than the GOAL of the organization. Giftedness languishes into a life a desperation.
    Until…the work in his garage is ready and a venture capitalist comes along…and WOW a DREAM is made reality.