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The usefulness of incentive schemes in motivating employees to engage in meaningful job involvement has been extensively researched and debated in the domains of organisational behaviour and human resource development. Traditionally, financial incentives have been seen as the key means of improving employee performance and productivity (Friedman & Sunder, 1994; Roth, 1995; Smith, 1991). However, empirical research shows that the relationship between financial incentives and the performance of employees is not always the same, and improvements in the latter are not always seen (Bonner et al., 2001; Gupta & Shaw, 2014).
As the nature of labour is changing in the post-globalization world with the rising knowledge, the effectiveness of financial incentives is becoming limited (Frese & Fay, 2001; Ilgen & Pulakos, 1999). Unlike standard production-based jobs, knowledge work requires complicated problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork, which cannot be compensated for in the form of monetary benefits.
Research has also shown that overreliance on financial incentives can lead to consequences such as unethical behaviour, and decreased internal motivation (Deci et al., 1999; Ariely et al., 2009). In some circumstances, financial incentives might even stop internal motivation indicating that if work does not lead to internal satisfaction it must be motivated by e impede intrinsic motivation by indicating that the work is not intrinsically gratifying and must be externally motivated (Deci et al., 1999).
Consequently organizations that want to improve performance should look into more holistic approaches. This could include aligning performance objectives with the goals and values of the organisation, giving the, the opportunity to advance their careers and skills and to build an environment that is inclusive and supportive and that recognized the contributions of employees and rewards them accordingly (Jena & Pradhan, 2014; Mone & London, 2009).
This study seeks to study the intricate dynamics that occur within the relationship of Perceived Overqualification (POQ) and Adaptive Performance (AP) in the context of organisational behaviour. Adaptive performance is determined by people’s belief about control, this belief about control in turn is dependent on antecedents like the locus of control, autonomy and self-confidence. In addition to beliefs about control, cynicism, which is defined as suspicion and hostility towards organisational structures, also impacts the relationship between adaptive performance and perceived overqualification. Another factor that comes into play is the Demand-Ability Fit (DAF) which explains the relationship between job needs and employees' knowledge, skills, and abilities, and provides  understanding of how organisational environments encourage or hinder adaptive performance. Peer Social Comparison (PSC) is also a factor that emerges as a key process by which individuals assess their own skills in comparison to others, influencing their beliefs of overqualification and adaptive performance.

Perceived Overqualification

Overqualification refers to the state of having talents and qualifications that surpass those needed for a certain job (Johnson & Johnson, 1996). Individuals who consider themselves as overqualified frequently have expectations of occupations that are consistent with their skills. When they are confronted with roles that are perceived to be beyond their capabilities they can develop feelings of injustice (W. R. Johnson et al., 2002; Vaisey, 2006). This phenomenon can be explained by Relative Deprivation Theory (RDT), which states that overqualified persons experience relative deprivation as a result of unmet job challenge, responsibility, and recognition expectations. The discrepancies between the job features that are promised during recruitment and actual job conditions aggravate emotions of injustice among overqualified employees, which leads to a sense of relative disadvantage (Erdogan & Bauer, 2021).

Equity theory explains perceived overqualification to be a kind of unfairness caused by discrepancy between an individual's skill input, knowledge or educational output (Adams, 1965; Thompson, 2009). Employees who are overqualified in comparison to their peers in similar positions may experience injustice if their additional qualifications do not transfer into proportionate opportunities to perform. This mismatch in input-output ratios contributes to perceptions of injustice, particularly when employers neglect to acknowledge or use traits deemed unimportant to the job transaction (Li, 2015). As a result, overqualified persons may feel unfairly treated when their qualifications are underutilised, creating sentiments of inequality and unhappiness in the workplace (Harari et al., 2017).

Perceived overqualification differs from other types of fairness judgments in the workplace, such as procedural justice, distributive justice, and interpersonal justice. While distributive justice is concerned with the proportionality of rewards to contributions, perceived overqualification is based on the fairness of opportunities to participate in relation to one's qualifications (Colquitt, 2001; Feldman et al., 2002). Unlike distributive injustice, in which people may be paid equally but having different job assignments, perceived overqualification arises when people are not given opportunities that match their qualifications (Colquitt, 2001). Empirical data show a weak relationship between overqualification and distributive justice, showing that they capture different dimensions of fairness (G. J. Johnson & Johnson, 1994).

Procedural justice is defined as making fair judgments that result in outcomes such as layoffs or promotions (Colquitt, 2001). While unjust placement or promotion processes may contribute to overqualification, it can also result from fair selection procedures where both overqualified and qualified persons pass the test (Colquitt, 2001). As a result, perceived overqualification may have a negative impact on procedural justice.

Objective overqualification relates to comparing individuals' talents and training them to meet job needs, but perceived overqualification refers to an individual's sense of being overqualified for their roles (Maltarich et al., 2011). Individuals assess their own outcomes, such as performance possibilities, using subjective standards that may not always correlate to factual reality (Maltarich et al., 2011). Individuals' assessments of overqualification can be influenced by a range of factors, including personality traits, performance evaluations, and organizational settings, emphasizing the phenomenon's intricacies (Maltarich et al., 2011).

Perceived overqualification is often assumed to be caused by objective overqualification, although it can also be impacted by other factors (Feldman et al., 2002). Over-education, or having qualifications that exceed work standards, is commonly referred to as objective overqualification (Hung, 2008; Verhaest and Omey, 2006). This disparity could be obvious to both candidates and recruiters prior to the application process (Erdogan et al. 2011). It can also happen once employees get more experience than is necessary for their jobs (Erdogan et al., 2011). Overqualification can be quantified by comparing requisite qualifications to individuals' educational degrees or employment tenure (Maltarich et al., 2011). Subjective overqualification might predict the attitudes of employees better as compared to objective overqualification (Feldman et al., 2002; Luksyte & Spitzmueller, 2011; McKee-Ryan et al., 2009). Perceived overqualification is also thought to mediate the relationship between objective overqualification and employee reactions (Maltarich et al., 2011).

Research has shown that women are more likely than men to feel overqualified (Feldman, 1996; Luksyte and Spitzmueller, 2011; McKee-Ryan and Harvey, 2011). Several explanations have been proposed for this occurrence. For starters, women's increased family duties may limit their human capital investment, as decisions concerning work opportunities and relocations usually prioritize the husband's career (Feldman, 1996). Second, barriers to women's job advancement, such as the glass ceiling and gender-based stereotypes, may result in limited promotion opportunities (Hoobler, Wayne, and Lemmon, 2009). Furthermore, women may be less likely to initiate conversations about better working conditions, thereby increasing the danger of overqualification (Feldman, 1996; Wirz and Atukeren, 2005). However, empirical data on the gender effect on perceived overqualification is mixed, with some research finding no significant link (G. J. Johnson & Johnson, 2000; Luksyte et al., 2011).

Personality variables are known to influence perceived overqualification. Neuroticism, defined as an enhanced sensitivity to stressors, has been linked to views of less desirable job characteristics and lower levels of organisational justice (Liu et al., 2009; Judge, Bono, and Locke, 2000; Barsky & Kaplan, 2007). Individuals with high neuroticism may see their jobs as requiring fewer abilities and providing less difficulty, leading to sentiments of overqualification (Liu et al., 2010). Individuals with narcissism may believe they are overqualified due to their exaggerated self-worth and resistance to negative feedback (Judge, LePine, & Rich, 2006; Lobene & Meade, 2010). Boredom proneness, defined as a predisposition to suffer monotony and a lack of involvement, has also been linked to perceptions of overqualification, as individuals may believe their skills are underutilised in uninteresting employment (Watt & Hargis, 2010).

Job seeking behaviour, person-supervisor fit, and organisational politics all play a role in perceived overqualification. Engaging in significant career planning and job search activities prior to employment may lessen the chance of overqualification, since individuals are likely to acquire positions that are equivalent to qualifications and preferences (Saks & Ashforth, 2002; Guerrero & Rothstein, 2011). Poor person-supervisor fit can increase perceptions of overqualification by resulting in assignments that do not fully use employees' competencies (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005). Perception of over qualification can also lead to less job satisfaction (Arvan et al., 2019). Furthermore, high levels of organisational politics, characterised by biassed decision-making processes and favouritism, may result in underutilization of individuals' skills and abilities, fueling views of overqualification (Ferris et al., 1996; Ferris et al., 2002).

Adaptive Performance
Performance refers to both behavioural interactions and expected outcomes in the workplace. The actions that people take to complete their professional duties are referred to as behavioural engagement while the results are the outcomes (Roe, 1999). While there is a relation between behavioural engagement and expected outcomes, the two concepts do not completely overlap. Motivation and cognitive ability, as well as behavioural elements, all have an impact on expected outcomes (Zhang, 2021).
Task performance, a type of performance, entails job-specific behaviours that are part of an individual's job duties. It involves cognitive abilities and is aided by knowledge of the task, expertise, and habits (Conway, 1999). Task performance is further classified as performance on leadership tasks and performance on administrative-technical tasks, which involve completing given duties and giving strategic guidance and incentive to subordinates, respectively (Borman & Brush, 1993; Tripathy, 2014).

Adaptive performance is based on a person's capacity to change and maintain their job profile in dynamic work environments. It includes the ability to respond to changing conditions i.e. organisational restructuring or technological transformations and adapting one's interpersonal behaviour to work with ones peers and subordinates (Hesketh & Neal, 1999; Baard et al., 2014). The general understanding that business environments are usually unstable has led to a highlighting of the importance of this ability to adapt and solve new issues (Wu et al., 2017) and due to the importance of this adaptable performance has become an important part of employee effectiveness (Charbonnier-Voirin and Roussel, 2012; Hesketh and Neal, 1999). Adaptive performance also refers to flexible work behaviours that allow employees to effectively adjust to change, such as problem solving, managing uncertainty and stress, learning new tasks, and exhibiting flexibility in different circumstances (Pulakos et al., 2000).

Adaptive performance is contingent upon multiple complex factors i.e. job, individual, social, and organisational dimensions. Individual characteristics such as personality (e.g., openness, emotional stability), knowledge, skills, abilities, and prior experience all have a major impact on adaptive performance (Chen et al., 2005; Marques-Quinteiro et al., 2015; Hauschildt & Konradt, 2012). Understanding adaptive performance requires investigating both personal and contextual elements that influence people's capacity to adapt (Pradhan & Jena, 2017). Cognitive capacity, self-efficacy, personality traits, and emotional stability are the individual qualities that are related with high adaptive performance (B. Gryphon & Hesketh, 2003, 2005; Pulakos et al., 2002; S. Zhang et al., 2012). At the contextual level work qualities, group dynamics, and organisational factors influence adaptive performance. Autonomy, accessible resources, social support, leadership, and organisational learning culture all play important roles in whether or not employees perform adaptively (Diamantidis & Chatzogloy, 2018; Ghitulescu, 2013; Kanten et al., 2015; Sherehiy & Karwowski, 2014).

Continuous learning activities and team learning climate have been shown to predict individual adaptive performance, which emphasises the need of both individual learning efforts and supportive team environments (Han & Williams, 2008). Training treatments, goal-setting events, and error exposure affect people's adaptive performance and are potential interventions for boosting adaptability in the workplace (Chen et al., 2005).

Job-related elements such as autonomy in role changes, uncertainty, resources, job demands and decision making also influence adaptive performance results. While employment resources like task discretion and social ties help with adaptability, job demands like task dependency might hamper it (Ghitulescu, 2013; Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). Organisational factors such as a clear vision, an innovative atmosphere, support mechanisms, and a learning culture all help to promote adaptable performance. Organisations can promote adaptive behaviour by giving resources, stimulating innovation, and creating a learning environment (M. A. Gryphon et al., 2010; Eisenbeiss et al., 2008; Chiaburu et al., 2013).

Perceived Overqualification and Adaptive Performance

The relationship between overqualification and work is complex. Overqualification can result in both bad and favourable task performance (Ma et al., 2023). While on one hand, overqualified persons may lower their performance in order to strike a balance between their personal inputs and outputs, particularly if they are dissatisfied with their assignments (Feldman, 1996) on the other hand, they may outperform just-qualified personnel on comparable tasks due to better aptitude and experience (Holtom, Lee, and Tidd, 2002; Fine & Nevo, 2008; Erdogan & Bauer, 2009; Li et al., 2019).

Organisational Citizenship Behaviours (OCBs), which are not formal job requirements but add to the organisation's efficiency, may also be influenced by perceived overqualification. Employees who are overqualified may be less likely to participate in OCBs because they are dissatisfied with their positions and organisations (Feldman 1996). Counterproductive Work Behaviours (CWBs)can predict overqualification (Liu et al., 2010; Schreurs et al., 2021; Wiegand, J. P.,2023) however it is not clear if CWBs are caused by overqualification and if there are factors that moderate this relationship (Khan et al., 2022).

It is vital to consider the fit between an individual's skills and the requirements of present employment (Luksyte et al., 2011). Those who believe they are overqualified are less likely to support and respond to change than those who do not think they are overqualified. Giving overqualified employees more autonomy at work may reduce this negative tendency (Ployhart & Bliese, 2006) by boosting the internal motivation of these workers and, allowing them to use their skills to adapt to changes more effectively (Deci and Ryan, 2008). Organisations looking to retain overqualified individuals who can contribute to adaptation and innovation in the right circumstances should look for people who believe they are overqualified (Erdogan and Bauer, 2009). Giving employees more job autonomy may be an effective method for developing adaptive behaviour. This allows employees more control over their work methods and pace, perhaps mitigating the negative impacts of perceived overqualification (Wu et al., 2015).

Perceived Control

Believing that one can predict or alter outcomes, also referred to as “perceived control”, is critical to human adaptability (Rothbaum et al., 1982; Skinner, 1996). Those who feel more in control have been observed to have greater health, well-being, and academic progress (Chipperfield and Greenslade, 1999; Perry et al., 2001). Emotions may help to attenuate the impact of perceived control on outcomes. High perceived control combined with enjoyment may improve academic performance, while negative emotions such as boredom or worry may counteract the positive benefits of perceived control (Bochoridou, & Gkorezis, 2023; Graham and Weiner, 1996). Employees who feel overqualified may experience less deprivation if their work environment gives them autonomy and conveys value and respect to them. Thus, empowerment acts as a moderator in the link between job satisfaction and perceived overqualification. While this hypothesis has yet to be empirically confirmed, previous research indicates that empowerment is linked to positive behaviours and attitudes (Ahearne, Mathieu, & Rapp, 2005; Kark, Shamir, & Chen, 2003; Liden, Wayne, & Sparrowe, 2000).

Historically factors which are related to empowerment have been considered regulators of perceived overqualification. Giving employees complete responsibility for the job could mitigate the feelings of being over qualified (Ritti, 1970). Giving employees control on how they perform their tasks or job enrichment could also solve this issue (Khan & Morrow, 1991). Perceived control over the circumstance can successfully reduce feelings of relative deprivation (Abrams, Hinkle, & Tomlins, 1999). Empowered employees feel like they can affect the outcomes of the work, feel competent and that they have an effect on their workplace (Spreitzer, 1995, 1996). Empowerment is a way by which companies can let their employees know that their expertise and judgement is trusted which lead them to feel like they have a higher level (Chen & Aryee, 2007; Eisenberger, Rhoades, & Cameron, 1999; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002). So employees who are empowered have less negative feelings towards job happiness and perceived overqualification (Gong et al., 2021).


Cynicism has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy. Cynics, who held philosophical ideas centred on virtue similar to the Socratic school, took an autonomous approach that emphasised avoiding pleasure and being independent of social circles (Luck, 2011; Gökberg, 1993). This philosophical viewpoint is closely related to stoicism (Luck 2011). The term "cynicism" comes from the Greek word "cynic," which means "dog," with cynics criticising various ideas, behaviours, or emotions in Ancient Greek civilization. Organisational cynicism can be defined as worker protests against their organisation or its administration, with different definitions emphasising negative emotional reactions and critical behaviours (Abraham, 2000; Dean, 1998; O’Leary, 2003). It has five dimensions: organisational chance cynicism, employee cynicism, occupational cynicism, social cynicism, and personality cynicism (Delken, 2004). These variables describe many facets of cynicism, ranging from innate personality traits to views developed by professional experiences and organisational dynamics.
Cognitive organisational cynicism refers to employees' opinions that the organisation lacks essential principles such as fairness and honesty, which are often based on perceptions of unethical actions in an organisation (Dean et al., 1998; Pelit and Pelit, 2014). Emotional organisational cynicism means the negative feelings directed towards the organisation, such as disdain, wrath, disgust, and pessimism, which come from views of superiority in terms of personal standards or ideals (Andersson, 1996; Reichers et al., 1997). Behavioural organisational cynicism appears as critical behaviours towards the organisation, such as expressing pessimism about its future or demonstrating cynical behaviours wordlessly, such as a wry smile or smirk (Dean et al., 1998; Brandes and Das, 2006). These characteristics demonstrate the complex nature of organisational cynicism by representing workers' cognitive, emotional, and behavioural reactions to perceived organisational flaws and experiences.
There is a negative correlation between affective commitment and overqualification. Cynicism partially explains this negative association (Johnson et al., 2002; Lobene & Mead, 2010; Maynard et al., 2006), implying that cynical views contribute to overqualified employees' low affective engagement. This is consistent with stressor-strain frameworks (Beehr & Newman, 1978) and demonstrates that being overqualified is connected with strain outcomes such as cynicism. One reason overqualified personnel develop cynical views is a sense of being deprived (Feldman et al., 2002). According to relative deprivation theory, the discrepancy between objective conditions and subjective sensations can cause feelings of deprivation and create negative attitudes. Overqualified individuals may attempt to protect their limited resources (i.e., superfluous qualifications) by creating a distance between themselves and the organisation; this distance may show as increased cynicism. In other words, being overqualified poses a threat to one's resources because they are not properly utilised, maximised, enhanced, or protected. Skill utilisation is a significant resource for explaining employees' well being and task enjoyment (Bakker, van Veldhoven, & Xanthopoulou, 2010; Gryphon et al., 2007). Not unexpectedly, a lack of skill utilisation is regarded as a sign of spent resources, leading to emotional tiredness and cynicism (Neveu, 2007). People who are overqualified are more inclined to become cynical when they are unable to fully utilise their resources.

Demand Ability Fit

The alignment of an individual's qualities with their work environment is termed as the Person-environment (P-E), which encompasses needs-supplies fit and demands-abilities fit (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005; Cable & DeRue, 2002). Needs-supplies fit evaluates if the environment aligns with the values and goals of the individual while demands-abilities fit investigates the compatibility of employees' skills, knowledge and abilities with formal job criteria (Edwards et al., 2006). Both types of fit constitute complementary fit, in which individuals and organisations fill a previously identified need or gap (Cable & Edwards, 2004; Edwards et al., 2006).

When mismatch occurs, individuals may believe they have been neglected in regard to their psychological needs which results in negative effects for both themselves (e.g., job discontent) and the organisation (e.g., poor job performance; Kristof-Brown et al., 2005; Edwards & Shipp, 2007). Edwards and colleagues (2006) shown that when individuals match their qualities to those of their environment, poor demands-abilities fit can lead to underemployment or overqualification. Overqualified individuals may regard the organisation as lacking sufficient resources to meet their needs. Furthermore, combining P-E fit theory with the stressor-emotion model of Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB) (Spector & Fox, 2005) helps to understand the relationship between overqualification and CWB.

A high congruence between job expectations and an individual's ability results in improved job performance (Atwater, Ostroff, Yammarino, & Fleenor, 1998). If a person's abilities are insufficient for a given job, work procedures may be inefficient, resulting in lower-quality outcomes. In contrast, if a person's abilities are very high, they may become complacent and disinterested. According to research, individuals can generally give correct reports of their level of abilites, and perceptions of demands-abilities fit are potentially associated with strong future work performance. While some research, such as Lauver and Kristof-Brown (2001), showed no direct association between job performance and  demands-abilities fit, the general consensus is that strong fit perceptions lead to improved future job performance. Furthermore, organisations often reward good performers, suggesting that employees' demands-abilities fit views are associated to future pay increases. Furthermore, those who do not see a match between their job requirements and skills may be less interested in their jobs. This could be motivated by the need to retain self-esteem, as competence is essential for self-esteem. If people lack the skills to conduct their professions well, they may seek alternate employment or downplay the importance of their job in their identity. On the other hand, folks who believe they are overqualified may feel alienated and lead to lower commitment (Cable & DeRue, 2002).
In terms of discriminant validity, demands-abilities fit perceptions are unlikely to be highly associated with organisational attitudes and behaviours. Abilities are often associated with specific activities or jobs, and the emphasis on fit is on task and role congruence rather than broader organisational values. After controlling for person-organisation and needs-supplies fit, it is unlikely that demands-abilities fit will have a direct influence on turnover decisions. Instead of leaving a favourable work environment, employees could seek training or transfer to another position within the organisation. Similarly, demands-abilities fit views are unlikely to be highly associated with job or career happiness. Job and career happiness are more likely to be determined by whether the job and career meet an individual's goals and desires than by the particular alignment of skills with employment demands (Judge et al., 1995).

Peer Social Comparison

Social comparison and the larger work group setting influence perceptions of overqualification (Erdogan et al., 2011; Sierra, 2011). Individuals' views and behaviours are influenced by their immediate social contexts, including peer groups (Morgeson & Hofmann, 1999). Overqualified employees perform better in groups when other members regard themselves as overqualified. Overqualified employees perform worse in peer groups when members believe they are appropriately qualified (Hu et al., 2015). Equity theory (Adams, 1963) emphasises the relevance of perceived fairness in employee-employer relationships. Overqualified employees may experience an imbalance between their efforts and incentives, but this sense of injustice may be alleviated if they belong to a peer group where overqualification is widespread. Conversely, if they are one of a few overqualified people in their peer group, emotions of injustice may lead to poor performance (Zhang et al., 2023). Self-categorization theory also emphasises how social comparison influences people's reactions. Employees may categorise themselves and others based on their qualifications, resulting in emotions of belonging or exclusion from the in-group (Deng et al, 2018). Employees who view themselves as less overqualified in a peer group known for overqualification may feel ostracised, resulting in reduced performance (Wang & Zou, 2023). Employees with low levels of perceived overqualification in peer groups where others also feel properly competent may perform better due to a sense of belonging and good self-perception (Turner et al., 1987).


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