15 challenges that people who are gifted experience in a workplace

We talk about ‘gifted’ people because we know they exist, but what does ‘gifted’ actually mean? According to Mensa, someone who has an IQ in the uppermost percentile, usually the top 2%, of an IQ test, resulting in them having an IQ of between 140 and 150. There are many different kinds of intelligence, each having an impact on how the gifted individual thinks and interacts with the world around them. But how does this set them apart from the rest of us? What challenges does this heightened intelligence bring with it? Gary Corcoran of Advance Systems Inc says: “research has shown that typical intelligence tests are not able to predict work performance of gifted people inside a workplace” This article is going to look at 15 challenges that people who are gifted could experience in the workplace:


  1. Being unable to follow instructions. A gifted person can believe they know better and so don’t follow simple instructions, leading to them being accused of a lack of discipline.
  2. Not having a safe environment in which they can be themselves and ultimately being labelled as disruptive, because they don’t do what they are told to do.
  3. Being ostracised. Gifted people can be seen as different by their work colleagues and are left alone, resulting in them feeling lonely in the workplace.
  4. Gifted people can be highly sensitive. This trait can manifest in many ways, and can resemble ADHD. An over-stimulation of the senses can cause adverse reactions in some people, leading to them making all kinds of demands concerning work environment factors, such as it being too noisy.
  5. Being taken advantage of. Because of the speed the gifted brain can process information, gifted people can work much faster than the average person, doing assigned work in half the time. People have been known to take advantage of this…
  6. A gifted person can get bored doing simple work: they think more quickly than others and they need multiple sources of stimulation to fulfil their curiosity, talents and abilities.
  7. They don’t believe the rules are for them. Because they can do the work in less time, they can expect to be given a break, not understanding the rules are there for everyone, including them.
  8. Gifted people get frustrated at being much more productive as everyone else but getting paid and treated the same as them.
  9. Being unable to communicate their feelings to their manager. Due to introversion they are unable to communicate easily with anyone they don’t trust intimately. They avoid social situations making them even more isolated.
  10. Having others be jealous of them. No one is jealous of the guy who puts in the ‘hard work’ and gets results, but they can be miffed by the person who coasts along, over achieving.
  11. Being misunderstood, particularly by their line manager who doesn’t see their potential, and instead of harnessing their abilities, treats them like an idiot, even though they are doing more than is required of them.
  12. Being thought of as stupid because they think faster than everyone else. So fast that others can’t follow their thought processes. Gifted people can often draw conclusions intuitively, giving the impression that they flit from one thought to the next without processing all the data.
  13. Being misunderstood by all those around them and instead of being thought of as gifted, are in fact labelled as ‘underachievers’, or ‘special needs’.
  14. Being laughed at and ostracised for how they think. A gifted person’s thought process is so fast it isn’t always recognised as being joined up thinking, so when they suggest ideas they can come across as ‘out there’ because other’s haven’t reached that place yet.



  1. They’re looked over for promotion because not only are they ostracised by their peers for being different, they’re misunderstood by their managers and they’re generally not well liked due to their bucking of the rules and their seemingly ‘bad attitude’ that doesn’t fit in with the corporate image. However they can’t be let go of because they work so much more productively than anyone else, they’re hard to replace.


Being gifted might sound like a dream come true, but whilst research can’t predict a gifted person’s work output, it can show what a lonely and isolated place true genius can be, without a solid support system in place.

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Morten Soltveit

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