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Applied Psychology: An International Review

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COVID-19 Pandemic (2020- ) -- Social aspects, Perceived Overqualification -- Employees, Underemployment -- Psychological aspects, Employee motivation


Past research has found that employees who view themselves as overqualified for their jobs tend to hold negative job attitudes and be unwilling to go beyond the call of duty. In challenging situations such as during the COVID-19 crisis, when having “all hands-on deck” may be important to an organization’s survival, mitigating the negative tendencies of these employees becomes important. Adopting a sensemaking perspective on crisis management, we examine whether supervisors’ self-sacrificial leadership can mitigate these negative tendencies. First, we propose that employee perceived overqualification is associated with lower levels of felt obligation to the organization and thereby lower levels of extra-role behaviors (i.e., helping and proactivity). We next propose that supervisors’ self-sacrificial leadership during the COVID-19 crisis can evoke, especially when COVID-19 more strongly impacts the organization, a sense of collectivism toward the organization, which mitigates the negative association of perceived overqualification with felt obligation and thus extra-role behaviors. We tested our theorizing in samples from the UK (n = 121, Pilot Study) and US (n = 382, Main Study) in studies with a multi-wave, time-lagged design. Findings from both studies provide support for our theorizing. We discuss implications for research and practice concerning perceived overqualification during a crisis.


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: [Wu, C. H., Weisman, H., Sung, L. K., Erdogan, B., & Bauer, T. N. (in press). Perceived Overqualification, Felt Organizational Obligation, and Extra-Role Behavior during the COVID-19 crisis: The Moderating Role of Self-Sacrificial Leadership. Applied Psychology: An International Review.], which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.



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