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5 Warning Signs Your Creativity Could Harm Your Career

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic — a psychologist, author, and entrepreneur who uses science and technology to help organizations predict human behavior — has come up with a checklist to help working people understand whether they could be more successful if they were less creative.

Let’s back up.

Today’s world celebrates creativity, so why shouldn’t we assume we can thrive in our careers if we’re overflowing with creativity?

(An assumption that most likely throws, or at least gently tosses, many of us into a panic. Creativity ain’t easy for everybody, y’all.)

Well, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, trying to squeeze all that creative juice might not be necessary; in fact, it might do more harm than good.

Creativity plays a smaller role in job success than we usually admit, but that’s why we rate it the way we do. It’s rare (ouch), so we rank it high on the list of valuable job…skills, for lack of a better word.

However, Chamorro-Premuzic says that even though many companies and entrepreneurs in today’s professional climate tout the benefits of creativity, most of them actually prefer when their employees are predictable. They talk a big game regarding “failing fast” and “agile experimentation” but they’d rather have their employees play it safe: deliver the expected results without interfering with the status quo or otherwise ruffling feathers.

After all, it’s not easy turning ideas into innovation.

Chamorro-Premuzic points to:

  • How to Kill Creativity, a 20-year-old article written by Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in which Amabile notes that businesses pay lip service to creativity. They praise it, but their practices actually hinder it. For example, employees aren’t being assigned to meaningful or motivating roles, and no one’s investing in developing expertise.
  • The Too-Much-of-a-Good-Thing Effect in Management, research that suggests certain positive traits like emotional intelligence and empathy could have downsides when intensified, something Chamorro-Premuzic proposes could apply to creativity as well — especially in an environment incompatible with an explosion of creativity.

Even though all this had me somewhat swayed toward Chamorro-Premuzic’s way of thinking, I still needed some more evidence that creativity had the potential to hurt rather than help a person’s career. I guess I needed it spelled out for me, and Chamorro-Premuzic did just that with the five warning signs.

Summarized, they are:

  1. You don’t deal well with routine and repetitive work. (That’s boring, and now you’re bored!)
  2. You struggle to focus on one task for long. (Your mind is wandering…)
  3. You like coming up with the ideas, but not executing them. (Let someone else do the legwork!)
  4. You and authority aren’t the best of pals. (You don’t want to be told what to do!)
  5. You’re overconfident about your talents. (Perhaps you’ve overrated yourself a little bit…)

Now I get it. I really, really get it.

So, what do you do? If you do get bored easily with the routine, you do struggle to focus on one task at a time, you do prefer to ideate over execute — what do you do to keep your career safe?

That, I don’t know. Surely we don’t to suppress our creativity, right? Short of finding a new job, we probably need to find a balance between making our bosses feel safe…and blowing their minds.

What do you think?

5 Warning Signs Your Creativity Could Harm Your Career

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2019). 5 Warning Signs Your Creativity Could Harm Your Career. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Aug 2019
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