Most of us work hard to demonstrate our competence. Each one of us wants to see ourselves as
STRONG and want others to see us the same way. All our efforts are focused in warding off day to
day challenges to the best of our strength so as to provide abundant evidence of our COMPETENCE.
We are compelled to demonstrate that we are best suited for the job and are so carried away with
this thought that we don’t feel the need to prove our TRUSTWORTHINESS.
It is increasingly become important for an individual to be competent enough to do his or her job to
the best of their abilities so as to survive and stay ahead of the competition. If look at our academics
then you all will agree, at some point of time we were compelled to study hard to get good grades,
which was considered as a sign of our competency. With the changing times things are also changing
and another sociological and psychological dimension is now widely being focused that is the
displaying of WARMTH & TRUSTWORTHINESS, because working in teams or leading the teams is all
about persuading them to do things which they normally would not like to do, and all this is possible
when people care and trust each other.
Besides being COMPETENT one has to also display the WARMTH & TRUST in order to PERSUADE and
Our social assessment of others is primarily based on.
1. How lovable they are? – WARMTH, TRUSTWORTHINESS
2. How fearsome they are? – COMPETENCE , STRENGTH
We assess others on these dimensions as it helps us in understanding the intention of the person we
are dealing with, and also allow us to evaluate his or her capability to act on those intentions and
hence our emotional and behavioural response to others is governed by our assessment of 2
important traits – WARMTH and COMPETENCE
Some of the researches have shown that people judged to be COMPETENT but lacking in WARMTH
often elicit ENVY - an emotional response of RESPECT and RESENTMENT that cuts both ways.
When we RESPECT someone, we want to cooperate or affiliate ourselves with him/her.
RESENTMENT on the other hand makes person vulnerable to harsh retaliation.
People judged to be WARM but INCOMPETENT often elicit PITY - an emotional response of
COMPASSION and NEGLECT.
When we PITY someone, we want to help but not for very long as with passage of time our lack of
respect leads us to ultimately NEGLECT them
Psychologists believe that the dimensions of WARMTH and COMPETENCE accounts for more than
90% of the impression we form of the people around us.
Most of us tend to emphasize our strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace to
influence others, without realizing that when we project strength we run the risk of eliciting fear and
other dysfunctional behaviour. Fear is a strong emotion with long lasting effects and may cause work
A growing body of research suggests that the conduit to INFLUENCE and PERSUADE others is
through display of WARMTH & TRUSTWORTHINESS. People’s perception of warmth and
competence determines their emotional response to get influenced and influence others.
Highly competent people with moderate warmth can draw good response from others initially, but
will not be able to draw full engagement, participation and support.
Highly competent people with no warmth will get terrible response from others as they will always
try to derail their efforts.
We are so much engrossed in proving our COMPETENCE that we don’t feel the need to prove our
TRUSTWORTHINESS, despite the fact that evidence of TRUSTWORTHINESS is the first thing that we
look for in others.
Where COMPETENCE supersedes the WARMTH in any organization, then employees tends to
comply outwardly against the organizational interest. Workplaces lacking mutual trust often have a
culture of “EVERY EMPLOYEE FOR HIMSELF” where people feel that they must be vigilant about
protecting their interest. In such organizations employees become reluctant to help each other as
they are not very sure whether their efforts will be reciprocated or recognized.
COMPETETION inside CO-OPERATION outside becomes the organizational norm
Such organizations have their entire resources falling victim to the TRAGEDY of the COMMONS.
WARMTH vs. COMPETENCE
People with Low WARMTH Low COMPETENCE elicit CONTEMPT – Dislike
People with Low WARMTH High COMPETENCE elicit ENVY – Jealousy
People with High WARMTH Low COMPETENCE elicit PITY – Compassion for a short while
People with High WARMTH High COMPETENCE elicit ADMIRATION - Respect
Most of us strive to demonstrate our COMPETENCE, whereas WARMTH contributes significantly
MORE to other’s evaluation and assessment of us and is judged before COMPETENCE.
Mechanism that drive our spontaneous trait inferences i.e. the snap judgement we make by looking
briefly shows that people consistently pick up on WARMTH over COMPETENCE, and this is mainly
because WARMTH is all about gesture whereas COMPETENCE is all about skills, ability and relative.
If we look from the management perspective then TRUSTWORTHINESS increases, information
sharing and cooperation amongst employees, so where employees can be trusted to do the right
thing and they live up to their job commitment then execution of task becomes much easier. They
become more engaged in their work.
WARMTH & trustworthiness provides an opportunity to change people’s ATTITUDES and BELIEFS,
which is the core of PERSUADING others. So the best way to gain Influence and persuade others is to
appropriately combine WARMTH (Trustworthiness) with COMPETENCE (Strength).
WARMTH and COMPETENCE are mutually reinforcing traits, as feeling a sense of COMPETENCE
(Strength) helps us to be more OPEN and less THREATENED, allowing us to project CONFIDENCE and
CALMNESS signalling for AUTHENTICITY and WARMTH.
Some other reasons that can be attributed for WARMTH superseding COMPETENCE can also be
1. The Need to AFFILIATE – Inclusion, Experiencing the sense of BELONGINGNESS
2. The Need to be UNDERSTOOD – Desire to heard and Seen EMPATHY
Research has proved that people decide what they think of our message after they decide what they
think of us, so it advised that we must keep our INFLUENCE channel open as people tolerate
uncertainty better when they can look up to people or colleagues whom they trust.
One should always bear in mind that signals we send through our presence can be ambiguous, we
can see others reaction to our presence, but we may not be exactly sure what the person is reacting
to, and this is mainly because our judgements are often made on the basis of NON VERBAL cues. It
thus becomes essential that we monitor our nonverbal cues and project perfect combination of
WARMTH and COMPETENCE in order to be understood the way we want to be.
How we present ourselves in workplace settings matters the most in comparison to how we are
being perceived by others. One should wish to be blessed with both WARMTH and COMPETENCE,
but often it becomes difficult to unite them, as it is much easier to be feared than loved.
Levels of WARMTH vs. COMPETENCE in any individual and their implications
Low WARMTH Low COMPETENCE CONTEMPT – Dislike
People low in warmth and low in competence elicit DISLIKE.
Management should closely watch people falling in this quadrant, and try to provide them
adequate opportunities in Social, Soft skills and Competence based trainings.
People in this quadrant are the result of RELATIONSHIP HIRING rather than COMPETENCY
Low WARMTH High COMPETENCE ENVY – Jealousy
People low in warmth and high in competence elicit ENVY
Management should take care of people falling in this quadrant as they contribute
significantly to the overall productivity of the organization. They elicit feeling of ENVY,
because they are viewed as THREAT.
Number of such people in any organization is normally very LESS. In one of the reports
published by KPMG, it was recommended that ROLE AND DESIGNATION of such people
MUST be designed and viewed very carefully. These people often are not worried about
their position in the organizational hierarchy. They are very creative and strongly believe in
their contribution and often view themselves as Consultant cum Custodian. Competence
always comes at a price. Competent people know their job well and are proactive, they are
multi skilled and love their job and terribly HATE politics and manipulation and control.
They are highly committed to their job and their sincerity is often viewed as a threat by
others as they strongly believe in working for the organization and NOT for Power and
It will be blunder to assign such people with top positions as they become frustrated very
fast. One of Harvard Publication went on record and stated that it is this workforce that
moves out of the organization and leads a significant impact on the organizational overall
High WARMTH Low COMPETENCE PITY – Compassion
People high in warmth and low in competence elicit PITY
Management must ensure that people falling in this quadrant must quickly learn to move
into the next quadrant of ADMIRATION; else they soon lose out on compassion and are then
neglected by people who are more competent.
Such people qualify to be recruited for Top positions provided they are Ambitious and FAST
High WARMTH High COMPETENCE ADMIRATION – Respect
People high in warmth and high in competence elicit ADMIRATION
All top position must be filled with people who are in this quadrant.
Psychologists believe that the dimensions of WARMTH and COMPETENCE accounts for more than
90% of the impression we form of the people around us. Our Conduit to INFLUENCE and PERSUADE
others should always display perfect blend WARMTH & COMPETENCE so as to get the right
emotional response from others.
About the Author
CA Vinod.Kr Sharma
Jagran Institute of Management
620, W Block Saket Nagar