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Harvard Business School study proves the humblebrag is a useless waste of time

Sheridan Libraries/Levy/Gado Archive Photos/Getty Images

If you are going to brag about what you did this weekend, here is a tip to pull it off, which comes to us via a Harvard Business School working paper: brag, complain, or be humble, but do not humblebrag.

The humblebrag is not humble: an origin story

Comedian and writer Harris Wittels (who passed away in February 2015) coined the term as a reference to celebrities on Twitter who complain and brag at the same time. But let it be known that the humblebrag is not humble. The humblebrag is more akin to a complag or a bragplaint:

I realize humblebrag is easier to say than complag or a bragplaint. But I urge you to test these phrases on your friends and family this weekend, and email the results to margarita@vox.com.

People see through humblebrags

First, the researchers reviewed Wittel's celebrity Twitter account (@Humblebrag) to see how non-celebrities would react to reading the tweets. They found that the humblebrags were negatively correlated with perceived sincerity and competence.

Second, they reviewed another common habitat for humblebrags: the job interview. You know the question "What is your greatest weakness?" That question has launched a thousand humblebrag ships. But here, too, the researchers found that those on the receiving end of an "I'm a perfectionist" line trusted a humblebragger less than someone who was more forthright. Humblebragging might cost you more than you think.

The study has other fascinating tidbits about the costs and benefits of bragging, but the main takeaway is that humblebragging is at its best a huge waste of time.

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