Too Good at Your Job For Your Own Good?

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Mash: Employee with good track record/ Human with future goals


So how can being ‘really good’ at your job be a bad thing? It sounds counter-intuitive that doing a job exceptionally better than your peers can hurt you. However, there are cases where this can be true.

Some employees do well where their peers fail, making them ‘indispensable’ to their boss or company. And while it might make you feel secure in your job, it might also tie you to just that job. That’s the whole thing about becoming indispensable–a manager may not understand just how to do without you. Remember, just like you, a boss or manager wants to do good at their job, or possibly advance in their career. Having competent, productive employees helps them look good. So when a request for a transfer comes across their desk from a star employee, their reluctance to let you go might not be a reflection of their unhappiness with your work, but rather as show of their own self-interest.

While it would be an ideal world that a supervisor might only hinder a good worker’s promotion because they never want them to leave, the opposite might also be true. A supervisor that is aware of their own inadequacies in fulfilling their job might be singed by an underling that shows more potential. Think Saul and David. Think Brustus and Caesar. Think Kronos and all those sons he ate before Zeus and his brothers beat him down. And while your boss probably has little designs on killing you, his failure to promote or transfer you might be an attempt at professional assassination.

So what is an employee to do? Changing one’s habits from being a good employee to blending into the pack isn’t a wise choice. Most successful people will tell you that it takes consistent effort at doing ones best that allows for growth. Both situations can be remedied by being preemptively upfront with a reasonable boss.

An employee that has put himself into the box of being ‘indispensable’ can, with finesse, step out. Take the opportunity to let your employer know that you want to continue to grow. Discuss ways you can help colleagues improve so that in your absence things will still run smoothly. Also, be a verbal cheerleader for peers who make improvements. Let your employer know that others are also capable to handling tasks and projects.

As for the jealous boss: if they are reasonable, clearly showing that you aren’t out for their job should mitigate the problem. In fact, show them that an argument can be made that allowing you to transfer, or promoting you to another department or location, might be a good move for them. Let them see that they can be seen positively for helping the organization become stronger by promoting and encouraging the growth of strong candidates. Also, it would get you away from them, and the possible side-by-side comparisons in which they would lose.

But of course, these courses of action hinge on a boss being reasonable and logical. And what if they aren’t? Then you need to think about, not only if you want to work for such a person, but what the long term effect on your career would be by staying in a situation that clearly wouldn’t change for the good. At that point you might conclude that stepping away to find another place of employment might be the wisest course of action.

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  • KeepUpJonesFamily

    I wish my dad had been able to read this years and years ago when it happened to him. It’s such a shame, and such a great article.

  • Terry My Journey With Candida

    It is sad that being Too Good At Your Job can cause so many problems. And the jealous boss… don’t even get me started on that one.

  • Terri Ramsey Beavers

    These are some really great tips. I was once told I was “overqualified” for a position I was seeking and I was taken aback by that but I ended up with a job I loved and worked at throughout my career so I was happy after the fact that I wasn’t selected for job 1.

  • Stephanie C.

    This has happened to my mom – she is indispensable at her job and I think they take her for granted. Until she’s not there – things fall apart. But overall, unappreciated!

  • Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell

    I never thought about it but I guess I could see how that would happen. It’s very sad that someone would hold back a very capable person that excels though.

  • Echo (The Mad Mommy)

    It happens constantly. It has even happened to me at my old job. Over-worked and under-appreciated.

  • Aisha Kristine Chong

    I hate it when that happens. In my previous work something similar happened – so I left, lol.

  • Rebecca Swenor

    This is an awesome post with great advice indeed. It can hurt to be to good sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

  • Freya

    This is a really great and interesting article. Things like this happen so often. Thank you very much for sharing, great read.

  • Anastasia

    What an interesting article, I never really thought about it but you are probably right. I think sometimes being too good is a bad thing.

  • xtremeqponangelachristopher

    Thanks for the article. Lots of great info! I always strive to do my best. I guess being too good can be bad too!

  • CourtneyLynne Storms

    I’ve seem this happen so many times!! & people where i live even nit getting a job due to being “over qualifed”….Its ashame stuff like this is even something to worry about :(

  • yonawilliams

    I like the tip about becoming a verbal cheerleader for co-workers. I think having a jealous boss is one of the worst things to deal with while on the job. My Mom has told me the horror stories of both jealous supervisors and co-workers.

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