Why Being Great At Your Job Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Hard work and competence should be rewarded, but that’s not always what happens. Sometimes, when you do great work at a company, you not only get shafted but kicked to the kerb. Jeffrey Steele, writing for personal finance blog Five Cent Nickel, offers up a cautionary tale about being too competent.

Photo by Leremy (Shutterstock).

A colleague within his organisation left on a sabbatical, and Ned was tabbed to cover both his own responsibilities and the sales functions of the departing co-worker. The following weeks proved pivotal.

Ned not only shouldered his own duties with his customary aplomb, but injected fresh new insights into the sales position. Under Ned’s stewardship, sales and revenues climbed to levels never before tallied by the firm.

That’s when Ned’s boss “got it”. Not only was Ned good, he was too good. Any more brilliance from him, and she might be leapfrogged on the corporate ladder by the very man whose job performance she graded. When Ned’s next job review came around, he had reason to expect an even more glowing appraisal. Instead, his boss tore into him, ripping his decision-making skills and marginalising his contributions to the company. And from all accounts she managed to pull it off with a straight face.

Maybe she thought he’d get mad and quit, but that didn’t happen. So she began hinting, first subtly and then more baldly, that Ned should look elsewhere for employment. Ned finally was forced out, his boss kept her post and large paycheck, and the firm lost a vital contributor.

It’s unlikely that this situation is the norm, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard a story about a paranoid boss trying to sabotage a lower-ranked employee. While this is no reason to put less effort into your job, it is a reason to keep your confidence at a reasonable level. You never know what may happen, even if you’re an incredible asset. Steele recommends keeping a few months worth of pay as savings in case of unemployment. While this is always good advice, it’s the kind of advice many people ignore when they think their job is safe. A lack of competency isn’t the only thing that can get you laid off, so always be prepared.

What a Threat Begets [Five Cent Nickel via The Consumerist]

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