Avoiding the Dangers of Being Too Good at Your Job

June 28, 2021

Avoiding the Dangers of Being Too Good at Your Job

You fear your boss is holding you back because you’re too good at your job. The answer is not, of course, to start being bad at it. That really is cutting your nose off to spite your face. And I am assuming you are keeping your eye on the job ads. While you are doing that, there are other options to try to avoid the dangers.

Is talking to your boss one of the dangers?

This is where the assessment of jerkiness comes in. If you can see that your boss is demanding but fair; doesn`t suffer fools gladly but gives praise when merited; yells in anger but also in excitement—this might be a boss you can talk to. However, if he is kind of mean-spirited or petty or if he is a follow-the-rules-no-matter-what type, you might not want to. It`s a judgment call. If you`re doubtful, I would tend not to.

Because I want to cover the other two points, I will do a separate post on how to have the discussion with your boss on this if you think it might be productive.

Train others

You probably get a lot of recognition from how skilled you are at your job. You’ve figured out tricks of the trade no one else has and the praise is well deserved. But you’re in the present pickle because of it. You are so uniquely valuable that you can’t move ahead.

So here is where you need to trade off some of your uniqueness to get more promotability. What if you showed your colleagues your tricks of the trade? What if you helped them be at a level that they could back you up and, more importantly, that your boss can still meet his goals with the backup? If your boss feels this way, he is less likely to fight so hard to prevent you from moving on.

This advice may feel a bit sour in the mouth. After all, you get a lot of kudos, and even envy, by being so good. And if you are willing to stay in that job forever and continue being the uniquely competent one, you can ignore the suggestion. But if you want to move forward in your career, start thinking about how you can become less indispensable. And thus avoiding one of the dangers of being too good.


I know, the old lag—network—the answer to everything. But this is a particular kind of networking and doesn’t include the usual trying to corner the one person in the room you think can do you some good.

Since your skill is at a very high level, there might be other venues where you can showcase them. Giving a presentation at the local branch of your speciality, presenting a paper at an appropriate conference, actively participating in your industry’s on-line discussion groups—these are a few of the things that you can do to subtly broadcast how good you are to others outside the company. In short, you need to find a way to go around your boss without looking as if you are.

It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? Another easier but less proactive approach is to sit tight and hope that your boss will be either promoted or fired. Either would work for you. Good luck with that one.

Next post will be on how to talk to your boss about being trapped in a job.

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