Are You Too Good for Your Job?

We all want to be good at our jobs. It’s fulfilling to master a craft and grow in a career. When you excel, it shows ambition and commitment to the team. Plus, it’s super satisfying.

But are you too good for your job?

That almost reads like a paradox. How can someone be too good at something? Turns out you can, and it can be detrimental to your career prospects.

too good for job

Are you too good?

Determining your inter-office standing requires honest self-appraisal. That can be tricky. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a real psychological phenomenon, not just an overused jibe on Facebook.

To begin your evaluation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you bored at work? (Every. Single. Day.)
  • Is the work neither challenging nor motivating?
  • Do you spend half the day on Instagram, yet your work is still valued and praised?
  • Do you recognize mistakes or missed opportunities that others fail to notice?
  • Do you find important tasks aren’t completed when you go on vacation?
  • Are you often given additional responsibilities, yet promotions and pay raises don’t follow?
  • Do you lack a mentor?
  • Are you passed by for advancement despite stellar performance reviews?
  • Do you have more vision than your boss or upper management?
  • Does everyone perform the same tasks day after day, without learning or meeting new challenges?

The more you answered, “Yes!” the more likely you’re wasted at your current job.

Being too good is a problem

You’ll notice the questions center on two issues: lethargy and a lack of growth. These clarify why being too good is troublesome.

When you’re too good at your job, it ceases to be challenging. You’re not learning or developing new skills. You just float. While you remain stagnant, your industry and field stay active. New practices and technologies are continually adopted, so if you’re not keeping pace, you’re falling behind.

Granted, there may be times when your skill set outpaces a position—for example, when you’re switching careers, fresh out of graduate school, or re-entering the workforce. Entry positions may not challenge you, but they offer a foothold to familiarize yourself with an industry.

But when you’re too good for too long, the potential for advancement evaporates because you’re too valuable to promote.

Your supervisor worries your importance to business operations can’t be matched or onboarding a fresh employee is risky. Instead, she gives you more responsibilities without adequate compensation, and every additional responsibility you master makes you even harder to replace.

Some call it “talent hoarding,” others the “curse of competence.” Whatever the name, it’s bad for you.

What to do about it

If you suffer from lethargy and a lack of growth, it’s time to make a change. No, you don’t have carte blanche to slack off, miss meetings, and cut back on output. We have more productive changes in mind.

Take a step back. Open communications with coworkers to see if any feel underworked and unappreciated. Offer to let those coworkers take charge of projects or any new responsibilities your supervisor pitches you.

Share your knowledge. Train coworkers on tasks under your purview. This can be an informal process or a formal meeting. As a bonus, you may kick-start a culture of cross-exposure where you can diversify your skills too, and start learning again.

Discuss promotions head on. Go to your supervisor, and ask why you aren’t being recommended for promotions. If the answer is that you’re indispensable, pitch the creation of a training program and fold training your replacement into your new position’s responsibilities.

Network up the ladder. If your supervisor is talent hoarding, you’ll need to go above her. Internal networking with company executives opens doors to new projects and makes you more visible to the decision-makers.

What if you find your supervisor immobile and the company inert? Consider moving on. It’s a difficult decision, but you deserve a job you find fulfilling at a company that sees advancement as beneficial to its culture, not a disadvantageous to its bottom line.

When that happens, you can never be too good for your job because your job grows with you.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market