How Being Too Competent Can Get You Fired

Being the weakest performer in the company or performing a service that’s utterly dispensable is dangerous to your continued employment, especially in a weak job market. But working hard and being good at what you do is potentially dangerous as well, especially if your bosses are insecure, paranoid, and just not a good as you are. To people who think this way, having a bright future within the company makes you a threat. Your future endangers theirs.

Over at Five Cent Nickel, Jeffrey Steele explains the phenomenon, using the example of a talented employee named “Ned.” A colleague’s absence gave Ned a chance to shine… a little too brightly for his boss’s taste.

A colleague within his organization 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 marginalizing 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.

Steele’s advice to workers? Not to go out of your way to be mediocre, but to have enough savings on hand to get through brief or even extended periods of unemployment. Don’t assume that mere competence at your job is enough to guarantee your future financial security.

What a Threat Begets [Five Cent Nickel]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. clippy2.0 says:

    Pro tip, if your boss is being a jerk anyways, go above your boss. What are they going to do, fire you? Lawl

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      Fail. I had a completely incompetent asshat for a boss. I tried going to the local VP, his boss, and got told, “Tough tits, the customers love him.” Going over his head not only didn’t work, but created a hostile environment for the rest of my blessedly short tenure there.

      • clippy2.0 says:

        I guess I wasn’t clear, but if your boss is trying to hint at your that you should go, it really doesn’t hurt to apply for their job if they are incompetent, or at least go above them to help get moved elsewhere. Obviously if you are perfectly happy at your job, and you just want to complain about your boss, that is what HR is for. If your boss thinks you are smarter than them and want you gone, chances are it’s already a hostile work environment.

        • PercussionQueen7 says:

          Is making my job damn near impossible hinting that it is time to go? I did have some vindication; he went through two admins after me. Another manager finally brought up the point that if he was going through four! admins in two years, maybe it wasn’t the admins. Not sure if he’s still there or not, but at least some of the problems were starting to come to light.

          HR was useless too; she served only the VP’s interest, and if you weren’t on his side, then you could go fuck yourself for all she cared.

        • quail says:

          Hate to shoot holes in the myth, but HR is there for the company and not for the employees. The responsibility of HR is to make sure that the company doesn’t get lawsuits and to verify to the Feds that the company is following regulations. HR could care less about you.

          • clippy2.0 says:

            Going to HR means a paper trail. If you complain to the VP, no one will ever know. If you complain to HR, you can sue.

            • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

              IF you can find a lawyer to take your case, and IF you have documentation in writing. I’m sure your complaint form wouldn’t be the only thing that HR “lost” over the years.

    • q`Tzal says:

      Yes, for obeying the chain of command or its nearest civilian equivalent.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      I once worked for an incredibly incompetent and truly disgusting asshole. Once when I went in for a periodic employee satisfaction interview with his boss, a VP, I was told right at the start, “I don’t want to hear anything about him” – it was s short interview. Eventually, they were both shitcanned. Haw haw.

    • megan9039 says:

      Happened to my husband. He was great at his job, just had a @#$%*( for a boss, who transferred in and had been in his location less than 6 months. He filed a hostile work complaint with a VERY large retailer and got fired less than 45 days later.

    • corridor7f says:

      Maybe, yeah.

      If not, make your remaining time at the company a living hell. Battles need to be carefully chosen.

  2. Beave says:

    If you work in an environment where your boss is threatened by your competency you need to start looking for a new job. I manage people. The better my people are, the more they can get done without constant supervision, the easier my job is. Any supervisor who doesn’t see that is a moron.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      I wish my previous bosses had your attitude. Once I got the hang of a job I would start doing extra work all the while being left alone. I even got permission from the director of my department to do some of the banking for the business office because I had a company car and usually drove by the bank several times each day. The head of the business office was extremely happy with the amount of time I saved her and I ended up doing most of their cash deposits and withdrawls (alot of money) in addition to all of their checking even though it wasn’t even in my original job description or even in the same department. I should have realized I was a threat to my immediate supervisor but I didn’t think the upper bosses would let him get rid of me because of my productivity. Guess who was wrong?

      • vorpalette says:

        Ha, yeah, I learned this the hard way, as well. I picked up one of my old jobs very quickly (litigation support) and my sense of getting the highest quality to the customer added to that. When my supervisor was promoted, her replacement was a girl who had worked for the company, but had NO CLUE how to do my job. She could never answer questions (or would just answer them wrong), and I was often the person that other people/new people turned to with questions. Despite having no clue what she was doing, she had the operations manager tell the staffing agency that I was through that I was not welcome back. Many, many people were not happy about that.

      • TBGBoodler says:

        Don’t be surprised one day to find out your supervisor was doing something funny with the money. Whenever anyone gets upset when someone new is handling money matters, it’s a red flag for embezzlement.

    • framitz says:

      I always give credit where credit is due. If my people shine, I shine.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’ve seen the opposite. Alot of bosses are bigtime delegators. It’s another variation of it’s ‘not my job’ syndrome. They don’t give two craps about those pesky details even though it affects their employees and business on a daily basis. True it’s not their job but it is their responsibility.

  3. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    Oh boy, I learned this last week. I’m the best at my job but my shining resume is in a flashdrive in my pocket right now.

    • jurisenpai says:

      You and me both, brother.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I had mine already updated prior to being laid off. I figured, with the economy the way it is, why wait? So I was able to hit the ground running when it did happen. I still haven’t found work, but at least I didn’t have to waste time messing around with that.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    I worked for a company like this before. I had a supervisor above me who always complained when his boss changed the daily schedule by adding or subtracting things that HAD to be done that day (uncertainty was the nature of this business) and on the fly. I kept saying to myself, stop your fuc*ing complaining and get it done and then I would go and get it done. Most of the company didn’t like him because he was a chronic complainer and he dressed poorly for the job but the president of the company liked him because he bought coffee for him almost every morning so guess who was told their services were no longer required a few months later?

  5. LightningUsagi says:

    I worked for a woman like that…but not only would she hint that you needed to get out of her department, but she would screw you over so that you couldn’t. There were people who had made the company’s golden list time and time again, but as soon as she heard they were looking for another position, she would give them horrible reviews that not only kept them from getting the raises they deserved, but from being able to get another job. Upper management finally took notice when 9 people started posting out at one time, and divided our department between two other managers, leaving her with no direct employees (but gave her a job as an auditor, which still gave her control over the group).

    Shortly after I left that group, I was contacted by one of the other managers who wanted a written statement about how bad things were under the other boss, because she was up to her old tricks again, and they were trying to get her out. They finally got her boss to listen and she was basically told that she was to have no direct contact with anyone in the department and moved her to the other side of the building.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      I so wanted that story to end with a pink slip for the bad manager, but sadly no.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        Me too, as I have to deal with a total bitch on wheels from our company’s home office. Everyone agrees this woman is the most difficult, nasty, awful woman they’ve ever worked with, yet no one does anything. My boss can’t understand why she’s allowed to treat people the way she does, but I do. She either knows something about someone in senior management that they are desperate to keep secret, or she’s on her knees in front of someone in senior management. There’s really no other explanation.

        • tooluser says:

          Management is a self-selecting clique. And you thought you left that behind in junior high school.

          Many vile people there, but also some gems.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      why didn’t they fire her?

      • LightningUsagi says:

        Unfortunately, she’d basically positioned herself to be the most knowledgeable person in the department by purposely keeping information from everyone. She’s no longer in that department, but she’s still with the company. And the funny thing is, even though we’re a huge company, her reputation has gotten around. Every time I hear her name brought up in a meeting, I hear snickers and groans.

        She is, hands down, the worst person I’ve ever worked for. Shortly before I left that department, I had to go to HR and file a personal complaint because she was spreading rumors about me and a male friend. Even though she was not my direct supervisor at the time I left, she came to my exit interview, and I told her that if I had wanted to work around so much juvenile pettiness, that I would’ve taken a job at a high school.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    A) Be prepared to be fired or to quit. Take necessary steps to plan for the event
    B) Speak with your boss’ superior. Point out to them your superior work, show evidence.
    C) Explain that your poor review is due to your boss being threatened by your success. Explain how your work has improved the company, and that losing you would be a mistake.
    D) Embrace upcoming shitstorm.
    E) Raise and/or Promotion! (optional)
    F) Prepare yet again to be fired or to quit.

    • rmorin says:

      Loais, you and I rarely agree, but you are spot on in your comment.

      There are a lot of people in the comments complaining that “they were the best” but got fired, which is something nearly everyone thinks. You can not simply “think” you are the best, you have to be able to show that.

      Everyone thinks they are a great worker and likes to assume things about their boss’ motivations, but unless you can prove it (as you accurately outlined) then that is just your opinion, and not neccessarily the truth.

    • BorkBorkBork says:

      I like your suggestion number B: Point out to them your superior work, show evidence.

      Keeping/collecting proof that you benefit the company should be continuously collected while you work somewhere. Quantify your excellence: how much you have helped the bottom line, improved efficiency, etc.

      It’s good leverage for negotiating raises, and for situations like this.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Ned’s better off working somewhere else. If his boss’s overseers were too stupid to see what she was doing, he’d probably never get anywhere in that company anyway. It’s their loss.

  8. dolemite says:

    I’ve had this at my company. Not necessarily a boss forcing someone out because they are threatened, but management not recognizing what brilliant people bring to the company, and simply letting them go (to another company that realizes their potential).

  9. speaky2k says:

    That is why I have taken on the mantra: “Be like Wally.” Wally from Dilbert has just enough information to be important, but doesn’t do enough to be a threat to anyone. My goal is to do just good enough to keep my job and get the standard raises. It is kind of like the Office Space ideology, only work hard enough to not get fired. But then again in the company I work for the only room for advancement above where I am is into high management and I am a do-er not a paper pusher.

    • impatientgirl says:

      “Be like Wally”

      Love it

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I like the Office Space plan – just do the stupid TPS reports so management doesn’t hassle you. My company is all weird about putting expected order dates, notes, etc. etc. in all sorts of places so they show up on management reports. I used try to be careful about what I did, then I realized no one really looks at the data, and as long as there are words or a date that makes sense in the field, people leave me alone. So guess what I do now.

    • Lt. Coke says:

      I have a tip more useful for minimum wage. There is no moving up for my position; there is only staying long enough to keep getting the yearly raises. Management just isn’t in me (I’m too honest but also hate being a jerk to people. Screwed, I know) so staying in this position is my goal until I can find a better place to work.

      Luckily, it’s easy. Minimum wage employment attracts the dregs of society, the unlucky, and the mismanagers of life, like myself. The tip is this: You don’t need to run faster than the zombies; you only need to run faster than the slowest person in your party. That is, look at the slowest employee that has been around for a fair amount of time (2-3 months for minimum wage employment is basically for forever) and be faster than that guy. Get home less tired, use your free time to find a better job, profit. If they fire that guy, work your best until you can get a better feel for who the new slowest party member is.

      Of course, I work at the retail equivalent of a human zoo, so take that as you will.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Wally is my hero and role model.

  10. Cat says:

    Yes, this has happened to me – the insecure boss afraid of anyone smarter than her. (Not difficult to be smarter than her, either). She often accused me of “telling her how to do her job” when I would have an idea or suggestion. My reviews were always good except for things that couldn’t be quantified: attitude, etc. When the company had some financial trouble, I was fired, and 30 people were laid off the next day. I disputed the whole “fired” thing with unemployment, and won. Very obvious she was being vindictive.

    Also: being good at what you do can trap you in your position (Victim of your own success).

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Being too competent is also a good way of alienating yourself from fellow coworkers, especially coworkers who have a lot of seniority. It’s amazing how much hatred can be directed towards someone who does more than the bare minimum, doesn’t milk projects, and actually looks for more work when things are done. My very first job, 20+ years ago was like that — I hated standing around and not doing anything and would actively seek out things to do.

    And then there’s the US Army, where being competent pretty much guarantees you’ll be “volunteered” for every single detail available.

    • LadyTL says:

      I got forced out of a job by doing that. the old guard didn’t like that I wasn’t joining in their hours of gossiping and chatting and even to their horror put the customer first. Luckily found a new job where that is valued.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Yep, worked somewhere that did “360 degree” reviews so basically your co-workers got to have a say in your review. I was new on the scene and dove in and did everything twice as fast, twice as much and twice as good and my coworkers found some really nasty things to say about me. Taught me quite the lesson.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Exjob had a person who won an award for going above and beyond. They didn’t mention at the ceremony how he would always try and wheedle other people to do stuff that was his job. I learned from day one I had to steer him to my supervisor if he wanted me to help him with something. Usually “help” meant “this is now YOUR job.” I don’t mind helping, but it got pretty ridiculous.

  12. caradrake says:

    So when your next interview says “So why did you leave your last position?” is it okay to say “My bosses thought that I was too good at what I did – I was a threat to them.” ?

    • Talmonis says:

      No, there is no place in an HR office for honesty. Stick to the approved corporate answer script or be culled.

      • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

        You felt at this juncture in your career you wanted some new challenges and due to the existing structure at your old place you didn’t feel it could be done.

        • vorpalette says:

          Yep. BS your way through the interview. Never say anything bad about your previous place(s) of employment, no matter how bad. I always use the phrase, “I felt that it was time to find a new opportunity that was more in line with my personal and career goals.”

          • Snowblind says:

            Fortunately, my resume answers both questions:

            Why should we hire you?

            I worked at IBM.

            Why did you leave your last position?

            I worked at IBM.

          • kpsi355 says:

            This. If you badmouth your last place of employment the HR person is going to wonder if you’re going to badmouth the new company. Your best bet is to say something positive about coming to the new company, and how your goals and opportunities for growth are enhanced by the move. Try askamanager dot org for more variations and ways to handle that question.

    • Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

      I really hope to hear some real insights to this right now. My best friend quit her job for this very reason and she is having trouble deciding how to answer this question at interviews.

      • ARP says:

        I quit my job for this reason. Obviously, you can’t directly badmouth your boss or company, but if you weren’t unhappy, you would not be leaving, so you can imply that sort of thing. Here are a few that I used:

        I felt that I wasn’t being used to my full potential; I didn’t feel I was getting the recognition for my contributions; Due to the conditions and culture in my old job, I didn’t real there was a realistic opportunity for advancement, despite my skills and experience.

        You do have to be careful, because these are pretty close to the line. However, they did seem to work on a number of interviews.

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        I would say: “I have a lot of energy and enjoy keeping busy, but my previous workplace wanted a lower-energy, more passive employee for the position. It turned out to be a bad match. I didn’t see myself staying there, so I decided to take the initiative and move on.” This way she doesn’t bad-mouth, but she gets to highlight that she’s a dynamic get-it-done employee. How about that?

    • corridor7f says:

      You can, but be careful on the phrasing. State the difference in attitudes / approaches and your need for an open-forum environment for new ideas..

  13. dakeypoo says:

    My wife quit her job over bogus end of year reviews. Her immediate manager threatened to let her go if she didn’t sign the review (The CEO and COO were not in the office at the time). She quit on the spot. Her immediate manager was fired a week later, and the company hired 2 people to cover her old position.

    • BD2008 says:

      Many people are under the misguided impression that signing your review is agreeing with the contents. Signing your review is only acknowledging that it was reviewed with you.

      • UnbelieverDjak says:

        I used to have a really good job in semiconductor manufacturing. Despite hitting the ground running and always seeking more training or work, I always got average reviews. My boss explained to me that I wasn’t being graded on my work, as that was exemplary, but on where he thought I was reaching my full potential (I disagreed, but figured it was good he acknowledged I had a lot of potential). So I signed the reviews without comment. I mean, I got my raises, felt recognized, and all that.

        Three years later when the economy turned, they announced the layoffs. They assured us it would be a fair process, going off of reviews. When compared to the review scores of my coworkers, I ended up just barely getting the axe.

        Lesson? If you disagree, put it in writing.

      • alpha says:

        Wife was put in this situation. I told her in advance to sign but put ‘acknowledge but do not agree’ on it. and took a copy. She was puzzled why 2 weeks has passed and no one calls to ask why she did not agree. She followed it up from HR, and found her notes where nowhere in the copy. Turns out the supervisor whiteout the objection and faxed the review claiming the original was lost. My wife showed her copy and the supervisor was fired for lying and falsification. The review became moot as my wife took over the position.

  14. Talmonis says:

    I thought this was standard corporate practice? The only way I know of to make it higher on the ladder is to be a moderately proficient and quietly competent sycophant up to the executive level, and a bloodthirsty and backstabbing Patrick Batemann type for the final climb.

  15. Traveller says:

    Companies, especially bigger ones, don’t realize the damage a bad boss does. It is a shame so many people (as evident by the comments) feel they have to perform below level.

    • Willow16 says:

      My husband’s precious company was driven completely out of business by a bad boss who was brought in to revitalize the company. It didn’t help that she was a classic case of narcissistic personality disorder (we looked it up and she could be the poster child for the disorder).

      His original company was bought by an investment firm that merged them with another company on the west coast. It didn’t help that there was animosity between the two companies but it would have worked out if they hadn’t hired “NPD.” They really needed someone to do more business development but, as soon as “NPD” started, she targeted certain people for failure and drove them out of the company. These were some of the people who had made the original company successful. About six months after “NPD” was hired (which was a year after the companies were merged), my husband and about 10 others were let go (it was a very small company). The employees who remained were told their jobs were secure and if they would commit to staying for at least six more months, they would get bonuses. The woman was such a liar – one month later they closed the doors of the NJ office and let everyone else go. The employees didn’t get their bonus and they didn’t get severance (which the first group did get). Within a year, the west coast office was closed and the investment firm lost millions because they put their faith in a psychopath.

  16. brinks says:

    Being competent has never threatened my employment, but it’s also never done much for me. If my raise is going to suck as much as the incompetent people’s raises, then what’s my motivation for doing my job well? There’s often no motivation to be competent.

    • iesika says:

      I had this problem for the first decade of my working life – overworking myself for $.50 cent raises and no praise. Keep trying to find a new, better job. I can’t tell you how happy I am to work somewhere now that actually values my contributions. It’s so much less stressful, because it’s more rewarding. I know that it’s okay to put in that extra five hours overtime this week, because I’m going to get a fat monthly bonus out of the deal, and praise from my boss, and get more clients assigned to me next month, and get more bonuses on those clients. On the day I was hired, I was told “if you step up, you could be running this company in five years.” Actual upward mobility is a hell of a motivator.

  17. Suisei says:

    I remember speaking out about this recently. Seems like my comments weren’t as far-fetched as previously thought by some posters.

  18. maxamus2 says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone that said they are bad at their job, seems everyone I meet is the best one that works at their company yet they get “no respect”. Just sayin’…..

    • BD2008 says:

      Most people are not very good at their jobs but think they are.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      Dude, I totally suck at my job. Do you know how many people leave the Record Store not humiliated for their taste in music (or lack thereof)? I’m seriously slacking on making people feel bad about the shit they listen to.

      :(

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’ve seen this scnerio playout with different companies just for doing the job the way you are supposed to. I didn’t get fired but put in the dog house and pressured to increase productivity in very specified categories or else. I don’t play politics so I left at least one company for this reason. It could be how dare you work after lunch or on Friday. How dare you take the time to do the procedures they write people up for. How dare you try to learn and understand the job with some kind of competency.

    Alot of workplaces are like the movie Training Day with supposedly fellow employees constantly testing you to see how much they can get away around you. The same for management, how much procedure/policy can I get them to ignore to increase productivity.

    Besides being petty pieces of crap Napoleon complexed punks & twerps the reason these bosses exist in the workplace because most people are their for A job and not a career. They are not their for the fun, not for the love it, not for the competition or experience they are their for A job and money. They might put on show or Hollywood movie production for their bosses but when it’s all said and done many bosses are nothing but war lord want to bes guarding their tree tougher than a dog.

  20. az123 says:

    This is not well covered in the OP information about the story, but it may have less to do with a boss being threatened and more to do with “performance”. A lot of people measure performance by what we accomplish in life, I am one of those people, and we do what is needed to do our best. If a boss is in a political management environment and is off either trying to do what others want or press their own great way of doing things, then someone coming in and doing things their own way often can put them into a bad position. This is the case even if you are getting results.

    I had a boss like that before, constantly complaining to me about the fact that I was not doing things the “right way” but could never complain about the results. The issue I had was that it was really not the right way to do it, it was the way that my boss would have done it. It was a rather interesting few years of walking a narrow line, but in the end I came out in the better position due to my success and ex-boss is still trying to make himself look good at every corner and not accomplishing much.

  21. Reno Raines says:

    I had a coworker was was not hired for a management position which should have been his. He happened to be on a business trip in another city when he met a manager/executive type from another company at the hotel bar. They got to talking and the exec guy told him “Management knows never to hire anyone smarter or more competent than them. Smart, competent, hard workers are not “yes men” and are a threat to their own jobs.” The guy admitted that he hires poor performers/not as smart people to management directly beneath his level. And to finish this story I can tell you that the guy our company hired instead of my coworker was a total moron and “yes man”.

  22. Apeweek says:

    Everyone who has ever been fired must think it was because they were too good…

    Nevertheless, I had a job that involved clients loyal to me. Needless to say, firing me wasn’t a good idea. The clients stuck with me, not the company.

  23. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’ve had several bosses over the years that not only wanted to preserve their title but they wanted the job they had in a particular location for eternity. Alot of people chose to work at a location for exactly that, the location. It’s convenience. I think they morph into power hungry duds simply by trying to preserve their particular gig. As management especially if you have no intention on moving or taking a job with different hours and responsibilities perhaps you shouldn’t be in management. Alot of Napoleons are pressured by their bosses to act like a professional manager which includes building their resume. But like defiant teenagers they have no intention of taking courses, getting a degree or accepting resume building promotions or transfers. This makes preserving their particular job even tougher. They become obsessed and paranoid. They pigeon hole themselves into a territory. Their fault.

  24. slightlyjaded says:

    When I work with insecure, incompetent people like this, I take it as a challenge to my interpersonal relationship (read: manipulation) skills. My strategy: constantly talk them up when working in groups, especially with higher ups. Credit them for playing a central role in every great idea you have and every positive thing you’re doing. When introducing a new idea, make it sound like you thought of it because of some amazing insight they had.

    Yes, this requires a bit of effort and patience. But it completely reassures the insecure and/or incompetent person working above you that you’re on their side and invested in their success. At the same time, higher ups usually recognize what you’re doing, and appreciate not just your competence, but your loyalty and diplomacy.

    Many times, making an idiot boss look like a genius is actually the quickest way to earn everybody’s trust and advance your career.

  25. Geekybiker says:

    My issue has been bosses that see people putting in overtime as “hard workers” Despite getting no more done during regular hours. They were the one reaping the rewards, not the folks that were competent. There was also a severe issue of “It doesn’t matter when you get in, so long as you leave after the boss.” People who liked working earlier schedules and being able to leave work while it was still light were penalized.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’ve seen that. Alot of bosses consider overtime hounds as go to employees. But you nailed it. They tend to do as little as possible on straight time evening going so far as to purposely back up the work load. Our location loaned out workers to another location because they were behind but had to most overtime in the region. One of the first things the ot hounds said was only do what you told no matter what you see or notice(wink wink)-in other words don’t mess with their overtime. The company also started transferring bosses in from other locations rather than promoting from with in. At least one night he caught around a dozen employees leaving for home almost a full hour earlier than their overtime timesheet indicated. He also started writing employees for other clear cut violations. Oh the reputation that boss got for doing his job.

    • pdxguy says:

      Another unfair issue that employees with kids get way more leniency in arriving late, leaving early, staying home since little Billy or Susie is so sick, etc. ad nauseum. 100% unfair to the kid-free employees.

    • lettucefactory says:

      This is a problem with a manager in my department. He’s kind of got nothing going on in his life other than the job – no family, no hobbies, minimal social life. And he lives about a block away from the office, so even things like snowstorms don’t keep him home.

      Unsurprisingly, all of his performance reviews boil down to this: the more hours you are here, the more shining your review. If you sit on Facebook 10 hours a day at your desk, he’ll paint you as the second coming because you’re HERE, even if everyone else in the organization thinks you’re dead weight.

      I think it’s essentially laziness – assessing performance correctly means taking the time and effort to understand what your staff is really doing. It means talking to people and assessing outcomes and having difficult conversations if someone isn’t getting enough done. Meanwhile, glancing over to see if someone is still here after 5 is simple and quick and easy.

  26. Lyn Torden says:

    It’s a social world online these days. Name names!

  27. Mike says:

    This is only an issue with the current job market. You should always work at improving your competence, and if it becomes a problem in your current position, find another one. If you perform below your level of comfort you will not be happy in your work and your need to find a new home. Don’t worry about the your position; everybody wants authority, but responsibility is free. Get as much as you can handle. Ultimately, power requires people who can get things done, and it makes you more employable somewhere else. Real job security is the ability to get another job.

  28. framitz says:

    I once had a boss that was incompetent. We were on an outsource contract for a major company so we had reports on service level agreements to submit.
    The reports were a shared responsibility. She would never tell me how she got the data for the reports, she did all the work.

    When the company figured out that the reports were fabricated nonsense, she threw ME under the bus. I lost my position and was put on a special project (this turned out GOOD in the end). She wrote my review, making me look so bad, that management refused to let me even see what she wrote for fear I would sue. I heard from my new boss that the review was a pack of lies and management recognized it as just that, lies.

    In the end she was fired, I was promoted, and I got an honest review from my new manager.

    If I ever encounter that woman… it won’t be pleasant.

  29. ShreeThunderbird says:

    Has anyone commenting here ever read “Parkinson”s Law”?

  30. justjoe says:

    At my last job my superior was one of the two owners of the company, so I didn’t really have anywhere to go to discuss issues with him. He considered me a threat because I questioned things that came across my desk that appeared to be against policies. He must have tried to get me to quit for at least 3 months. Eventually I told him the only way I would go is if he let me go.

  31. southpaw1971 says:

    First job out of college was a total mindf*ck for me. I worked for a contracting company on a naval medical site. The more I did, the angrier my boss got at me. He totally sabatoged me again and again. Finally I quit.

    I found out later that he’d been in discussions with a rival contracting company that was trying to land the account. So when I was doing a good job, I was making it harder for that other company to get an “in”. 2 months after I quit he went to work for them. He was a true dick.

  32. aleck says:

    I find it amusing that while employees can be slackers, losers, lazy bums, everybody assumes that the management is wise, rational and all knowing. Incompetence happens at every level in the company. Bosses put their pants on and poop the same way employees do. They also make mistakes, they can be dysfunctional. Don’t expect your boss to always make logical decisions and reward you for good work. In general, good work will result in career growth, but this is not always the case.

  33. dolemite says:

    This is why some days I’m totally competent, but I mix it up a bit and have a few days where I’m very incompetent.

  34. quail says:

    Reminds me of a story I’d heard from a friend where he used to work. It was a big company and all of his fellow co-workers loved the department and the work. They just couldn’t stand their manager. When she was gone on vacation they’d get a week’s worth of work done in 3 days because they didn’t have to put up with her micromanagement, and political games.

    It was a secretary in the department that came up with the idea of how to get rid of her, and it was brilliant. They gathered all of the information they could on her, made up resumes and online profiles, and made the manager extremely attractive to corporate head hunters. Four months later the manager announced that she would be leaving for a better job.

    And there was much rejoicing in the department, especially since the firm hired the next mgr. from within.

    • econobiker says:

      “Four months later the manager announced that she would be leaving for a better job.”

      Though may God had mercy on the poor souls reporting to her at her new job…

  35. ScytheNoire says:

    Seen this too often.

    From myself getting 75% work load while incompetent people have to do a third of the work I do, to someone I know taking the job of two people because she works so hard, only to have the lazy supervisor get all the praise and raises for how well things are going.

    Working hard only pays off when you own the company.

  36. evilpete says:

    I had a couple jobs that had this situation. i was fired because i was redundant .

    I was told years later that the manager that fired was let go 6 months later because he was unable to what i did and spent $$$ monthly on outside contractors

  37. moonunitrappa says:

    I was fired for upstaging a clown who owned a child’s party entertainment company. The kids liked me better (as a chipmunk) than that scary ass bitter menopausal woman shrouded under grease makeup. Go figure.

  38. osiris73 says:

    I started as the sales manager for a smallish (45 employees) electronics manufacturing services company at the beginning of 2009. The company had been losing money the previous several years. By October 2011, we had the best year in company history and sales were up 26% over the previous fiscal year, which had been up 25% over the previous year. Customers were happy, employees were happy and the owner was happy. The owner decided to retire and sell the company now that it was more attractive to potential buyers. The new owners, after milking me for customer information, decided to let me go. Their reason was that their existing corporate structure didn’t have a place for sales managers, just sales engineers. Obviously I was doing well without the engineering degree. However, I WAS making pretty good money due to my salary/commission structure. Their sales engineers are straight salary. It boiled down to the fact that I was making more money than the VP who took over and he didn’t like that. I was too good at my job and was paid appropriately.

    That was 6 months ago and I still can’t find a decent job. I did learn, however, that the company is now doing very poorly and laying off people because, wait for it… their sales are about 20% of what they were when I was there.

  39. Browncoat says:

    In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet….

  40. Rick Sphinx says:

    IIf your a quick worker, you also need to pace yourself, hand in work on time, but not way too early, otherwise you can work yourself out of a job.

  41. Telekinesis123 says:

    Know about his all too well, that is now why I work for myself.

  42. donovanr says:

    The key here is to make sure your boss’s boss is somehow in the loop. Control the information.

  43. Cacao says:

    When I was on a train in Europe, a bunch of Aussie girls came and sat in the compartment with me. They worked for the post office, as sorters. (I guess this was before machines took over) The one girl said the trick to her job is to always meet the sorting quota but never exceed it. As soon as she was approaching her quota, she’d sit back and take a break. Otherwise, her quota would be raised.

  44. HogwartsProfessor says:

    This. You never know when a job will go *poof* especially when companies are shuffling around like mine was.

  45. u1itn0w2day says:

    I see so much that is true here but when it comes down to it there are alot of Napoleon/inferiority complexes in the world of management. It’s simply about maintaining control. And using the company work rules, policies and procedures for power & discipline-not efficiency or practicality. Power & discipline pure and simple.

  46. trencherman says:

    Many years ago my friend got hired by International Paper in Chicago, right out of college (business school). She was bored stiff. She suggested ways to improve productivity, which were ignored by her direct supervisor (who hated her, in part because she wasn’t able to advance without a degree). My friend took her ideas to the next level boss, who said she needed to go “through the proper channels.” Good thing she quit that job and got on with a better company.

  47. Span_Wolf says:

    This has specifically happened to me.

  48. Carlee says:

    I love the fact that my boss is a technical person, while I’m the administrative guru. No matter how great I am at my job, he will never feel threatened because we are doing two completely different things. And he doesn’t micromanage me because as long as the work is done, he doesn’t care about the details.

    Of course, it also limits my career growth a bit (I can’t move up unless I apply for a completely different job, either within my dept or another dept) but there are definite benefits.

  49. corridor7f says:

    If only, “just quit” was a viable option…

    Before you go and make yourself homeless, consider a transfer or a move within your current company. One bad boss doesn’t mean the entire company is bogus, especially in a large one.

    That said, you’ll have to exercise great patience and diplomacy to leave on good terms and not burn any bridges. You may have an extended wait before you can leave, so learn how to cope in the meantime.

    Learn how to flatter and make your boss look smart.. credit them with any ideas when possible and learn how to get along with them socially on some level. No, they can’t fire you because they don’t like you, but they can easily make your work day even more miserable if they want to… save up your energy for your job search and just be nice. It takes a lot less energy.

  50. iesika says:

    This happened to my friend. She was doing twice as much work in a day as most of her coworkers, and got a terrible review for it. She was tearing herself apart, trying to “improve” her performance. Eventually she moved to a new town for personal reasons and got a transfer, and a new boss. And a promotion within a few months. It’s amazing what not working for a dick can do for your career!

    So, if it’s feasible, one way to get out from under a terrible boss is to move laterally within the company, to a different location or into a new department.

  51. Nunov Yerbizness says:

    Or it could be that Ned is merely a legend in his own mind, and that others (including his boss) could see that he was what German general Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord (an anti-Nazi, BTW) called the “stupid and diligent.” That is, he got a freakin’ lot of stuff done…wrongly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein

  52. retailriter says:

    Don’t work so hard that you become a victim of your own success.