We all know the danger of being bad at your job, like having three burly HR people descend on your workstation to pack up your collection of Holly Hobbie dolls and throw you, Holly, and her BFFs, Amy and Heather, into the parking lot.
But what danger could possibly result from being too good at a job?
It’s a question you are never asked.
The question you are invariably asked is, “How come such a bad employee manages to hang on to any job at all?” And if you are not asked this question by friends and co-workers, you do have those moments of crystalline clarity when you look at the fuzzy face in the barroom mirror, and ask this question of yourself.
Of course, there is only one logical answer. You have developed the ability to cloud the minds of managers and make them believe you’re an asset to the team. It’s your superpower, really, and it should be able to keep you employed until someone snaps his or her fingers and your zombie manager wakes up and fires you.
Someone like Joann S. Lublin.
Lublin is the management and careers columnist for The Wall Street Journal and has recent published an alarming piece, titled “The Danger of Being Too Good at Your Job.”
According to Lublin, the danger is that you’ll be stuck in your present position forever, because you’re “so good at your job that your boss isn’t willing to lose you.”
“Talent hording” is the name for managers who “hold on to top performers instead of working to promote them or transfer them to other areas of the company.”
According to the Institute for Corporate Productivity, talent-hoarding managers exist at half of the 665 employers they survey. Presumably, the other half operate normally, doing their best to fire as many employees as possible as quickly as possible.
Interestingly, the companies that had the most hoarders were the worst performing. From these results, the Corporate Productivity people decided that “clinging to people is bad for business.”
Bad for business? Possibly, but it’s great for losers like thee and me, who are allowed to keep our jobs because, as bad as we are, our manager can’t stand to see another manager take us over.
Unfortunately, companies have decided that talent hoarding must be eliminated. Instead of giving life sentences to employees, good, bad and superbad, top management wants to “expand internal mobility for staffers, leading to more job hopping within upper management.”
That’s the goal of Avanade consulting CEO Adam Warby, who “initiated a push to shift leaders to new roles every few years.” Imagine if you worked under such a radical regime and your cozy relationship with your manager was ruined by the introduction of a new firebrand who wanted to offer new opportunities to top performers?
While such a policy may benefit the freaks and geeks in your company who actually want to do a good job, the decision to upset the status quo is unlikely to work in your favor. It’s damp and dark under your rock, but as long as no one turns it over and exposes you to the light, it keeps you safe.
Ally Financial Inc. is another company that encourages mother-bird managers to push their best and brightest fledglings out of the nest. The online lender “discourages talent hoarding through career roundtables where executives typically review potential inside prospects to fill vacancies.” The company “even allows staffers to pitch their qualifications to senior managers who have immediate or imminent openings.”
This is one opportunity you will definitely want to avoid.
If you think you’d feel a tad bit uncomfortable explaining to a top-level executive roundtable why you desperately want to leave your current beast of a manager, imagine the excitement you’ll experience when no one takes the bait, you don’t get a new position, and you have to go back to work for the same beast, now highly insulted and inflamed.
One haunting aspect to all this employee hoarding: Why would a manager would hoard you? Is it because he is channeling The Punisher and feels that you deserve years of unrelenting torture? Or is your manager also bad at their job and truly believes you have value? Either way, it’s a leaky boat and I recommend you don’t rock it.
After all your screw-ups, if your manager still wants to hoard you, you’ve got a position — and a manager — you really want to keep.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.