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Work Daze: Smarty Pants

Are you too smart for your job?

That’s the question on the table, and seeing as you are under the table, as usual, your initial response may follow along the lines of the answer provided by Fredo Corleone in “The Godfather”:

“I’m smart! Not like everybody says — like, dumb! I’m smart, and I want respect!”


Too bad Fredo never met Jessica Stillman, who is a writer for Inc. and the author of an article that could have saved the gangster from an early and violent downsizing.

“3 Signs You’re Too Smart for Your Job” is the title of the piece, which purports to help you with “that nagging urge to throw it all in and do something different.”

Why you would want to give up your position as the dimmest bulb in the corporate chandelier is beyond me, but to help determine who best wears the smarty pants at your workplace, Stillman offers assistance. After Stillman consulted consultant Liz Ryan, the founder and CEO of Human Workplace, the three signs were born.

“Problem, what problem?” is sign No. 1.

Ryan believes that it is important to learn new skills to evolve as a person and a worker. At a sufficiently smart job, she asserts, you’ll be surrounded by people who are more intelligent than you and who inspire you to “insist on regularly stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone.”


This is fuzzy thinking at best. You may want to stretch — for example, when you wake up from an afternoon nap in the supply closet — but you really don’t want to be pulled and prodded like Stretch Armstrong on steroids.

Your comfort zone may be a tiny house in a neighborhood of McMansions, but it is the place where you operate best. A sensitive person like you does not react well to change. Once you’ve mastered a difficult task, such as organizing your paper clips by size and color, you want to do the exact same thing, the same way, day after day after day.

If there’s something new to learn, you’ll learn it on “Sesame Street.”

Sign No. 2 is based on the realization that “no one is mentor material.”

“Hanging out with smart folks makes you smarter,” Ryan says. If you can’t look around your workplace and find someone from whom you could learn, you may be too smart for your job.

Or, say I, you may have stumbled on the absolutely perfect job for you.

Sure, you can follow her advice and ask yourself, “Whom do I spar with? Who stimulates me mentally at work? Whom do I look up to and learn from?” And if you do find such stimulating people, you know two things: You’re not too smart for your job, and you want to quit your job — stat!

A job should be a place you go to relax. You don’t want to spar with your co-workers. You want to gossip about your co-workers. As for being stimulated, that’s why you spend most of the time that you’re not napping playing “Candy Crush Saga.” Considering that you have achieved the perfect balance of gossiping and napping and goofing off, you don’t need people to learn from. You need people you can teach.

“No vision at the top” is sign No. 3.

“You can’t grow your flame working for someone who has no idea what a vision is or where to get one,” Ryan insists. If the leader cannot express a vision for your team, your department or your company, “then the scope for meaningful contribution is severely limited.”

She has a point. Or maybe not.

Putting aside the question of whether you have a flame and want it to grow into a conflagration, where is it written that you have to make a meaningful contribution? Who says you can’t be completely satisfied with the completely meaningless contribution you make now?

Certainly, you are smart enough to know that the last thing you want in your work life is a bunch of maniac managers running around with visions, especially if their visions are in conflict with your vivid visions of moving from a desk to a hammock, from industrial carpeting to a sandy beach, from toxic workplace coffee to fancy cocktails with tiny paper umbrellas.

If a meaningful job comes from measuring your contribution to the company, you want a job where the measure of your contribution is the depth of your suntan and the smart people surrounding you are parrots and lemurs.

No worries about being too smart for that job. It’s just perfect for you.

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


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