Tag Archives: curse

The Curse of Competence

When I was working in the corporate world, I posted the following quote on my office door for all to see:

“Lack of preparation on your part does NOT constitute an emergency on my part.”

It was (because I hate conflict) a passive aggressive attempt to dissuade my less than buttoned up colleagues from badgering me about helping them meet a looming deadline that they had days if not weeks to finish.

Because of my natural OCD tendencies, I always had my work finished, polished and ready to go prior to the deadline. If you asked for 3 great branding concepts, I gave you 6. If you wanted rough doodles, I’d bring in tight sketches and a mood board ready to send to the illustrator for production. Unlike grammar school P.E. class where I was always the last one to get chosen for the team, I was now in my element and I was excelling. Life was good. Until it wasn’t.

One day (after working at the same firm for 12 years) I got called into my manager’s office for a closed-door meeting. (Never a good sign.) I was told that I needed to not excel so much because my abilities were upsetting my colleagues because I was outshining them. I was dumbfounded. I repeated what was being told to me out loud because I simply couldn’t comprehend it. “You mean to tell me that you want me to do less than what I am capable of so that the under achievers can feel better about themselves?”  Silence. “So, instead of encouraging my coworkers to up their game you want me to throw mine?” Crickets.

Then just a simple, “Yes.”

That’s when I learned that I was cursed. My colleagues wanted my help to bail them out of their last-minute jams (because they were socializing when they should have been working) and my managers wanted me to downplay my skills to make the rest of the team “feel better”.

Today, I read an article about an economics professor teaching his students about the downfall of Socialism. He stated, “When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they worked for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”

I think the same applies to the work place, or at least advertising.