Professional Development

Why Being Too Smart at Your Job is Bad Thing

Written by Guest Contributor

Being smart is a good thing, right? Well, maybe…

The truth is that even though being smart is a good thing for your career, there are downsides to being intelligent. It can foster resentment in colleagues and co-workers, and it can also lead to you taking unnecessary risks because of an inflated sense of your own abilities.

Here are just a few reasons why being too smart can actually work against you.

1. Greater workloads

When you’re known for being intelligent, you’ll be given extra tasks from your managers. This is good in a way, because you’re the person that they trust to get the job done, but it can also lead to you staying late at work or catching up with things over the weekend, whether you’re getting paid for it or not.

This is particularly common if you’re a decent writer, as Keith King from the AussieWritings service explains: “Once you’ve got a reputation for being a good writer, everyone from junior executives to the CEO will want you to proofread their emails. It can help you to get ahead, but it can also be very time consuming.”

2. More envy

If you’re known for your intelligence, it can make it difficult to befriend your co-workers. They may feel envious, both of your success and of your abilities. Because of this, it can be tricky to get along with them, and even when you manage to make friends, it can still lead to simmering resentment that bubbles up but doesn’t show on the surface.

3. Reduced promotion prospects

This might sound counterintuitive – after all, who wouldn’t want to promote an employee who’s shown intelligence and initiative? Unfortunately, it comes back to politics – if your boss has learned to rely on you, they might not want to lose a good subordinate. If a promotion is being discussed amongst different stakeholders, your boss might even argue against giving you the job.

On top of that, if your colleagues are jealous of your success as per our second point, this could have a knock-on effect for your promotion prospects. After all, the ability to work as a team is one of the most sought-after attributes for both graduates and long-term employees.

4. Higher expectations

Ultimately, if you’re known for being intelligent, you’ll make it more difficult for yourself because people will automatically assume that you’re able to do things. In fact, once you’ve earned a reputation for being intelligent, it’ll stick – and it can often lead to huge amounts of pressure from senior management. If you work as part of a team but you’re perceived to be the most intelligent, it’ll be you who gets hold accountable for performance.


Ultimately, being smart has its advantages, but if you want to succeed at work then you’ll need much more than basic intelligence. You’ll also need common sense and an ability to play the game – most offices have their own internal politics, and smart people tend to find themselves becoming a target.
Modesty is key. No matter how smart you are, there’s always something else for you to learn. Don’t allow your ego to get the better of you and focus instead on humility. It’ll make you even smarter in the long run – which will come in useful if you make yourself too invaluable and need to switch to a different company.
Smart is good – most of the time. Make it work to your advantage.


About author: Olivia is a journalist who always tries to see the bright side of things. She likes to inspire people in her writings and enjoy a mysterious beauty of twilight. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Guest Contributor