Why Job Performance is Mostly Unrelated to Job Security

On my job security post last week, one commenter noted that they were surprised to see that ‘job performance’ was not on the list of 4 key pillars to job security. It was a keen observation that I thought was worth going into detail on, because I had intentionally left it off of my list. It has been drilled into most of our heads that performance is the only thing that matters. Call me crazy, but at its highest evaluation, I think it may be only the 5th most important contributing factor to job security.

What Job Performance CAN Do

Job performance can help you ascend in your career faster, all else being equal, and potentially earn you a higher income. And everyone needs to hit a low bar level of performance to keep a job. Additionally, when apples are compared to apples and a business downsizes, but doesn’t cut all jobs, a high performer stands a better chance of sticking around than a poor performer. However, on its own, performance guarantees very little when it comes to job security versus the other pillars of job security. It is an island unto itself. I’ll explain.

job performance

Why Performance Means (almost) Nothing to Job Security


If you have a job that is not location dependent, job performance will not protect you. As an example, let’s say you work in an office in San Francisco as a software developer. Management is looking to cut costs and they have found a team in India that can do the same work as your team, but at one-tenth of the cost. It doesn’t matter if you are twice the performer as your U.S. based colleagues, your job was not location dependent (meaning it could have been performed anywhere in the world). You lost your job (and all of your colleagues did too), while somewhere an average performing policeman or firefighter kept theirs. Locale dependence trumps performance.


I have worked with a number of people that are great at their jobs, but you could never see them ascending to an elite level of leadership (aka ‘the protected business class’). At the same time, I have seen lower to moderate performers with great communications skills quickly climb up the corporate ladder. The ability to communicate, be liked, and inspire will always trump core job performance.

Scarce Skill Set:

Do you know of any average electricians, doctors, dentists, or plumbers that have been ‘laid off’? I can’t think of any. But we all know a super sales rep., accountant, or general business manager that has. Scarcity trumps performance.

Trends and Economic Forces:

If you’re an average performing nurse, it would be hard for you to lose or not find a job over the next few years. If you’re a high-performing manufacturing factory line worker, I can’t tell you the same. Performance can only go far in saving your job from a sinking sector. Being an average performer in the right place at the right time trumps being the right person in the wrong place every time.

Don’t Get the Wrong Idea

Don’t use my opinion here as a permission slip to slack off at work! Obviously, you need to do your job and do it well. And you should take pride in a job well done. Performing well never hurts your employability. If members of your team are on the chopping block, I’d rather be considered as a strong performer than a poor one, all else being equal. At the same time, performance is never a guaranteed ticket to job security, and if you really want to guarantee it for yourself, you need to consider the true pillars of job security.

Job Performance Discussion:

  • Where do you think job performance ranks compared to the other ‘pillars’?
  • Have you seen any examples that validate or refute my points?

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