They're great in their field. Dozens of missions, numerous arrests, hundreds of named species, or even a more mundane line of work. But they get a new boss or screw up one mission and suddenly, none of that matters. They now have to get another season of closed cases under their belt to get the boss to acknowledge their skill, or show how competent they are to the investigator, never mind the 48 murder cases they've solved in the last two years.
Think of it as a version of "yes, but what have you done from me lately?"
Compare Never Live It Down
for the opposite side, where they really did mess up badly enough or spectacularly enough that it overshadows the numerous accomplishments. Contrast Dude, Where's My Respect?
where everyone is self centered - you killed the dragon, great, now run this chicken over to Steve.
Live Action TV:
- Rick Castle spent three seasons working in the NYPD only for a new captain to attempt to kick him out, necessitating another call to the mayors office. No mention is made of his efforts in cases the previous seasons; catching serial killers, defusing a dirty bomb, etc. Half a season in, they're still worrying that if the mayor turns out to be crooked and resigns, he'll be out too.
- On Flashpoint it gets subverted when they're debriefed by an internal investigator after stopping a spree killer. The investigator questions everyone's competency and actions, but it later turns out that she just has a beef with the team leader.
- Psych: Every week Shawn solves, or helps the police solve, seemingly intractable cases using strange methods. And every week, he gets identical hostility from Lassiter, firm skepticism from Da Chief and complete reluctance from Jules.
- Gus points this out in the season four finale after Da Chief calls one of Shawn's theories "nonsensical." As he says, "You know, I think our track record speaks for itself."
- Usually averted in Nikita, but there are still a few too many instances where the loyalty and competency of people that have solidly proven both occurs. Justified, since as a spy drama there's an awful lot of back stabbing.
- The Black Templars comic has the initiate's mentor be killed in battle. When assigned to a new one, he outright tells him nothing he did under the old one matters and they'll start anew from scratch. However, as this is Warhammer 40K, and the Black Templars are one of the stricter Space Marine Chapters, it's entirely justified (the initiate himself doesn't mind).
- In an episode of The Mighty B! an ice cream man gets pissed off at Bessie because she reported him for missing a stop sign to his manager, which put him in extremely hot water. Apparently his 10 years of experience didn't count for much.
- There's a famous saying regarding Hollywood that "you're only as good as your last picture."
- Benedict Arnold felt like this was the case for him, and there's a good deal of evidence for that view.