Indispensable Tom - Jolade

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No darling, the world doesn’t revolve around you, Ta da!

True story, I used to work with someone who would always tout how important he was to the organization, how he is untouchable and is to be revered no matter what he did. Why? Because he brings value to the table! His attitude is appalling to be honest but he does get the job done.

Left to him he was the real deal who turned things around in the unit, kept things afloat, quite impressive I must say. In the industry I work, turning a dead zone into a vibrant profitable venture is no easy feat. So the chip on his shoulder wasn’t exactly out of place. Give the man his accolades.

But he forgot something, no one is indispensable. It is only a function of time before someone else fills your role, they may struggle but it will be filled. Let’s just say his exit from the organization was an inglorious one. Was he missed? No!

Whilst this write up is not about fixing your attitude and treating people you encounter with dignity and respect, it won’t hurt to point it out that a bad attitude is like a flat tire, you cannot get anywhere with it. No matter how good and competent you may be, your relationship with people far supersedes.
Indispensable? You are never as important as you think.

Let that sink in, slowly.

It feels good to be a star. The person everyone points at as the yardstick for excellence and performance in the workplace. On the surface, making yourself indispensable makes sense. If they need you around, you will have greater job security. “Make yourself indispensable” is advice that’s probably been drummed into you by people you know, love and respect.

For some it is intentional. From time to time, someone will specifically desire to become indispensable. By withholding and monopolizing information, refusing to work with others, and being very territorial with his work, his projects or his processes. He is a self-proclaimed expert in the matter. He will sometimes go to the point of working in very complex ways on purpose and avoid documenting anything so that others can’t do his job.

It goes without saying that it is a very unhealthy practice that will cause an impact proportional to feed their ego. The danger doesn’t only reside in the know-how, but also overflows in the mindset of the person.

When you hear yourself saying things like; they cannot do anything without me if I am not present. The company will collapse should I decide to leave. No one else can do my job, yada yada. Then it is time to take a step back and reevaluation your position.

Is your self-worth and identity tied to the job?

Have you considered the risk of burnout?

How ultimately is this helping or hurting your career growth?

After a while, you will lose the untouchable effect. Those who make themselves indispensable on purpose are an imminent danger to their own job and to the company they work for. Be it voluntarily or not, it is not a behavior that is viable in the long term and needs to be corrected since nobody will gain anything by waiting for the situation to go from bad to worse.

The value of the indispensable is determined by how much it would cost if they leave.
In short, you will ultimately be replaced!

For others who find themselves becoming indispensable due to the great quality of work they churn out, it may become a trap.

Let me explain; Hearing from managers and colleagues how mission critical you are is the kind of positive reinforcement that leads you to keep doing what you’re doing. Soon, being seen as indispensable in your job becomes part of your work identity. And that’s when you’re deep in the danger zone without even realizing it.

Here are ways it becomes a trap: –

1. When you’re indispensable in a particular role or to a specific manager, you’re at risk of being pigeonholed. You shine so brightly in that one role that most people can’t imagine you doing anything else. And your manager relies on you so much that they won’t part with you. it becomes a problem when you are not being considered for other opportunities because management can’t just see you excelling anywhere else but where you are.

2. When you’re indispensable, you’re probably doing the same things you’ve always done. Or you’re making incremental improvements to an already-successful formula. As they say, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. Ultimately this will limit your future horizons. The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the les opportunities you’ll have to learn, stretch and develop new capabilities. And the less attractive you will be to people looking for the right person to take on that next level role and lead the team in a different direction.

To what extent are you developing yourself?

What you should strive for is to be essential, essentially excellent!

The fundamental difference with the description above is that while the indispensable wants to become useful to an extreme, the person trying to become essential aims at being ‘useless’. The essential person believes they should share their know-how and social skills with as many people as possible.

One must understand that essential people are fundamentally altruistic: they do what they do because it is the right thing to do. They generally expect nothing in return. Helping others, for them, is not an effort but a habit that’s encoded in their DNA. They share their knowledge because they consider that if it’s useful to them, it will be useful to everyone.

They are the employees that host links on general servers, files are kept on cloud and is accessible to other team members. Reports and findings are copied to all affected for continuity.

The essential person always aims for being completely useless. The goal is to help others help themselves. The essential person wishes to be who others grow beyond. Knowledge and skills are transferred to others so that they won’t need help anymore. The essential person creates other leaders without the fear of losing their own position. They are constantly self-improving and won’t get stuck in an unending circle.

The essential person, far from being a danger to the organization, inspires others to become better and surpass themselves and eases the daily pains by helping whoever needs it. To the point of creating new opportunities to help their surroundings with things, they had no idea they needed help with. The essential person is last on the list of “people to let go in time of crisis”.

The value of the essential person is determined by what they bring to others.

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