Are You Truly Indispensable At Work–Or Just Fooling Yourself?

At the end of the day, you are either working to make yourself indispensable or working to make yourself obsolete.

Are You Truly Indispensable At Work–Or Just Fooling Yourself?


Committing to make yourself indispensable is one of the most important steps you will take toward being successful and living a fulfilling life. Making yourself indispensable is not about position, power, or ego. It is about taking charge, overcoming obstacles, and achieving your dreams at work, at home, and in your life. Making yourself indispensable is made up of six key spokes: being purpose driven, playing big, being adaptable, being we centered, being priority focused, and valuing others. Ultimately, making yourself indispensable is about committing to a bigger purpose than yourself and making a meaningful difference to your organization, your team, your family, and your community.
Making yourself indispensable is for everyone, regardless of your position, role, or lot in life. Today’s business environment doesn’t allow for satisfaction with the status quo. It requires constant growth and change. Being indispensable means that you are adaptable, learning and growing with your organization as it changes and evolves. You remain valuable to your organization, to your team, and to the important people in your life. If you aren’t changing with your organization, in essence you are becoming obsolete. So at the end of the day, you are either working to make yourself indispensable or working to make yourself obsolete.
Have you ever known someone who acted indispensable when they weren’t? Some do this in the form of loud “notice me” or “bow down to me” behavior or in the form of quietly expecting others to give them everything without having to work for anything. In either case, these people don’t give as much as they take, which is the ultimate demise of true indispensability. They are annoying at best and destructive at worst. Let’s explore the makeup of those faking their way to feeling indispensable so that we make sure to avoid this initial trap on the path to being truly indispensable.
Using power and force to make yourself indispensable is popular with people who have strong egos, financial wealth, or positional power. They make themselves indispensable by keeping others unsafe, generally through threat. If they have an aggressive nature, they will yell at others or even use physical force and fear to make people do what they want. In a beverage manufacturing plant in Canada that hired me to build the management team, one manager would yell at his direct reports so loudly when they made a mistake that it could be heard throughout the plant, causing humiliation and embarrassment for his team. They worked in fear of their manager until they banded together and rebelled. In our personal lives, our spouses and children can feel the same fear when our approach to communication involves emotional or physical mistreatment. The result is hurt feelings, shame, and sometimes abuse.
To act indispensable, some people and organizations use their financial advantage to evoke fear by threatening to take away people’s livelihood–whether a job, a home, or the ability to get a loan. Finally, using positional power is one of the most common means of faking indispensability and is most prevalent in the workplace. Employees witness fake indispensability when managers micromanage, dismiss their ideas, or worse, take credit for the solutions implemented by their team.
The second way people create “fake indispensability” is through entitlement. It arises from overprotective parents who never want their children to feel bad about themselves, an education system that doesn’t push its students to excel or gives everyone a passing grade regardless of their test score, or a group that encourages people to feel entitled by. People with an entitled attitude believe they are indispensable based on their mere existence. As long as they are breathing and taking up space at work, they should be paid–even when they aren’t producing results. And worse, if they ever start breathing hard (even without satisfactory results), they expect a bonus. Thinking we are the best when we are not is the surest and quickest path to dispensability.
No matter how smart you are, how physically strong you are, what religion, race, or creed you come from, what your financial status is, what abilities and talents you possess, or what positional power you have over others, you are not indispensable unless you use your gifts and principles in service to other people’s success, improvement, or survival.

Adapted from Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal
by Mark Samuel, by arrangement with Portfolio / Penguin,
Copyright (c) Mark Samuel, 2012.

[Image: Flickr user Tapio Kaisla]