Stepping away from the very serious previous post, I’m ranting on something much less intense today.
I was chatting with a coworker the other day and we got to talking about being irreplaceable in a work environment. I learned the fallacy of being truly irreplaceable many many years ago. In a previous job, I literally was the only person who could do my job. If I wasn’t there and the shit hit the fan, I got the call to come fix it. It made vacations, time off, sick days, etc very rough. At the time, I didn’t have a realistic view of my skill sets. I didn’t have much education and considered myself unskilled. I didn’t realize the potential and talent of my raw skills. I worried I’d be replaced by someone smarter. It wasn’t until I started realizing how good I was at certain things that I began to question my need to be irreplaceable.
When I started said job, I ended up throwing out the tracking system of the person I was replacing. Said person was also training me. It just seemed overly tedious and not very effective. Without realizing it, my way turned a full time job into a 2-3 day a week part time gig. And while I didn’t go part time, it gave me time to continue learning and growing with the company. As I grew with the company many of my inherent skills lying dormant got used and developed, organizing being one of them. I never really considered myself a very organized person. Growing up the way I did, why would I? lol But, I apparently had the knack for it. And when presented with a need to manage a lot of different data, resources, and systems I got jolted into using it. Things that came a bit naturally to me (or thru a modicum of self-educating) seem to be beyond others. I was honestly surprised that my simple organization skills seemed so advance to many of my coworkers then. Even looking back on it know I giggle. It began to teach me I wasn’t as unskilled or replaceable as I thought.
When I left the company I managed a whole dept and everyone of my employees knew what I knew. I never once felt threatened by their knowledge or skills. If one of them had been promoted beyond me I would have been ok with it as well. Learning about myself empowered me to hope for that in my fellow workers. While it happened much less than I would have liked, I enjoyed seeing someone develop better work skills. Ironically, when I left they actually split my job into two. Even with the knowledge, my underlings couldn’t seem to pull it off. I think because it took more than just raw skill. I had a good work ethic and I cared about my job and its affect. I did my job and I did it well. I also was fortunate enough to be blessed with being a quick study, especially when I enjoy a subject or skill. I’ve become a bit complacent in that area these days as my life is much more settled. Being on this new project has shown me it’s still there though. I’m already 10 steps ahead of the rest of the group. And that is not a brag at all. They are all intelligent folks.1 On the flip side, it does sometimes cause a little friction. There have already been a few awkward episodes when one or both of the project managers would suddenly come to understand something I’d been saying for days or weeks. The fact I don’t gloat or have attitude about it makes it very easy to get past though.
Back to the point, IMO being irreplaceable is not job security, it is job dependence. Hording knowledge often alienates coworkers, especially if they can tell what you’re doing. And let’s face it, they often can. There is more to securing your place than trying to make yourself the only person who can accomplish a skill or job.
- On a side rant, Apple guy excelled at being a quick study as well. He was that much further ahead of me at it. It was one of the qualities I always liked in him. [↩]