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Monday, January 18, 2016

Make Yourself Dispensable



Do you go to work with the intention of making yourself indispensable or dispensable?

Are you frustrated at not advancing in your field--feeling that you're up against a ceiling, your potential isn't tapped, feeling stagnant and non-industrious?

Consider going to work each day to make yourself dispensable. Isn't this contrary to conventional wisdom you may say. Not necessarily I say. After all, perhaps conventional wisdom is having done something in the wrong way for a long time.

If you have these feelings, I'm willing to bet you may go to work with the intention of making yourself indispensable.  Before I address why this strategy may not be optimal for you in the work place, let's look at the correlate--making one's self dispensable.

To make one's self dispensable is to freely share one's knowledge and skills. To teach what you know. To elaborate, guide and coach those around you. Individuals who have this attitude tend to be open, engaging, participatory and valued. 

But, what about my job security you say. You're asking me to undermine my job security so that a greenhorn who comes to know what I know and can do what I do will take my job. 

My answer is, yes.

But, I counter, individuals who make themselves dispensable are never stagnant. They are always in a continuous mode of learning--from peers, the system, the industry at large. Through a commitment to being dispensable they advance their personal brand, acquire new skills and new knowledge. Their value increases over time rather than stagnates or erodes.  Yes, there comes a day when they can no longer be in an accustomed position, but that's because their ceiling is high and they've advanced to new opportunities.

Sometimes those opportunities crosses professional disciplines--crosses siloes.  Such is the power of making one's self dispensable.

Related Post: Fail Your Way to Success

By correlate, those who work with the intention of making themselves indispensable tend to be guarded, protective and insular with their knowledge and skill sets. They share on a "need-to-know" basis. They rarely elaborate on knowledge, methodology, perspective and they rarely coach those around themselves. Such an individual may perceive that this strategy creates job security, but in reality they are creating their own glass ceiling. A glass ceiling against which their heads soon bump. A glass ceiling with sequelae of job dissatisfaction, frustration, and stagnation. Such an individual may look to external explanations for that glass ceiling. Yet, it may not be gender, race, creed or "secret handshake" factors which create the glass ceiling but, rather, one's own strategy to be indispensable.

I go to work everyday to teach those around me what I know. I would see it as a high personal accomplishment if I'm no longer in my current roles because I have made myself dispensable.  I am secure in knowing that in such a circumstance, I would have advanced to other roles--roles which I may not be able to even conceive of today. With a strategy of working to make myself dispensable, I don't fear the future, I know the future. And that future is bright!

When you work to make yourself dispensable, you achieve being indispensable.

By Rajesh Harrykissoon, MD
Certified Physician Executive