Whenever I take a holiday, amid all the fun and games, I always find myself worrying about work in a quiet moment. My ‘Indispensability quotient’ keeps knocking on my mind’s door and I am tempted to get drawn into work. I either tell myself that “it’s really important…” or “they need me to…” so I need to make the call, check my email, review the presentation… If I am perfectly honest, it is probably more about me trying to convince myself that “I am really important…”
I know I am not alone in this thought because I just spoke to a friend who said she went through the same thing while on maternity leave. The self-doubt and worry were high even as she enjoyed her time at home. Would she be replaced? Would the organisation realise they did not need the role she played? and many other questions knocked at her door during sleepless baby-care nights.
Nobody is indispensable. Time and time again, I have been reminded and shown ample proof that the show goes on. A few weeks’ vacation is just a small example of how soon the vacuum gets filled. Moving roles or moving organisations is a bigger vacuum creator and here too the band plays on, sometimes the song changes. Sometimes the music changes, but the performance continues.
This is both a sobering and reassuring thought at the same time. On the topic of indispensability, I think the key is to focus on the ability part of it. By this I mean, if any of you like me are fretting over their dispensability then turning one’s attention to their unique ability is a good antidote. All of us are good at some things and possibly amazing at a few. We are blessed with innate talents and figuring out what they are and putting them to good use is a superpower.
Be where you are wanted not needed. The solution to stop asking the question “Was I missed?” is to find a place that values you for who you are not just what you do. I often say we are all “human beings” but we sometimes only focus on “human doings”. If you are lucky to have found a place like this, the show will go on (which is a good sign of a strong institution) and you will still be missed. Not because there was nobody to do your job when you were not around but because you are an important jewel in the organisational chain. The necklace is enhanced with your presence but able to still stay strong and well-strung together even if you are not around.
Another example related to this idea is to do with my Dentist. I require a dental check-up due to a chipped tooth. When I called for an appointment, I was told my dentist is out of the country for two weeks but I could get an appointment with another one. Luckily, I am not in pain, so I have decided to wait for him to come back. My comfort and trust in him and his knowledge of my case history are factors that played a role in that decision. The biggest reason is that he gives me confidence and I trust him. If I was in pain, on the other hand, I would have gone to another dentist. Or to put it another way, if I needed a dentist badly anyone qualified would have done it. But in this case, I had the luxury of time and I wanted to wait for “my dentist”. He has created an organisation where the show goes on while he is away. My needs were met even in his absence, but I wanted a consult with him and I will get that too.
Importance of soft power. This kind of sums up my piece on focusing on uniqueness. It’s not always about the qualifications only. Many well-qualified dentists could have attended to me. It’s also about the chair-side manner. The common taste in jazz we share and our love for a really good cup of coffee make me more comfortable with “my dentist”.
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