On Being Indispensible

I’ve always had a theory that no one is truly indispensable to a company. There will always be someone else to take over your job so this self-fulfilling prophecy is as much brag as fact.

I worked with a man who was responsible for purchasing materials for the construction project. He took his job seriously, which can be a good thing. I think all of us should strive to give all of the effort we can when working. The company pays us to work. The line is drawn when the job becomes your life.

This purchasing agent was that way. He bragged he hadn’t had a vacation in something like ten years. I wondered how anyone could go that long without a vacation. This guy was years older than me, probably in his fifties. Being a young twenty-something employee at the time, I only had two weeks of vacation each year and never had a day left over by the end of the year. This guy had probably twenty years with the company, which equated to four or five weeks of vacation. And he took none of it? I wondered why the company didn’t have a vacation donation policy. I’d have loved to have just one extra week.

Finally this guy took a vacation. I guess his wife had had enough. Fayetteville, North Carolina, while close to the Smoky Mountains and the Atlantic coast, didn’t have much to offer within the city. A military town, home to the 101st Airborne and Fort Bragg, outside of strip clubs, the city had little to offer non-military folks.

He was gone for about two weeks. And unbelievable as it may sound, we trudged on without him. Someone else, an underling, took over his responsibilities, purchasing our materials, making payments and whatever else he did. The sun rose in the east and set in the west like normal. When he returned, he couldn’t believe we had been able to survive without him.

The flip side of this is the worker who feels another co-worker is invaluable. Certainly STEMs develop a certain expertise and specialty over the course of their careers and if a company isn’t careful, that expertise can be a crutch. A reliance on one person without providing a shadow or secondary layer of expertise can cripple a program if the expert decides to leave.

Share your knowledge. It’s the smart thing to do for both the company and you.

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About stemzandroses

I'm an engineer and writer with a built-in need to share my nearly 40 years of experience working in a male-dominated field with the rest of the world.
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