When you think of your role as an employee within an organization, how dispensable are you really relative to the people you interact with? With these relationships there exists a degree of dependence or a “dispensability factor” which, for a newborn and their mother would be 100%, and then drops to 0% for total strangers. It is influenced by such things as likability, trust and reliability.
It reminds me of a friend who was responsible for a business but reporting to a boss overseas. Almost irrespective of results, so long as the dispensability factor remained pretty high both ways, everything was good. But them something happened and there was a shift and soon it became obvious that the boss’s factor was reducing. This led to a degree of isolation, non-involvement with key decisions and ultimately to the realization that he had in fact become dispensable. A few months later, his boss showed up unannounced and told him he was being laid off. Thankfully my friend had seen the warning signals and had put plans in place for his next move and was ready when he got the news.
The key message from this story is that you should be regularly assessing the dispensability factor in all your working relationships. This also allows you to see yourself from other people’s perspective and gives you time to do something about it. It may not be as dramatic as the above and very often, if noticed early, can be resolved by just speaking candidly to somebody. But how often have we heard people saying, “I never saw it coming?” and they get blindsided. In the case of my friend above, he saw it coming and had plans in place for his next move but more importantly, he had also worked on the relationship with his old boss so that when it came to be let go, he was well looked after.
In conclusion, if you find yourself in a situation where your dispensability factors are not where you would like them to be with the people that matter, firstly ask yourself what you can do to make it better? If you are not seeing any improvements, start thinking about what might be next. Unlike a mother and newborn, there might come a time when none of us are indispensable.