In the immortal words of Beyonce, you shouldn’t ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable. She has a point; thinking you’re irreplaceable leads to you becoming complacent, and your actions, once you think you’re the best thing ever, can lead to your doom, whether it’s a job or a relationship. Then again, that song did come out ten years ago and things have changed since then, such as the fact that you can make yourself irreplaceable to your employer... at least temporarily. It might be risky to think of yourself in terms of "irreplaceable", but you can definitely make yourself "less replaceable".
If your working life consists of sitting in the office from 9 to 5, watching the clock and making no extra effort, then you’re probably pretty replaceable - or it’s possible that 9 to 5 just isn’t for you. Irreplaceable people gain that status by answering "what would the company look like if they hired someone better than you?" with a cocky "there is no one better than me." There probably is, somewhere, but they’ve taken steps to make sure that there aren’t many of them out there.
What do those people do to make themselves less replaceable? These things, for a start:
1. Never Sit Back And do Nothing
It’s believed that on average employees are only actually productive for three out of the five working days of the week, when they should be using those other days to take on extra tasks, help their coworkers, or find ways to improve themselves. That’s two whole days that they’re essentially doing nothing but be a body in a chair that could easily be replaced rather than using that time productively.
This can be done in two ways:
- Don’t rush to finish things. Don’t be a perfectionist who takes ten times longer than you need to, but don’t rush to get to the next thing. Slowing down and taking the time to truly think about what we’re doing is when we start to think of ways it might be done better. Take the next step - convincing your boss that your idea is a good one - and you’re shaping the company in ways that can make you irreplaceable.
- Do work that matters. When you run out of work to do, remember that the one thing they always leave out of the job description but always holds true is "make your boss’s job easier." With that in mind, don’t rush to fill your time with menial tasks; go and get yourself things to do that will actually make a difference. Everything your supervisor can delegate to you, is something else they don’t have to d,o and something that can help you be noticed as an employer with initiative, not a robot who executes orders.
2. Remember That Attitude is as Important as Ability
In your circle of friends you probably (I promise I won’t tell) have some people that you like a little bit more than the others. Why? It’s likely because those are the ones with a positive attitude, who greet you with "isn’t life great?" rather than "ugh, my coffee was a bit cold this morning."
Those kinds of attitudes, and people’s reaction to them, don’t change when it comes to the workplace and how your coworkers and superiors see you. While you don’t want to be kept on as the office clown, you also don’t want to be so miserable that no one wants to be around you - because that would likely make you to be the first one they shove out the door at the earliest opportunity.
Like it or not, your attitude has an effect on the attitudes of those around you, and you have a duty not to make them feel bad. Make yourself irreplaceable in their eyes by being a great person to have around, who not only asks "how are you?" but follows it up with real questions about their lives.
3. Be a Team Worker
While it’s good to be able to work alone, it’s just as important to be able to work with others, whether it’s because you need to or because you’ve taken the time out of your day to make yourself useful to them. If your coworkers feel like they can come to you for help, you have a valuable skill, or developed a relationship with someone who is crucial to the department’s work, then your boss may just start to see you as irreplaceable.
Every time you learn something new, you’re improving yourself and improving how you can help your company. If you can make sure to be the go-to person for a particular skill no one else has, or no one else is as good at, then you can make yourself that much more difficult to replace; why go to the effort to train someone new when they already have you?
When something is a team effort, everyone should recognize it as a team effort. Football games may have MVPs, but they celebrate together and acknowledge that they worked together; at the same time, when they lose, they know that they need to improve as a team. It’s the same in your office: make sure to praise everyone when you all do well, but be prepared to accept that you’re equally accountable when things go wrong and don’t start trying to pin blame on someone else. They will appreciate the honesty, your boss will appreciate the lack of backstabbing, and it all relates to my previous point regarding attitude.
4. Understand the Bigger Picture
Take a step back for a moment: you might understand your responsibilities, but do you know why you’re doing them? Do you know what was done before you started your part, and do you know what happens next? If the answer is no, you should change it. You can help yourself stand out by being the one your boss remembers as the one who cares enough to find out about their place in the company, and once you understand your role in the company’s vision, you can make yourself more valuable.
If you try to find out your role, or the company’s vision, and there doesn’t seem to be a concrete answer, then make it your job to make it clear. Not only does this make it really clear that you’re invested in the company’s future, but it’s valuable face-time with the boss: too many employees avoid their boss when they should be working closely with them and making them an ally.
This is also related to the difference between doing something as a job or as a career; if it’s your career, you will care about trying to do as well as possible. You’ll share in your company’s vision, and that will show in the quality of your work. People working at something they want to make their career, who are fighting to make themselves known and move up in the industry, are the ones who are going to put in the work to make themselves irreplaceable.
5. Invest in Yourself, and Get Your Company to Invest in You
Consider the difference in your attitude towards things your parents bought you as a child and things you’ve bought yourself. When you broke the walkman your parents had bought, it wasn’t as important as when you broke something expensive you had bought for yourself. It isn’t a great attitude, but it’s true.
Take advantage of any seminars and classes your company provides, and request that they pay for you to take on other training courses to improve yourself. If you keep learning, then you keep improving and so make yourself someone they want to keep on, and if they’re actually paying for it, then they’ll be even less inclined to want to throw away what they paid good money for - you’ve made yourself more irreplaceable.
6. Know What Makes You, You
So, you’ve decided you want to be irreplaceable. Do you actually know what relevant qualities you possess? We’re all individuals, and we all bring our own thing to the table - what is your unique thing that makes you special, and how can you use it to influence your irreplaceability? Take some time to know the answers to those questions and make a conscious decision to build your brand, show your passion, and make yourself truly important to your bosses. As you already know, the more passionate you feel about something, the more energy you put into it, and the better you become.
See Also: Maintaining a Positive Attitude at Work
Those are some of the ways you can change your attitude towards your work to make yourself irreplaceable, or at the very least much more difficult to replace. Unfortunately, the longer you’ve been in a position, the harder you might find it to change things now, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible - make the effort to talk to a different person, even in a different department. Find out what they do and how it relates to you and how you could change what you’re doing to make their life easier. Once you’ve helped one person, you may just find that your attitude changes and it’s that much easier to help the next person.
Do you think you’re irreplaceable? Do you have other tips on how to make yourself irreplaceable? Let us know in the comments section below.