If there was ever a time to ask yourself this question, it’s now. I write this post as the status quo in the world is being severely disrupted by COVID-19 and the response of many of the world’s nations to limit its impact. I write this at a time where the complacency of many is going be their downfall.
The thing with complacency is that most of us don’t realise that we’re complacent until it’s too late. Many countries have not seen real hardship – be it war, famine, or an uncontrollable disease – in several generations. In the absence of hardship, trade and industry has boomed along with the wealth of those behind it.
True but unpopular statement: The younger generations (that’s us) have likely never been exposed to such tragedies and have been the beneficiaries of our parents’ and grandparents’ hard work for our entire lives. (Yes, this is a generalisation and your situation may be different, especially if you didn’t find yourself growing up in a first-world country. Bear with me.)
You may raise an eyebrow – or even be offended – at that statement, but ask yourself this: have you ever worked like your life or livelihood depended on it?
Sure, you’ve gotten yourself a job and gone to the office most days, patting yourself on the back for a hard day’s work as you leave the office at 5:01 pm. As you shut down your computer daily, you let out a yawn and a big sigh to make sure your colleagues recognise just how long a day you’ve had.
This is typical of those of us who are rooted in complacency. You’re not worried about losing your job, or you’re not worried about the consequences if you did lose said job.
And if you have worked like your life depended on it? Congratulations. You’re a long way ahead of many of us in terms of understanding what really matters.
In the last few weeks, the way we understand job security has been completely uprooted. Millions of people around the world have already lost their jobs, and there will likely be millions more who find themselves unemployed before this is all said and done. This will put pressure on most people, even those families who previously considered themselves well-off.
So let me ask you again: Are you indispensable?
Controlling your fate
It is true that millions of jobs will be lost and that what you do as an individual will likely not be able to mitigate that. It may even be true that you are one of the ones that lose your job. But it also may not be you. The actions you take and behaviours you exhibit at this time have more to do with the outcome than you might think.
The fact is that, for every business which is completely shutting up shop, there are likely a handful who are simply reducing capacity and/or pivoting to stay afloat. Odds are that you are in one of these businesses.
In the case of an organisation reducing capacity, there are inevitably redundancies. If you’re in one of these organisations and your organisation is struggling in these times, you may already be dreading the next phone call you get from your boss as they work through their list of unlucky names.
But how much of it has to do with luck?
Put yourself in the shoes of your boss. Who are leaders, faced with the necessary decision to reduce personnel in these times, going to get rid of first? You can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the nine-to-fivers who are just in it for the paycheck, because chances are they aren’t adding enough value to justify their costs in a crisis.
So I’ll ask once again. Are you indispensable?
Because even if you’re not a total slacker, if you aren’t indispensable you’re still exposed.
It’s not about what you do, but how you do it
While leaders are finding themselves having to make tough decisions to retrench many people, consider this: Of equal importance to leaders today is the need to retain their top talent.
The critical thinkers. The people with infectious energy. The best of the best. Those who are passionate about the work they do. The people who are always wanting to learn and try new things. The people who pour their hearts and souls into their work. The people who work as if their lives depended on it.
These are the people that leaders want to retain.
They’re the people that leaders want to retain because, now more than ever, there is a need to do more with less. Fewer people will need to manage more of the business. These people need to be retained because they will be the ones that keep the business alive and they will be the ones that are the best people to rebuild when the worst of this crisis is over.
I want to make one thing clear; very often, your worth to an organisation is not contingent on your job description. Yes, you may work in the part of the business that is most at risk now. Your job may become redundant, but that doesn’t mean you need to disappear along with it. If you’ve proven yourself to be an invaluable asset to your leaders, and they are able to keep the business running, it’s far more likely that they will find a way to keep you involved.
But only if you’re truly indispensable…
To the unlucky ones
Yes, it is true that in some cases you might find yourself out of luck even if you did crush your job on a daily basis; even if you were the best of the best and even if you did work every day as if your life depended on it. And if that has happened, or does happen to you, I’m truly sorry that you’ve had to go through that.
What I will say, is that if you’ve proven yourself to be indispensable – even in a case where everyone was dispensed of – you have to believe that it won’t be for long.
Make yourself truly invaluable and you’ll be at the top of the list of people being called for new opportunities that are presenting themselves. Leaders are almost always deeply affected by the decision to retrench people and you can bet that if there’s anything they can do to ease that burden and help you stay on your feet, they’ll be doing that. Don’t be surprised if their mate, who is hiring, rings you up before very long.
You reap what you sow
If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a job, now is the time for complacency to end.
Work to be the best person in your organisation, not because of what you do, but because of who you are and how you go about doing your job. Work every day to be the very last person your boss would want to let go of. Work so that it’s clear that you not being there would cost more than your monthly payout.
Ask yourself every day: “Am I indispensable?”
Go to work every day with the aim of making the answer to that question “absolutely”.
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