How to Become Irreplaceable at Work
Every ambitious professional dreams of becoming this powerful, knowledgeable, well-rounded and well-liked employee that the thought of their potential departure would make their employers weak at the knees. A lot of professionals already think they are, and might actually be irreplaceable. Sometimes though, the ones that think they possess all the powers to effectively run the company they work in are just simply mistaken. Instead, they’re disposable, know-it-alls, ignorant and highly disliked.
So, how do you become irreplaceable at work without risking becoming highly replaceable? This is tricky; In the Business category of YVOXS, we would tell employers to never let their employees become irreplaceable. Giving individual employees too much power and leverage means the company becomes dependable on the people, not the titles and positions they occupy. All other money-related strategies aside, what would happen if the star employee has an accident that makes them unable to work?
However, providing great rewards for hard working and talented employees is obviously a good strategy on a business level as well as personal. Showing gratitude for the time and effort put into the company in several ways such as verbal encouragement and monetary rewards can heighten the sense of positive culture in the workplace for the employees and help them feel valued.
This, the sense that you’re valued and appreciated, is precisely what we mean by being “irreplaceable”. If you’re here to learn how to become the master of emotional manipulation so that you can take long lunch breaks and paid leave without any repercussions, this article is probably not going to benefit you. This article, however, will give you some tips to help secure your employment and further your career.
Asking questions to your manager about your projects shows that you’re paying attention and taking the work seriously. Of course, the questions would have to be relevant. Avoid seeming incompetent by asking too many or obvious questions. Asking to make sure you understood the instructions correctly, or to get more details in order to do your job even better, shows that you want to produce great work, not just do the bare minimum.
Suggest new initiatives.
If you come across any tools or ideas that you think could add more productivity to yours and your colleagues’ work, suggest them. Doing so will show your employers that you’re actively seeking out ways to better the company and that you’ve got the company’s best interests. When doing this, it’s important to remember that your suggestions might not be embraced. Approach politely, and go prepared with some statistics to show how your new suggestion could positively affect the company. Word it in a way that it doesn’t put your managers in an awkward position of having to reject your idea. Don’t do this too often, and make sure that your suggestions are gold.
Be helpful to your colleagues.
Becoming irreplaceable at work doesn’t just happen by being liked by your managers. Your colleagues also have to agree that you’re valuable to them and the company. By being helpful to your colleagues when they need some help with work or even when they need to vent, you start to become an important part of their work life.
Share your knowledge.
Sometimes, the thought of sharing all that you know can feel like you’re not doing your hard work and experience justice. That’s especially the case when there are ill-meaning colleagues that want to take credit for your hard work. Most people have good intentions, though. And holding back something you know when asked can seem petty and unprofessional. When you spend some spare time training your colleagues on how to use simple functions to become more productive, it helps you to seem like a team player who’s trying to improve the company not just yourself.
Volunteer once in a while.
Volunteer your skills and time for your company once in a while – be it an event, a meeting that your colleagues or manager can attend, or even as little as keeping important guests company for a few minutes. By putting your hand up to help out, you’re showing that you want to be involved in things other than just your job at your company. And in a big company, this is a great way to show your face to some of the higher-ups that haven’t seen you before.
“Be helpful to your colleagues.”
Respect your own time.
Volunteering your time and helping out your colleagues is good. However, you need to have some balance in all of this. Doing too much for too many people will make you seem like you’re available for anything and everything, and you risk being walked all over. You might even get to a point where you realise that your colleagues or managers are volunteering your time without asking. Try not to feel that kind of disrespect when you’ve been working to make yourself feel valued and important. Instead, selectively giving away your time and expecting others to respect your personal and professional life can make a bigger impact when you do volunteer. It becomes more noticeable that you’re helping out despite your busy schedule.
Do your job.
All the above strategies to help you become valuable in the eyes of your employers will not mean anything if you don’t actually do what you’re getting paid to do. In fact, you’ll just look like a time-wasting, nosy, know-it-all. Do your job, and do it well.
Produce more than expected.
Doing your job is great – but do you ever exceed the expectation? Of course, the most obvious answer to becoming irreplaceable at work is in the amazing work that you produce. If you’re not a naturally brilliant thinker and you can’t seem to think outside of the box to produce something awesome on the spot, then focus on attainable skills. Work on your attention to detail and time management skills and deliver quality work faster.
Do things before asked.
Make a game with yourself and count how many times your manager gives you work or asks questions like “Have you done…”, “Can you do…” or “Did you finish…”. An irreplaceable and valuable worker doesn’t need to wait to be asked or told what to do. By now, you should be used to your work and your manager’s standards. Do the work in anticipation of being asked to do it. You don’t have to have finished everything when your manager asks. You just need to be able to say, “Already on it!” Let your manager walk away thinking you’re onto it and they don’t need to check up on you. Over time, you will have created an understanding in your manager that you’ve got their back and that you don’t need much of their time. When their job becomes easier because of your work ethics, the thought of ever having to hire someone in place of you will freak them out.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Working hard is of course a great way to become irreplaceable at work, but are you risking your health as well as your likeability by only focusing on your work? By just being a workaholic, you might risk becoming unapproachable and boring. Have great manners and follow the rules of work etiquette. Have some social time with your colleagues and crack a joke or two with your managers. Smile and let people feel a sense of happiness when they’re around you. At the end of the day, even if employers are looking for hard working professionals, having a great personality goes a long way.
Don’t be too humble.
Doing amazing work and not letting anyone notice it or praise you won’t help you get ahead. This is especially the case if your company is large with several departments and hundreds of employees. Will your colleagues and manager even notice that you’re helping the company advance and get better results? Tell people about your achievements and when you’re congratulated for a piece of work, take it and embrace it. However, don’t celebrate every little achievement as you want to show that you have high standards in your work. For a remarkable professional like you, producing high quality work is a daily accomplishment.
Ask for feedback.
If no-one is putting their hands up to praise you for being the amazing employee that you are, ask for it. Even a manager who is consumed by their work that they couldn’t notice your efforts would be able to have a one-on-one conversation with you and acknowledge the work that you’ve been doing. Great managers know that underappreciated workers are the first to become disgruntled. So, if they haven’t been volunteering their appreciation for you, then give them a chance to reflect and give you constructive feedback in their own words. Remember though, it’s important to take negative feedback on the chin. You might have thought you were doing the best work compared to all those other lazy workers, but you could be wrong. Practice emotional regulation and be prepared to hear something you don’t want to.
Don’t try to be irreplaceable.
Your employers (probably) have been in the workforce for a few years or decades. The ones that are in the position to decide whether or not you’re absolutely critical and valuable to their company have most likely seen it all. They’ve seen all kinds of hard workers, kiss-asses and lazy employees. This means that they can most likely see through your bullshit if you’re doing things not because you’re naturally talented and committed, but because you’re working towards a completely separate goal. The important thing is to show your dedication, patience and talent, and let your hard work shine naturally. Manipulating a situation and being too politically savvy will not do you any favours in the long run.