The Beauty of Being Replaceable

At each job interview, performance review, and salary negotiation, we strive to prove the unique value we bring to an organization. We work hard to get a place on the team, and then we work tirelessly to keep our place in the organization (or improve it).

No one wants to appear replaceable.

It is often overlooked, but there are great reasons to be replaceable.

First, when you train someone else on your responsibilities, you are likely to receive dozens of questions about how and why you do things a certain way. Perhaps you’ve been in a routine for so long, you have forgotten to look for more efficient solutions. Additionally, when someone else is exposed to your job duties, they often have new insight into ways you can work together. Like on a job rotation, each individual becomes more aware of how the actions they take affects other parts of the business.

Second, mentoring another individual is a wonderful way to give back to your organization and help build another person’s career. As you train a team member on your responsibilities, you’re helping them expand their skill set and improve their resume. You’re doing more than giving someone a list of action items, you’re giving them a primer for a future career opportunity. It’s an honor and a privilege to mentor someone else.

Next, occasionally, you need to take time for yourself to recharge. If you choose not to train your coworkers to support your job duties, then you’ll spend 2 weeks before your vacation working 80-hour weeks to prepare for your time off. Then, when you return, you’ll be rewarded with an overflowing inbox and a handful of fires to extinguish. If it takes that much work to prepare for a planned outing, imagine the impact on the business for an unexpected leave. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I don’t have time to be sick” or “I hope that relative doesn’t pass away soon because I don’t have time to take off for a funeral” then it’s time to transfer your knowledge.

Finally, being irreplaceable also means immobile. The danger with being the only person who knows how to do a job means you could box yourself into that job for life. Being irreplaceable isn’t always a good thing. Sure, everyone wants job security, but no one wants to be stuck in one job with limited compensation growth.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but being replaceable isn’t a bad thing. Being replaceable means you can enjoy work/life balance without stressing that the office will have to shut down. It means you’re helping to develop the next team of leaders in your organization. And it also means you could be replaced as you move up the career ladder to new opportunities. The goal is to be someone who is replaceable in a role, but indispensable to the organization as a whole.