indispensability and value

I had a realization when I started my current job: I don’t want to be indispensable.

For a very long time, I wanted to be indispensable, where things would come to a halt if I weren’t there or if I hadn’t left detailed instructions behind. I wanted to be so important to a company or a project that work absolutely required my expertise and my presence. I thought that was a sign of value, that it meant I mattered.

But now, I don’t want to be indispensable. It seems to be a sign of arrogance to the point of irresponsibility and disregard for the well-being of an organization to be indispensable. I want to be valued and to train others to do my job, so that I have the freedom to take a vacation, or even (gasp) leave, somewhere down the road. I care about the team I’m on and want them to succeed, with or without me. What I want is to be valued, to be respected for the skills, knowledge, and ideas I bring, and to be regarded as a positive force on our team.

However, we have a new tester on our team, and I’m training her. Though I know I really want her to succeed and be a partner with me, I still feel a little threatened, like… I’m no longer required. Even though I’ve been thinking these ideas, about the tension between indispensability and value, and coming to regard them as separate concepts, I still feel like they are the same thing, like the best way to be valued is to make myself indispensable.

I actually talked with the new woman about this, so that she understands that if I start to sound a bit territorial or a bit fussy, it’s not about her, but about me, and she’s welcome to confront me about it. We’ll see how I react if she does confront me. 🙂

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