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. 🙂