In tough times, you sometimes detect one particular word, repeated like an alarm-signal that reveals stress-symptoms requiring attention. The word I always hear in times like these, is ‘indispensable’. The feeling of indispensability has, in fact, quite a lot to do with the psychological need-to-be-needed, that is to say insecurity, and this tends to show up more in those of only average talent.
As a motivational speaker, I was once giving a series of lectures on organisational change at a small private airfield in the North of England, which was being upgraded into a local passenger terminal. For the catering department, this meant expanding from sixty covers up to nearly two hundred – in fact, crossing a line where a restaurant manager would need to employ a deputy and an assistant.
But this manager, not remarkable either for talent or dynamism, wouldn’t accept anyone new on his territory – a bad team-building error. As demand accelerated, he found himself working in a robotic manner, incapable of taking a ten-minute break because the feeling of indispensability was so strong. As an experienced stress consultant, I could see that he wasn’t coping with stress, and persuaded him to go for a medical check-up, which confirmed that he was heading for a bad breakdown.
He took two months out, and finally agreed to come back as deputy manager – a happier and more balanced individual, who found time to play golf a couple of afternoons a week. He found he wasn’t so indispensable after all!
Wise managers have always declared that everyone, without exception, is dispensable.
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