Early in my career I was given a piece of interesting advice. The advice came from an older man who had been at that company for many years. He told me, “You need to learn to hold back some of your knowledge and not share it with others so that management will see you as irreplaceable. You tend to share too much of your knowledge with other people. You should try and make yourself irreplaceable.” Hmm... I thought. Should I really believe him?
At the time he offered the advice, I was fairly new at the company and new in my position but I had jumped into it whole-heartedly. I determined a way we could re-engineer some of our processes and greatly improve the efficiency of the department so I pitched my idea to the department director and he liked it.
So there I was -- training the department in the new procedures and showing them how it would make their lives easier and help us increase efficiency. I taught them everything I had learned and every trick I knew to using the computer software system. That was when he offered me that interesting piece of advice.
Even though he was older and supposedly wiser, I blatantly disregarded his advice. Here’s why: I believed that if I always did my best to share my knowledge and help others around me, then I would also be helping myself. I figured if I wanted to move up in the company then I needed to make sure others could do my job so when a promotion opportunity came up, I was ready to take the job and there was someone ready to backfill my old position immediately. In fact, I made it a point whenenver I took a new position to create work documents that detailed the position, responsibilities, processes, deliverables, timing and just about everything you could think of -- so anyone could step into my role at any time.
I’m glad I didn’t listen to his advice about trying to make myself irreplaceable. After I had received a promotion I happened to remember his advice. The man who had offered the advice was still in his same position even though he had tried very hard for several promotions. Soon after, he was let go from the company -- management said it was because they just didn’t understand what exactly he did for the company.
The bottom line, it’s important that you understand your differentiators and what makes you unique and special to a company because that’s how you can increase your value. However, it’s not a wise move to try to be irreplaceable, because as the man who offered me that advice found out... everyone is replaceable.