Indispensable vs Important

Editor’s note – I read this posting on LinkedIn and contacted the author, Kathy Morris, to request permission to publish on LLRX, which she granted. The posting succinctly addresses a critical question, both for those who have secure employment as well as those who do not. Many of us have been thrown rather abruptly into what can described as an alternative universe – the federal government is in upheaval with unprecedented job and benefit cuts at most agencies, complemented by a narrowing of job opportunities in many sectors for seasoned professionals.  I read Kathy’s guidance and reacted immediately – yes, her advice is accurate, timely and valuable.

Readers of LLRX are truly important in their respective work places – you provide your customers, colleagues, organizations and the public with a range of high impact services – in legal, technology and knowledge services arenas to name a few. Your efforts directly contribute to your organization’s respective work product as well to a productive ecosystem of learning and innovation within communities of best practice, higher education, to the public, and not least to the benefit of your peers.

Your work, your voices, your commitment and your integrity are Important. Thank you for reading and for supporting our communities and our professions in a time of turbulence and challenge.

These times offer us all many positive, proactive opportunities to demonstrate that our ideals are our better selves.


Every Monday, there’s a new Q and A post on the Career Corner blog on my legal career counseling website, Under Advisement, Ltd. Lawyers, let me know if you agree or disagree with today’s answer (without being disagreeable!).

Q: How do I become indispensable at work?

A: Very few people are truly indispensable at work, and that’s the good news. Were you one of them, you would be on call constantly, with no back up and no alternative but to jump as high as required, as often as required (and those who want to be and remain indispensable actually jump higher and more than really required). It’s a prescription for burnout and isolation, in that being the favored child at work often pits your colleagues against you and creates resentments rather than comfort and harmony.

Instead, I suggest you should strive to be important. How? By being positive, prompt, prepared, persuasive, and people-oriented, including with your boss, clients, and co-workers. In addition to being collaborative and congenial, be enthusiastic, energetic, and easy to work with. Be creative. Be skilled enough to disagree, without being disagreeable. Be willing to say yes, but also able to say no.

Be valuable and valued, and thus important at work. You won’t be dispensed with, plus you’ll have friends at work and a life outside it. That’s a far better equation than trying to be indispensable … it’s actually smarter and more rewarding, too.

Posted in: Communication Skills, KM, Legal Profession, Libraries & Librarians
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