Working in stress management and workplace counselling, I sometimes come across a particular word that shows me there’s a stress issue which must be dealt with. This word, often heard in crisis situations, is the word ‘indispensable’.

It just seems to form part of the vocabulary of emergencies. Let’s say a department is having to consider redundancies. A lot of responsible and dependable employees start to believe they’re indispensable. They can’t imagine the department surviving without them. Sometimes unscrupulous employers try to coax more work out of people by making this flattering suggestion. But, more often, feeling indispensable self-induced, an odd blend of vanity, loyalty and serious delusion. The feeling of indispensability has quite a lot to do with the psychological ‘need to be needed’, and is often observable in those with no more than average ability, who aren’t really essential to the operation.

In times of crisis, we need to think more creatively

Wise managers say that nobody is indispensable, and it’s worth taking their wisdom on board. The notion of indispensability arises from a tunnel vision perspective, which ought to be discouraged. At times of crisis, you actually need to think more creatively than in stable times - you must be able to countenance radical shifts in custom and practice, or ‘think the unthinkable’.

If you’re someone who can view problems with suitable detachment, let go of baggage, and apply your imagination to finding a creative solution, then you may at least become a little less dispensable than you were before.

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