In over twenty five years of work, I’ve experience a lot of how employers see and treat their employees. With all the time we spend in our workplaces, employers have a significant impact on our life. The way employers view and treat employees matters a lot.
In my years working as a highly skilled software engineer, I often saw a push to make my job as cookie cutter as possible. Folks would say things like, “if we have really good processes and procedures in place, we can hire anyone to do your job.”
I also received what I would call verbal abuse. I was told that I don’t matter. If they don’t like my work, then they’ll just replace me with someone else off the street. In another incident, I was talking to a manager after someone else was just laid off, and the manager’s nonchalant response was, “Well, whatever it was that they were doing, we just won’t do that anymore.”
With employers treating employees like a replaceable part, or a unit of production, it’s no wonder that employee engagement is hovering around 30%, according to Gallup. That means around 70% of the workforce is not engaged with their work.
Treating knowledge-work employees like they work in a factory isn’t working. And the message that specific employees don’t matter is harming motivation and morale.
The truth about work is that we would all be better off if we moved toward making ourselves and our people indispensably valuable.
For the Individual
You will feel happier and feel like you make a bigger difference if you worked yourself into being indispensable. You can be indispensable either in your workplace or to your clients and customers, if you work for yourself.
If you are indispensable, you will be producing highly unique results that only you can provide. You wouldn’t feel hopeless, trapped and like you don’t matter. And you’ll be able to command a bigger paycheck too – as you provide that much more value to your employer, you’ll be worth it.
For the Employer
Your company will be far more productive if you have fully engaged employees giving it their unique all. This might seem a little scary because things might look different depending who you’ve hired. You won’t be able to swap people from one position to another and have things be exactly the same.
If you are going for exactly the same, you really are engaging people at the level of the lowest functioning employees. You’re not shooting for greatness, you’re shooting for sameness. And as a result, people generally won’t engage in their work.
To shoot for greatness, you need to treat your employees like chess pieces rather than like checkers pieces. In checkers, all the pieces move exactly the same. That’s not how real people work. Instead in chess, each piece moves different. You use a bishop differently than you use a rook. Each employee brings a unique set of strengths weaknesses and drives.
If you encourage people to shape their position around their unique strengths, creativity, and interests, if you encourage people to become so valuable to the company that they’re indispensable, you’ll see results that far outstrip your competition. Of course, don’t expect change to happen over night. A shift like this in your company will take time and effort.
The message that you don’t matter and you are a replaceable part is a lie. It’s not true. You aren’t just another neighbor on the block. You aren’t just another person occupying space at work. You aren’t “a dime a dozen.” You aren’t a number.
The truth is that you are a unique individual with lots to offer that others can’t match. You have greatness in you. It doesn’t look like anyone else’s greatness. It is your unique God given greatness that is meant to shine into the world.